A BRACE of defensive howlers scuppered Sunderland’s hopes of bouncing back from humiliation after suffering a self-inflicted 2-0 defeat to Arsenal.
Sunderland were unable to produce a positive response in response to the previous week’s 8-0 thrashing at Southampton, as the Black Cats suffered their first home Premier League defeat of the season.
But while Arsenal were the better side, Sunderland’s loss was entirely of their own making after they continued the pattern from Southampton with a couple of horrifying mistakes.
In the first half, Wes Brown produced a dreadful back pass which Alexis Sanchez pounced on before running through and beating Vito Mannone.
Sunderland looked shell-shocked after that goal, although they improved in the second half, albeit without ever really threatening for an equaliser.
But Sanchez profited from another clanger in stoppage time, when Mannone was caught in possession from Will Buckley’s awful back pass, before the Arsenal frontman doubled his tally.
Jack Rodwell and Adam Johnson were introduced to the starting XI at the expense of Connor Wickham and Jordi Gomez, who were both relegated to the bench.
New signing Anthony Reveillere was also included among the substitutes.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger made three changes from their midweek Champions League victory with Wojciech Szczesny, Mikel Arteta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain introduced, while fit-again Theo Walcott on the bench.
The Gunners dominated possession early on, without necessarily hurting Sunderland, although the hosts had a narrow escape in the 10th minute.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain swung in a cross from the right which was spilled by Vito Mannone, before John O’Shea managed to clear.
Danny Welbeck went perilously close in the 15th minute when he cut inside off the left and fired a shot marginally over the top from the edge of the area.
Sunderland were enjoying more of the ball as the half wore on, but on the half-hour mark the Gunners went ahead after a catastrophic error from Wes Brown.
The centre-half collected possession in the centre-circle and attempted to pass it back to Mannone, but there was no weight behind his effort which he scuffed horribly.
It left Sanchez with a clean run through on goal and the former Barcelona man kept his cool before delicately chipping the ball over Mannone.
Three minutes later, Santi Cazorla went close to doubling Arsenal’s advantage with a low, angled drive from the edge which bounced just wide of the far post.
Arsenal were then denied by Mannone in the 36th minute when Calum Chambers escaped from the attentions Will Buckley to get in behind the Sunderland defence down the right-hand side of the area.
But Mannone came out of his goal to block Chambers’ angled shot.
HALF-TIME Sunderland 0 Arsenal 1
Sunderland were forced into a premature change six minutes after the restart, as Steven Fletcher limped off and was replaced by Wickham.
Rodwell forced Szczesny into a relatively routine save in the 52nd minute when Rodwell headed Larsson’s right wing cross into the turf and into the arms of the Arsenal stopper.
Sunderland were beginning to show some bite though and raising the crowd, with Seb Larsson firing a shot from 20 yards in the 65th minute which was relatively comfortable for Szczesny.
Welbeck went close to doubling Arsenal’s advantage with 10 minutes to go when he glanced Nacho Monreal’s left-wing cross over the top with his head.
Moments later, Szczesny came racing out of his goal to head clear a long ball over the top, but could only send it as far as Patrick van Aanholt.
But it was a difficult angle for van Aanholt on the left-hand touchline and he sent his half-volley well wide of the unguarded goal.
Sunderland’s hopes of a point were ended in the third minute of stoppage time after Buckley needlessly passed the ball back to Mannone from six yards.
Mannone completely messed up his clearance and was robbed by Sanchez, before the Arsenal man tucked the ball into the net.
FULL-TIME Sunderland 0 Arsenal 2
SUNDERLAND: Mannone, Vergini, Brown, O’Shea, van Aanholt, Cattermole, Larsson, Rodwell (Gomez 74), Buckley, Johnson (Altidore 74), Fletcher (Wickham 51). Subs not used: Pantilimon, Bridcutt, Reveillere, Mavrias. Booked: Larsson (38), Cattermole (63), Wickham (68)
ARSENAL: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs (Bellerin 73), Flamini, Arteta (Ramsey 88), Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Rosicky 90), Sanchez, Welbeck. Subs not used: MartinezPodolski, Walcott, Campbell. Booked: Gibbs (24), Welbeck (50), Arteta (55)