Arsenal eventually overcame Sunderland 3-1 in an entertaining match at the Stadium of Light, but they made hard work of taking all three points Saturday as the Black Cats began a tough run of home fixtures.
However, Sunderland will be feeling particularly aggrieved as they had a perfectly good goal called back just minutes before Arsenal scored their third, game-killing goal.
The first half was hugely one-sided as Arsenal completely dominated play and possession, with new signing Mesut Ozil predictably central to most of their good work. The German was continually able to find space to drop into, first from the left side of attack and later from the middle, and his range of passing was quickly on show.
Mesut Özil Debut Stats: 3 chances created 1 assist 71/79 passes - 90% accurate 34/38 passes in final 3rd - 89% accurate 2/3 through balls— GunnerIndex (@GunnerIndex) September 14, 2013
Olivier Giroud took just 10 minutes to add to his impressive early-season goal tally as he fired first-time into the net after an Ozil moment of magic. A control over the shoulder and first-time cross found the striker, who finished crisply.
Arsenal had several chances to extend their lead before the break, most notably through Theo Walcott, but a one-goal advantage was all they had to show at half-time.
A minute after the break that slender lead was destroyed after Laurent Koscielny gave away a penalty for a reckless sliding tackle on Adam Johnson. Craig Gardner, just on as substitute, scored the spot-kick to level matters.
A period of Sunderland pressure followed as the home side found belief and conviction suddenly, but Arsenal weathered a storm of half-chances and regained the lead when Aaron Ramsey walloped home a controlled volley from the edge of the area.
Controversy followed soon after as Jozy Altidore had a goal ruled out, as the referee had blown his whistle for a free kick to Altidore's own team Sunderland—after the shot had been taken.
Minutes later it was game over as Ramsey slotted home his second with a fine finish to a flowing move.
Key Player Grades
Mesut Ozil: B+
It was an impressive start to Premier League life for Mesut Ozil, who was reportedly ill before this game too. His vision and execution of passing was exemplary in the first half, though he faded in patches after the break when the tempo picked up. Nonetheless he was heavily involved in two of Arsenal's goals in a telling initial contribution.
Theo Walcott: D
The speedy wide man had a terrible first half as he spurned three golden chances to score after finding himself played in on goal, in particular by Ozil. His approach play did not much improve after the break; this was not one of Walcott's more effective matches.
Jozy Altidore: C
Starved of service for the first half, Altidore had to work hard just to get a touch of the ball. His partnership with Steven Fletcher was less than fruitful, but the American will feel extremely hard done by after his "goal" was ruled out by the referee.
Both these sides will take a few worries from this game, with Arsenal perhaps hoping to learn the lessons of not taking their first-half chances and Sunderland most of their first-half performance. Arsenal have won three in a row now since their opening-day defeat, while Sunderland have taken just a point from four matches.
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