Midfield duo shine for Gunners.
Aaron Ramsey’s double helped Arsenal’s club record signing Mesut Ozil enjoy a winning debut in a stormy 3-1 Premier League victory at Sunderland on Saturday.
Ozil underlined why the Gunners invested £43 million to lure him from Real Madrid with a role in two of his side’s three goals as they were pushed all the way by their hosts, who remain without a league win this season.
But Arsenal were indebted to a controversial second-half decision from referee Martin Atkinson to rule out what appeared a perfectly good goal for the hosts from Jozy Altidore, with the visitors ahead by a single goal at the time.
Ramsey doubled the advantage shortly afterwards in the 76th-minute, swapping passes with Ozil and Olivier Giroud to beat Keiren Westwood with a confident finish from inside the area.
On this early evidence, Ozil’s hefty transfer fee is money well spent.
Before the break especially, the 24-year-old’s movement, vision and range-of-passing was on a different plane to Paolo Di Canio’s side, who with just one point from their first four games, look set for a season of struggle.
Arsenal threatened to bury Sunderland under a deluge of early goals but Theo Walcott was guilty of a string of glaring first-half misses.
It kept the hosts in the hunt to such an extent that substitute Craig Gardner levelled from the penalty spot three minutes into the second half, sending Wojciech Szczesny the wrong way with his first touch after Adam Johnson was tripped in the area by Laurent Koscielny.
Steven Fletcher had the ball in the net soon after from Johnson’s low cross but the Scotland international was rightly flagged offside as the Black Cats sensed blood.
Ramsey met Carl Jenkinson’s 67th-minute cross with a stunning first-time finish from just inside the box to restore the lead, before the controversial turning point which referee Atkinson will not reflect upon with any satisfaction.
Altidore out-muscled Bacary Sagna to beat Szczesny with a low finish from inside the area, despite Koscielny’s attempted goal-line clearance.
Atkinson, however, brought play back, booked Sagna and awarded a free-kick to Sunderland, to the bemusement of the majority of a 39,000 crowd who expected advantage to be played.
It was a major call to go against the hosts and took the steam out of their comeback as Ramsey’s second goal of the contest gave the visitors valuable breathing space en route to a third victory in four Premier League games this season.
Operating in the middle of a forward three behind lone forward Giroud, in front of Mathieu Flamini, one of two holding midfielders, it took Ozil just 11 minutes to make his mark, with a key assist for the contest’s opening goal.
Kieran Gibbs’s 30-yard pass from inside Arsenal’s half found Ozil’s purposeful run down the left.
The midfielder’s touch and inviting low cross was swept home first time from 10 yards into the bottom corner by Giroud, the Frenchman’s fifth goal of the season, and remarkably the first of his 15 Premier League goals to be scored outside London.
Sunderland quickly responded and Modibo Diakite came close to levelling inside the opening quarter-of-an hour.
The defender rose above Giroud, only to see his header come back off the bar when he met a corner from Charis Mavrias, the Greece international making his full Premier League debut for the Black Cats, along with Ki Sung-Yeung, the South Korean midfielder.
Walcott compounded a personally disappointing first half by making it a hat-trick of missed chances, heading wastefully when meeting Jack Wilshere’s perfect cross 12 yards from goal as Sunderland were again carved apart by some slick interplay from Arsene Wenger’s side.
Gardner’s introduction sparked some much needed life into the hosts, who were left to rue Atkinson’s controversial call, with Di Canio sent from his technical area late on for his protests.