- Arsenal 4-1 Sunderland
Fired-up Giroud leads Arsenal romp against Sunderland
Arsenal took out their Champions League frustrations on Sunderland as Olivier Giroud put aside his recent off-field problems by scoring twice in a 4-1 victory at the Emirates.
Having suffering a 2-0 first leg loss to Bayern Munich on Wednesday night and playing the majority of the match with 10 men, Arsene Wenger's side bounced back in spectacular fashion to keep the pressure on league-leaders Chelsea, who earlier beat Everton.
Wenger hails wonder goal
- Manager Arsene Wenger has described Arsenal's third goal in the 4-1 win against Sunderland as "one of the best" during his 18 years at the club.
- Rosicky began the move on the edge of the box, and five one-touches later the Czech was on hand to put the ball in the back of the net.
- Arsenal scored a similar goal near the start of the campaign through Jack Wilshere against Norwich, but in Wenger's eyes Saturday's strike came out on top.
- "It was one of the best. It is the way we know we can play and reinforces your belief in the way you want to play," Wenger said.
- Rosicky later added on the goal: "It was a great goal. I think that is what the supporters want to see. It was a typical Arsenal goal."
Wenger made a bold move by leaving Mesut Ozil out of the side following his penalty miss against Bayern, with the German's confidence taking a hit.
Giroud was left out of the starting line-up for the last two Arsenal games after a newspaper report alleged he was having an affair with a model and had spent the night with her at a hotel the night before they played Crystal Palace on February 2.
Before the FA Cup clash with Liverpool a week ago Giroud issued a series of apologies to his wife, his family, Arsenal and Wenger on Twitter, denying any wrongdoing.
But he let his football do the talking on his return, taking only five minutes to get on the scoresheet following a neat finish from Jack Wilshere's pass.
Giroud then pounced on Santiago Vergini's terrible back pass to grab his second goal after the half-hour mark with Sunderland struggling to get a foot hold in the match.
Arsenal were in complete control and the third strike was one of the finest team goals of the season, competing with that scored by Wilshere against Norwich earlier in the campaign.
Tomas Rosicky scored this time after some superb one-touch passing on the edge of the Sunderland box. He dinked the ball over Vito Mannone from Giroud's backheel flick to end a move he began.
Laurent Koscielny then got in on the act as he made it four when he was unmarked from a corner. Emanuele Giaccherini scored a consolation for Sunderland nine minutes from time.
Arsenal had unveiled a bronze statute of former striker Dennis Bergkamp outside the Clock End earlier on Saturday, and their latest centre-forward, Giroud, needed only five minutes to sweep the hosts into the lead.
The ball was worked back into the middle, where Rosicky fed Wilshere, whose positive run into the Sunderland box resulted in the ball falling right into the path of Giroud. He stroked the ball into the bottom left-hand corner past Vito Mannone, the former Arsenal keeper.
After their blistering start, the Gunners continued to dominate possession as Sunderland struggled to mount any serious threat. Marcos Alonso finally got away down the left, but his low cross into the six-yard box was cut out by Wojciech Szczesny, who had been sent off against Munich for a professional foul.
Lukas Podolski let fly from 25 yards, with Mannone tipping the ball over with strong wrists. It was eventually 2-0 on 31 minutes.
Sunderland defender Vergini was caught under little pressure out on the far touchline, but decided to clip the ball back through the penalty area towards his keeper. The backpass was never going to get there, but Giroud was and promptly rolled the ball under Mannone for a gifted second goal, his 12th in the Premier League.
It was now all about damage limitation for Sunderland, who remain deep in a battle for top-flight survival despite their cup exploits. However, the visitors' rearguard was sliced open again a minute before the break.
Rosicky picked the ball up on the right, and fed it inside to Santi Cazorla, who in turn picked out Wilshere. Another quick pass laid the ball off to Rosicky, who then exchanged a neat one-two with Giroud before darting into the Sunderland box and chipping the keeper.
Sunderland looked to regroup at the break and sent on Sebastian Larsson, another former Gunner, and Giaccherini to replace Adam Johnson and Jozy Altidore.
Arsenal, meanwhile, brought off Nacho Monreal, who had been in for the injured left-back Kieran Gibbs, and sent on Carl Jenkinson. To their credit, Sunderland did show some fight, as Arsenal had to make a few desperate clearances at the back.
Vergini's afternoon almost got worse when he sliced a cross from Bacary Sagna into his own net, which is just where the ball ended up after the resulting corner on 57 minutes. There was no Sunderland marking whatsoever as Cazorla's delivery floated over the six-yard box and was headed back downwards by Koscielny.
The Arsenal defender, though, would soon be hobbling off, after he looked to have picked up a thigh problem when making a tackle. That forced Wenger into a defensive reshuffle on 67 minutes, as Mathieu Flamini came onto the left, with Sagna moving to the middle alongside Per Mertesacker.
Finally Szczesny was called into action when he got down well to push out a close-range effort from Ki Sung-yeung following Larsson's knockdown. Serge Gnabry replaced Rosicky for the final 15 minutes and was soon played into the right side of the penalty area by Wilshere, but Mannone stood up to make the save.
Larsson sent a curling 20-yard free-kick just wide, but Sunderland had their consolation goal on 81 minutes when Giaccherini cracked the ball back past Szczesny from 25 yards after it had been punched out from a corner.