Relive Arsenal's 2-0 win over Sunderland as a brace from Alexis Sanchez sends the top-four race down to the final day of the season.
By Barney Corkhill, Assistant Editor Filed: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 at 18:45 UK
Last Updated: Saturday, May 20, 2017 at 10:53 UK
Arsenal ensured that the battle for a place in next season's Champions League will go down to the final day of the season courtesy of a 2-0 victory over Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium this evening.
The Gunners knew that only a win would do against the already-relegated Black Cats, but they were made to wait for the breakthrough.
Alexis Sanchez eventually found it in the 72nd minute, though, before adding a second nine minutes later to wrap up the victory.
Find out how all of the action unfolded courtesy of Sports Mole's minute-by-minute updates below.
6.45pmGood evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for tonight's Premier League clash between Arsenal and Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium. All eyes are on the top-four race in this final week of the season, and tonight could have another telling impact on that as Arsenal and Manchester City both play their games in hand. We will be focusing on the Gunners here as they look to take things to the final day with a victory over relegated Sunderland. Before we take a closer look at this match, though, let's first check out the team news...
6.51pmWhat can we make of those two teams, then? Well the headline news as far as Arsenal are concerned is that Alexis Sanchez starts tonight, despite being a doubt with a thigh problem in the build-up to the game. The Chilean asked to be taken off during the 4-1 win over Stoke at the weekend, but moments later scored his 21st league goal of the season before finally being subbed off due to the injury. He has recovered sufficiently to start once again in this one, though.
6.53pmThere is worse news on the injury front at the other end of the field as Laurent Koscielny misses out due to his continuing struggles with a calf problem. The centre-back has revealed that he will require daily treatment on the injury until the end of his career, and he misses out tonight in the hope of being fit for the final game of the season and, perhaps more so, the FA Cup final against Chelsea later this month.
6.55pmKoscielny's absence is one of two changes made by manager Arsene Wenger from that win over Stoke, with Kieran Gibbs returning to the starting XI and Monreal reverting into a more defensive role having played left wing-back at the bet365 Stadium. The other switch comes in central midfield as Wenger opts for the more attacking option of Ramsey alongside Xhaka in the middle of the park, with Coquelin dropping to the bench.
6.57pmThe front three of Sanchez, Ozil and Giroud all start once again having each got on the scoresheet against Stoke - the latter doing so twice despite an otherwise quiet game. Those two goals left Giroud on 98 for the club in all competitions, and should he find the back of the net tonight then he would become just the third player to score 50 goals at the Emirates Stadium - after Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott. He has a good record against Sunderland too having scored four goals in his last four games against the Black Cats - including a brace with his first two touches off the bench in the reverse fixture.
6.59pmAs for Sunderland, they will be looking to Jermain Defoe for the goals tonight, as they have been all season. There has been a distinct lack of support for the veteran striker on the goalscoring front, though, and he is surely now going into his final two games as a Sunderland player having revealed that he has a release clause in his contract if the club are relegated. An even more immediate worry for Sunderland will be that Defoe has failed to score in nine previous appearances at the Emirates Stadium and has only even scored once away to Arsenal - in a 3-1 defeat with West Ham back in January 2003.
7.01pmLike Arsenal, Sunderland have made two changes to their starting XI for tonight's match, while there could also be a switch of system from David Moyes. The Scot played a 4-3-3 against Swansea last time out, but the personnel suggests that he could look to match Arsenal in a 3-4-3 formation tonight. Oviedo and Manquillo would be most likely to operate as wing-backs in that system, with Jones tucking in to join O'Shea and Kone in central defence.
7.03pmAlternatively, Sunderland could be going for a 4-4-2 formation with Borini and Defoe leading the line and Oviedo - who comes in for Anichebe as one of the two changes - moving into left midfield ahead of Manquillo. The other switch sees Lee Cattermole return to the side following an Achilles problem, replacing Denayer who, like Anichebe, was forced off in the first half of the weekend defeat to Swansea.
7.05pmMoyes did suggest that he may be forced to play the youth team in this match due to the club's mounting injury concerns, but there are plenty of recognised first-team players in that starting XI. The majority of them have not done enough throughout the campaign, though, and perhaps the only two players who will come out of this season with their reputations still somewhat intact are Pickford, Defoe and perhaps Kone - all of whom have been linked with a summer move away.
