Sunderland 1 Arsenal 2

Thierry Henry gave Arsenal the perfect Premiership parting gift after he netted the winner at the Stadium of Light. Trailing to James McClean’s 70th minute opener, substitute Aaron Ramsey drew the Gunners level five minutes later, before fellow substitute Henry volleyed the winner in time added on. It was Sunderland’s first defeat under Martin O’Neil, but for Arsenal the crucial three points sees them climb to fourth place in the Premiership. Henry, Arsenal’s record breaking goal scorer will still be available for the Champions League trip to Milan before he returns to his MLS side New York Red Bulls.

Thumping

Talk of extending Henry’s Arsenal loan deal to include the north London derby appear to be shelved with the Bulls needing their captain for early pre-season duties. In the north east, the opening exchanges were to prove to be relatively tame, with Sunderland keen to continue their winning sequence since O’Neil took charge. On the back of their 7-1 thumping of Blackburn, Arsene Wenger knew that his side had to continue their momentum, and had agreed that a win would be vital if the Gunners’ Champions League aspirations were to be realised. Per Mertersacker has not netted since his summer arrival from the Bundesliga, and after being stretchered off having gotten his studs caught in the turf, looks set for a spell on the sidelines.

Appeal

Having earlier collapsed in a heap as he tried to clear his lines, the ball fell kindly for McLean to hit past Wojciech Szczesny. Mertersacker also had a first half dubious penalty appeal against him turned down when the ball rode off his chest to glance his arm. The home side felt aggrieved, but the half was to end goal-less. Wales captain Aaron Ramsey replaced Mertersacker, and only five minutes after falling behind, Arsenal drew level. Ramsey struck a neat shot from 20 yards which hit both posts before ending up over Simon Mignolet’s line. It was totally deserved as the Gunners had begun to peg their hosts back, with Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chemberlain beginning to threaten. Walcott had earlier hit across the goal when put in by Robin Van Persie and later saw his volley from Alex Song’s cross sail over the bar

Henry instinct

Sunderland were all too familiar with the danger posed by Van Persie’s, who having netted a treble against Blackburn, the Holland striker had a more workmanlike afternoon. Szczesny was alert to two Craig Gardner efforts, producing fine saves, especially from a shot with late dip and swerve. On 66 minutes, Wenger elected to remove Oxlade-Chamerlain with Henry, a move that was sure to cause Sunderland concern. With time ticking away of the six minutes of time added on a point a piece seemed to be the inevitable outcome. However, when substitute Andrey Arshavin found Henry, the France striker instinctively let fly with a volley that Mignolet had no chance to stop. Cue more Arsenal celebrations, and a result that showed real character and determination to achieve a vital away win.