Arsenal however arrived at The Stadium of Light also looking for three points, as their abysmal season has left the Gunners in a familiar position as they fight to secure a top four finish.
The game started with Sunderland’s nerves on show, as Alex Iwobi fooled Younes Kaboul and eventually fired his low shot just wide of Vito Mannone’s post. Sunderland’s pressure was evident early on as their defence scrambled once more to keep the Gunners out, Alexis Sanchez ghosting around the box, finding Olivier Giroud in the area, the striker opted away from heading the ball and pulled the ball down, scuffing his shot from a tight angle for Mannone to parry away for a corner.
A determined Sunderland display
Sunderland grew into the game as the half went on, their efforts were almost rewarded on the half hour mark as Patrick Van Aanholt’s curling free kick hit the crossbar, a fantastic effort. A few moments later, Arsenal were denied from a free kick at the other end of the pitch. Sanchez’s direct attempt crept through the wall and was saved expertly by ex-gunner Mannone who rapidly reacted to the clever shot, pushing the ball away from the bottom corner of his goal.
The Italian keeper was Sunderland’s saviour one again less than a few minutes later, Giroud’s header across goal Alex Iwobi, the young Nigerian instinctively fired the ball towards goal but was somehow denied by a sharp Mannone.
There were two penalty shouts within five minutes of each other at both opposite ends of the pitch. Per Mertesacker was the first culprit, as Hector Bellerin’s panicked headed clearance was placed into the path of Jermaine Defoe, his header was blocked by what seemed to be the back of Mertesacker, but replays showed it was in fact the German’s hand that denied Defoe. Mike Dean had a similar decision to make as a DeAndre Yedlin handball denied Iwobi’s effort at goal. Both appeals were ignored by the referee as the first half ended 0-0.
Sunderland came out all guns blazing in the second half, moments after the restart Petr Cech proved vital to Arsenal once more this season, as his double saved kept out Defoe and Yann M’Vila. The attack was unsurprisingly created by man of the match Wahbi Khazri, who’s delectable through ball cut Arsenal open as it arrived at the feel of Defoe whose explosive shot was parried by Cech, the rebound fell to M’Vila who was also denied by Cech. A lucky escape for the Gunners.
Arsenal were lucky to not be behind soon after, as another ball from midfield exposed their vulnerability. Lee Cattermole’s ball found danger man Defoe who chipped the ball inches wide of Cech’s net as he resisted pressure from the presence of Mertesacker.
Mannone came out to collect the ball, leaving the hearts of Sunderland fans stop as the bounce deflected from his head and left his goal open, however, Kaboul saved his team mate as he covered the threat of both Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott as the goal was gaping.
The draw see's Sunderland lift out of the relegation zone into 17th, and you cannot argue that it wasn't anything less than they deserve - a fantastic performance by Allardyce's men. The problems continue for Arsenal, as they stay in fourth behind Manchester City on goal difference.