7.07pmIt is not a Sunderland side that will strike fear into the hearts of the home fans tonight, in truth, and anything other than a comfortable Arsenal win would come as something of a surprise. The Gunners are heavy favourites to get the win they need to take the top-four race to the final day of the season, but even that may not be enough for them. Arsene Wenger's side are in the frustrating position of needing favours from elsewhere for them to get the job done in this final week of the campaign.
7.09pmOf course, they only really have themselves to blame for that, with a run of just two wins in eight Premier League games earlier this year proving particularly costly as they slid down the table. Arsenal have finished the season strongly - as they always seem to - but a run of five wins from their last six league outings may be too little too late. Victory for Manchester City tonight would see them effectively clinch a top-four spot due to their superior goal difference, which would leave Arsenal needing a Liverpool slip-up on the final day.
7.11pmIt is not out of the question that the Reds could drop points, but they could hardly have picked a better fixture for when they need a win, with relegated Middlesbrough travelling to Anfield for that match. Arsenal had put the pressure on Jurgen Klopp's side with that impressive 4-1 win away to Stoke at the weekend - a ground where they have traditionally struggled - but Liverpool responded in kind with a 4-0 thrashing of West Ham and know that they are now just one win away from a return to Champions League football.
7.13pmBefore Arsenal can begin to worry about Liverpool and Manchester City's results, they must first ensure that they do all they can and win their final two games. They will certainly be favourites to do that tonight against a poor Sunderland side, but their final-day fixture at home to Everton looks like the trickiest out of any of the teams still in that top-four race. The fact that is does come at home will be a major benefit for the Gunners, though, as their record at the Emirates is a lot better than they away record of late.
7.15pmIndeed, Arsenal have lost just one of their last 16 Premier League outings in front of their own fans, winning 12 of those in a run which stretches back to their 4-3 defeat at the hands of Liverpool on the opening day of the season. They come into tonight's match unbeaten in five and having won their last three without conceding, and another shutout would give them four clean sheets at home in the league for the first time since February 2014.
7.17pmIndeed, only Tottenham and Manchester United have conceded fewer goals in front of their own fans this season, while Arsenal have the fourth best home record in the league this season despite still having two games to come here at the Emirates. Interestingly, Arsenal are two points better off overall than at the same stage of last season, and should they win their final two games then they would finish the season with four points more than the previous campaign, when they came second.
7.19pmWins over Sunderland and Everton would leave Arsenal on 75 points for the season - nine more than Manchester City achieved on their way to a fourth-placed finish last term - so there will be an element of frustration for the Gunners that they could miss out in the most competitive race ever. Indeed, the highest points tally to have missed out on Champions League football before this season is 72, which looks almost certain to be surpassed this time around.
7.21pmSunderland may have something to say about that, but even amongst their own supporters there won't be too many expecting much from tonight's game. The Black Cats realistically need wins in their final two games of the season if they are to at least avoid finishing bottom of the table, but that becomes less realistic considering those two games come away to Arsenal and champions Chelsea. Sunderland look doomed to be relegated at the bottom of the pile.
7.23pmFew could argue that they deserve anything else in truth. The Black Cats were consigned to relegation officially at the end of last month, but they have been flirting with it for a number of years now and this season have been well off the pace. They are currently 14 points adrift of safety going into their final two games of the campaign having won just one of their last 12 matches in the league, losing nine of those.
7.25pmJust five points from the last 36 on offer is relegation form whichever way you slice it, and it is not as if that has been a minor blip either. Since Christmas Sunderland have won just two of 21 matches across all competitions - against Hull and Crystal Palace, both of whom are also struggling at the wrong end of the table. That victory over Hull went a long way to dragging the Tigers into the Championship with them - a fate which was confirmed at the weekend when Hull lost to Palace.
7.27pmJust as concerning as Sunderland's recent results will be their lack of goals. The Black Cats have failed to even score in 10 of their last 12 outings, scoring just four times in the Premier League since the beginning of February. Overall they have drawn a blank in a Premier League-high 19 different matches this season, which is the most in a season for the club since 20 in 2002-03. In all, Sunderland have failed to score in 22 of their 41 games across all competitions this season, 14 of which have come in 19 games since the turn of the year.
7.29pmThings are no better away from home, as you might expect. Sunderland have failed to score in six of their last eight matches on the road and 12 of their last 18 across all competitions. It is no surprise, then, that they have gone on to lose 10 of their last 12 away games and 15 of their 20 all season - drawing one and winning just four.
