Arsenal 0 Sunderland 0

Last updated : 21 February 2009 By Footymad Previewer
Dogged Sunderland earned a share of the points at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal drew their fourth league game in a row.

With Aston Villa losing at home to Chelsea earlier in the day, the door was left open for the Gunners to close the gap on Martin O'Neill's side in the chase for a Champions League spot.

They failed miserably and even the debut of record signing Andrey Arshavin was not enough to spur the Gunners into winning form.

The Russian was clearly short of being match-fit and his team-mates around him also seemed devoid of energy and enterprise.

It was all about Arshavin before kick-off and his first tentative touch on the ball was cheered by the Arsenal faithful.

His next touch came on five minutes when he was within inches of a dream start when he intercepted Andy Reid's errant cross-field pass. The diminutive Russian drove forward before hitting a low drive that shaved the right post with Marton Fulop well beaten.

Robin van Persie should have opened the scoring on 11 minutes when put through by Denilson but his effort sailed just past the angle of the right post.

Arshavin was denied in the 15th minutes by a fine Fulop save after the new boy had cut inside from the right to release a fierce left-foot drive that the Sunderland keeper parried for a corner.

Sunderland didn't just sit back and Manuel Almunia had to be at his sharpest to deny Anton Ferdinand's fizzing shot.

Kolo Toure was denied twice as half-time approached, once by Reid's goal-line clearance from the Arsenal man's header and then by Fulop who palmed away the Ivorian's low drive.

The second half was played at less than pedestrian pace. The Gunners created little of worth and the loudest cheers came when a clearly tired Arshavin was replaced by the exciting Carlos Vela.

The Mexican has come off the bench so often to provide a spark, but even he failed to ignite the Gunners.

Sunderland had abandoned any attacking ambitions they may have had and pulled more men back deep into their own half in an effort to frustrate the Gunners and win themselves a point.

Vela should have scored on 77 minutes when the ball fell at his feet inside the Sunderland area but he pulled his left-foot shot well wide of the right post.

His next opportunity three minutes later was even worse as he swung wildly at the ball and sliced his effort sideways for a throw-in.

William Gallas and nan Persie had chances to win the match in stoppage time, but two poorly struck shots immersed the Emirates into a depression, apart from the corner occupied by the jubilant Sunderland supporters who partied loudly on the sounding of Alan Wiley's whistle.