10-man Arsenal holds on to beat Sunderland 1-0
SUNDERLAND, England (AP) Ten-man Arsenal held on for a 1-0 victory over Sunderland in the Premier League on Saturday to provisionally move fifth and stay in contention for a Champions League spot.
Santi Cazorla fired the Gunners ahead in the 35th minute after Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott combined to set up the Spaniard on the edge of the box, and he drilled a low shot past Black Cats keeper Simon Mignolet.
Arsenal lost defender Carl Jenkinson in the 62nd minute for a second yellow card at the Stadium of Light, and Sunderland pressed for an equalizer the rest of the way.
Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny produced an excellent save five minutes from time to keep out Steven Fletcher's goalbound header and Sunderland defender Titus Bramble could have snatched a point seconds later but failed to direct his close-range effort at goal.
Arsenal is two points ahead of Everton which plays at Manchester United on Sunday.
In a promising start, Sunderland midfielder Alfred N'Diaye looped a first-minute header over Szczesny's crossbar, and only seconds more had elapsed when Theo Walcott forced Mignolet to make the first of what proved to be a series of important saves.
Walcott was making life difficult for left-back Danny Rose and Mignolet came to the rescue once again with four minutes gone after the England international ran in on goal.
But as the half wore on, the Black Cats started to make an impression and it took an important block by Jenkinson to repel Stephane Sessegnon's firmly-struck 16th-minute effort after he had escaped from Nacho Monreal and Mikel Arteta on the right.
Fletcher sent a looping header towards Szczesny's goal seconds later, but as play switched swiftly to the other end, Olivier Giroud dragged a left-foot shot wide of the far post.
Mignolet threw himself to his left to turn away Ramsey's stinging 32nd-minute drive, but the respite proved only temporary.
The visitors finally took the lead three minutes later through Cazorla with a fierce low drive.
Wilshere's 50th-minute substitution removed one threat for the home side, but added Abou Diaby's physicality to the mix.
Sunderland should have been level in the 58th after Aaron Ramsey was caught in possession on halfway to allow Sessegnon to race upfield and lay the ball into Fletcher's path. The Scotland international looked odds-on to take his tally to the season to 11, but uncharacteristically sliced his left-foot effort wide of the post.
Cazorla almost made him pay three minutes later, but sent his drive past the far post.
However, Sunderland received a boost seconds later when Jenkinson, who had been booked for a ninth-minute foul on Jack Colback, scythed Sessegnon down and received a second yellow card.
Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill went for broke with 22 minutes remaining when he sent on Danny Graham to rapturous applause, in stark contrast to the reception he received on his last appearance at the Stadium of Light as he closed in on his move from Swansea.
Arsenal should have extended its lead with Diaby and Cazorla going close and Walcott hitting the post after chipping an effort over the advancing Mignolet.
Szczesny kept out Adam Johnson's injury-time effort with another good save.
Updated February 9, 2013