7.31pmOnly Burnley and Hull have amassed fewer points on their travels than Sunderland this season, while only Middlesbrough and Hull have scored fewer goals too. There are one or two slender reasons for optimism on that front, though, with Sunderland having won three league games away from home this term - as many as eighth-placed West Bromwich Albion - while they have conceded just 28th, the same amount as tonight's opponents Arsenal have shipped on the road.
7.33pmThe Black Cats were also victorious in their most recent Premier League away outing - that 2-0 win over Hull at the KCOM Stadium earlier this month - and should they somehow pull off a victory tonight then they would register back-to-back away wins for the first time in the top flight since April 2014. On that occasion they beat Chelsea and Manchester United in succession as they launched their great escape to avoid relegation.
7.35pmPREDICTION: Right, we're 10 minutes away from kickoff at the Emirates Stadium, which means that it is time for a prediction! I can only see this one going one way - Arsenal and in form and need a win, whereas Sunderland have been doomed for some time now. The big question is just how many Arsenal will win by tonight - I am going to go for 3-0 but I would not be surprised to see the hosts run in a few more goals than that.
7.37pmArsenal have utterly dominated this fixture in recent season, going unbeaten in the last 14 meetings between the two sides with nine wins and five draws. That stretches back to a 1-0 defeat in November 2009, which is Sunderland only league triumph against Arsenal in the last 26 attempts. The Black Cats have lost 16 of those, and not many will be backing them to avoid adding to that total tonight.
7.39pmArsenal have never lost at home to Sunderland in the Premier League, winning 10 and drawing five of their fixtures, while in all league competition their home unbeaten streak stretches back 17 games to November 1983. Sunderland's most recent league visit here came in December 2015 when Campbell, Giroud and Ramsey were all on the scoresheet in a 3-1 win, and strangely enough the same trio scored in another victory by the same scoreline when the two sides met in the FA Cup third round just over a month later.
7.41pmThe reverse fixture this season ended in an even more emphatic win for the Gunners as Sanchez and Giroud both helped themselves to two goals apiece in a 4-1 victory. It was not quite as straightforward as that scoreline might suggest, with Defoe having equalised in the 65th minute, but three goals in the final 20 minutes from Arsenal killed the game off.
7.43pmArsenal even have the overwhelming edge when it comes to the two managers on show tonight. Victory for the home side would be Wenger's 20th against David Moyes in all competitions, more than he has managed against any other boss in his career, while Moyes has also lost more Premier League games to the Frenchman than any other manager (15). Speaking of the managers, they are on their way out now as the players take to the field!
1 minKICKOFF: Here we go then! Sunderland get us underway at the Emirates Stadium!
2 minTwo minutes in, and we already have a moment to sum up Sunderland's season. Ndong races on to a ball down the left channel and looks to put a low ball into the box, but somehow he completely misses it and falls over. Dreadful.
3 minSHOT! Arsenal's first shot on goal predictably comes from Sanchez as he picks up a lay-off from Giroud, but his powerful strike from 25 yards flies well over the top.
5 minArsenal may be heavy favourites for this game, but it is still a big match for the Gunners. It is something of a surprise, then, to see such a sparsely populated crowd inside the Emirates Stadium. There are an awful lot of empty seats tonight.
7 minGood spell of possession from Arsenal as they probe for a way through inside the Sunderland half. The Black Cats hold out on this occasion, though, with Kone winning the ball off Giroud.
8 minDISALLOWED GOAL! Arsenal were on the wrong end of a handball goal against Stoke last time out, but this one will not count. Sanchez lets fly from range, and on the way through it deflects off the arm of Giroud and ends up flying past Pickford. The referee spots the inadvertent handball, though, and brings it back for a free kick to Sunderland.
10 minAlmost a chance for Sunderland at the other end as Borini makes progress down the right before putting a low pass in towards Defoe, but Cech is out quickly to make an important interception.
10 minCHANCE! Arsenal go straight up the other end and almost take the lead, but Pickford makes a big save to keep things level! Ramsey drives forward with the ball at his feet before slipping a pass in for Giroud, who sees his shot very well saved by the Arsenal keeper.
11 minCHANCE! Another chance for Giroud as Ozil's mis-hit ball into the box deflects off O'Shea and into his path, but his touch just sees the ball run away from him. He looked offside, but the replays show that the official was correct to keep his flag down.
