Faltering Arsenal stay fourth after stalemate at Sunderland
PUBLISHED: 16:03 24 April 2016 | UPDATED: 16:03 24 April 2016
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Sunderland 0 Arsenal 0
Arsenal missed their chance to regain third place in the Premier League table as they were held to a scoreless draw at relegation-threatened Sunderland.
Arsene Wenger’s side remain fourth, behind Manchester City on goal difference, following the Stadium of Light stalemate – and they could also face pressure from Manchester United for a Champions League spot.
Sunderland looked uneasy in the first quarter of an hour and the visitors might have taken advantage as Alex Iwobi and Per Mertesacker both went close.
However, the Black Cats responded well, with the lively Wahbi Khazri a particular threat as he motored away from Aaron Ramsey at a throw-in but drilled just wide of Petr Cech’s goal.
Patrick van Aanholt was unlucky not to put the home side ahead midway through the first half, cracking a free-kick against the woodwork after the evergreen Jermain Defoe had been tripped by Laurent Koscielny.
At the other end, former Arsenal goalkeeper Vito Mannone was called into action, flinging himself low to his right to push away a curling free-kick from Alexis Sanchez.
Both sides had penalty appeals correctly turned down before half-time, with referee Mike Dean rejecting claims of handball against Mertesacker and then DeAndre Yedlin.
The game remained scoreless at the break – and Arsenal were indebted to Cech for keeping it that way early in the second half as he pulled off vital stops to foil Defoe and Khazri in rapid succession.
However, the keeper could only look on helplessly – and breathe a sigh of relief – as Defoe sped on to Lee Cattermole’s through ball, outpaced Mertesacker and sent a lob drifting just wide of the unguarded goal.
The Gunners’ only opportunity came when Olivier Giroud stole in behind Sunderland’s defence and cut the ball back for Iwobi, who skewed it well off target.
Both players were withdrawn with 20 minutes remaining as Wenger rang the changes, but it was Sunderland who looked the stronger of the sides as the game wore on.
Black Cats substitute Duncan Watmore almost broke the deadlock with a shot on the turn that brought another save from Cech, while Lamine Kone volleyed over in injury time.
And, although Sanchez and Danny Welbeck both tested Mannone before the end, few could have argued that the Gunners – who ushered Jack Wilshere back into the first-team fold late on – deserved a winner.
Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Ramsey, Elneny; Sanchez, Ozil (Wilshere 84), Iwobi (Walcott 71); Giroud (Welbeck 71).