Walcott wins it for Gunners
Both shot-stoppers in fine form
By Hayley Paterson. Last Updated: 11/05/08 5:34pm
Theo Walcott's 24th minute goal proved too much for Sunderland in a 1-0 for Arsenal at the Stadium of Light.
Arsene Wenger fielded an under-strengthed, young side against the Black Cats and things looked to be going their way when a chance fell to Emmanuel Adebayor but Marton Fulop was in fine form for Sunderland.
The dangerous Walcott gave the strong Sunderland defence problems throughout the game and saw himself unmarked as he latched onto a through-ball and placed an effort into the bottom corner for 1-0.
Both sides could have scored more with substitute Roy O'Donovan having four excellent chances and Arsenal youngster Mark Randall having a goal disallowed. But both 'eepers were inspirational at keeping the score at bay.
There were just 14 seconds on the clock when Carlos Edwards unleashed a searing half-volley which welcomed keeper Lukasz Fabianski to the Stadium of Light.
However, it was opposite number Fulop who had to be at his best with seven minutes gone when Adebayor waltzed through the home defence only to be denied by the keeper's legs.
Grant Leadbitter and the impressive Dwight Yorke, who demonstrated exactly why he has a chance of winning a new contract with a pivotal first-half display, both shot over from distance and the Wearsiders give as good as they got before the break.
OpenerHowever, it was a man at the other end of his career to the veteran former Manchester United star who broke the deadlock with 24 minutes gone.
Walcott, who had earlier forced a good save from Fulop with a left-foot drive, left the home defence in his wake to run on to Gilberto's inch-perfect pass, and his assured finish was too good for the keeper.
But to their credit, Sunderland refused to buckle and Leadbitter might have done better with a 34th-minute header which he flicked over the bar.
Walcott could have doubled his tally five minutes before half-time after Emmanuel Eboue and Adebayor had combined to open up the home side once again, but his instinctive reaction to the striker's cross sent the ball wide of the target.
Kenwyne Jones failed to re-appear as O'Donovan took his place, and the newcomer almost had a swift impact when he sent a looping 50th-minute header over the bar from Danny Collins' cross.
ControversyBut they were up in arms with 58 minutes gone when referee Keith Stroud ruled that Dean Whitehead's intervention to cut out Walcott's cross amounted to a back-pass and awarded Arsenal an indirect free-kick just yards from goal.
Adebayor tapped the ball square to Gilberto, but he hammered his shot high and wide.
Sunderland, however, continued to cause problems for the visitors, and they could have been level with 65 minutes gone had O'Donovan not scuffed the ball straight at Fabianski from Yorke's cross.
The game would have been over with 22 minutes to play had Adebayor made any meaningful connection with Walcott's cross.
But the game was far from won and O'Donovan perhaps should have done better with 16 minutes remaining when he dragged a shot wide of the far post.
Fellow substitute Chopra had strong appeals for a 79th-minute penalty waved away after he went down under Alexandre Song's challenge.
Gunners replacement Randall had a goal ruled out for offside and forced another save from Fulop, but O'Donovan almost snatched a point with a late volley.
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|3||Shots on Target||4|
|8||Shots off Target||5|
Barclays Premier League
Sun 11th May
Chelsea1 - 1Bolton
Tottenham0 - 2Liverpool
West Ham2 - 2A Villa
S'land0 - 1Arsenal
Derby0 - 4Reading
M'boro8 - 1Man City
Everton3 - 1Newcastle
Portsmth0 - 1Fulham
Wigan0 - 2Man Utd
Birm'ham4 - 1Blackburn
Barclays Premier League
|8||West Ham United||23||36|
|15||West Bromwich Albion||23||22|
|19||Queens Park Rangers||23||19|