12 minCLOSE! Arsenal are beginning to ramp up the pressure now! Bellerin is the latest to go for goal, cutting inside onto his left foot before curling an effort over the crossbar.
14 minUPDATE: Tonight's other match between Manchester City and West Brom is about to get underway at the Etihad - you can follow live coverage of that match by clicking here.
15 minTwo bright breaks from Arsenal in quick succession as first Sanchez tries to slip a pass through for Ramsey which needs Pickford to come off his line and sweep it up. Moments later Holding strides out of defence and exchanges passes with Giroud to get into a shooting position, but his effort is blocked.
17 minSAVE! It looks like only a matter of time before Arsenal make the breakthrough here. Xhaka is the latest to go for goal, although he doesn't catch his shot well enough to cause Pickford any real problems.
19 minSHOT! Xhaka goes for goal again here as the ball breaks kindly for him after Sanchez saw an effort of his own blocked, but the Swiss international drags his shot wide of the target.
21 minVery nearly another chance for Arsenal as Giroud flicks the ball into the path of Ramsey, who feels as though he is pulled back when trying to get to the ball inside the area. The referee says no and awards a corner as Oviedo puts it behind.
22 minCHANCE! This is pure one-way traffic. The resulting corner is initially cleared, but it comes back into the box and Sanchez attempts a sharp volley towards goal, only to scuff his effort.
22 minYELLOW CARD! Bellerin is the first name in the book tonight for a deliberate handball to stop a Sunderland counter-attack. The Spaniard took one for the team there.
24 minThere have one or two instances when Defoe has almost been able to get on the end of something inside the box, and again here he slips at a crucial moment when looking to latch on to the loose ball. All he needs is one of those to fall to him and Arsenal could be in trouble.
26 minArsenal have dominated the possession and territory in this match so far, but Sunderland are still hanging on to this 0-0 scoreline. The hosts have been in control of this one from the very first whistle but will want to turn that into goals as we approach the half-hour mark.
28 minPoor from Xhaka as first he concedes a cheap throw-in in an attacking position and then races out to foul Cattermole and give away a free kick in a decent crossing position...
29 minLarsson swings the delivery into a very good area, but no Sunderland players can get a touch on the way through and it goes all the way out for a throw.
31 minBetter from Sunderland, who have kept the ball inside the Arsenal half for the last couple of minutes. It is the visitors' best spell of the game so far as they finally begin to settle. Cech needs to be quick off his line to mop up a through-ball which Defoe was interested in.
32 minMoments later Holding gets his head to an Arsenal corner at the other end of the field and nods the ball down into a dangerous area, but Pickford is alert to collect.
33 minHalf a chance for Sanchez here as Ozil picks him out with a pass inside the area, but the forward's first touch lets him down when a better one would have left him in a very dangerous position.
34 minSAVE! Cech is forced into his first save of the night as Defoe slides a pass down the left channel for Ndong. The angle is against the Sunderland man, but he has nothing else on so forces a low stop from Cech at his near post.
36 minArsenal no longer have as firm a grip over this game as they did in the opening half an hour, with Sunderland growing as a presence in the match. This one may not be quite as straightforward as the hosts would have hoped.
37 minSAVE! Another sight of goal for the visitors as Defoe this time finds space down the left channel, forcing Cech into a smart save with his low strike across goal.
39 minSunderland are just over five minutes away from making it into half time all square here - something which didn't look like it would be the case for much of this first half. Arsenal, meanwhile, will be ruing not making the most of their dominant period earlier in the game.
41 minThere is an air of frustration growing inside the Emirates Stadium at the moment. Most would have been expecting Sunderland to be an easier touch than this, but they are making the hosts work for it.
43 minXhaka tries his luck from range as Arsenal begin to get a little impatient, but his shot flies a long way over the crossbar.
43 minCHANCE! Arsenal create their first chance for a while as Ozil feeds the ball down the right channel for Bellerin. The Spaniard has Sanchez in support, but the Chilean is difficult to find and Bellerin goes for goal himself, firing his effort into the side-netting.
44 minUPDATE: There has been a goal in the other game tonight, and it is bad news for Arsenal as Gabriel Jesus has given Manchester City the lead against West Brom.
45 minUPDATE: Make that 2-0 to Man City - Kevin de Bruyne has just added a quickfire second to double their lead.
45+1 minCHANCES! A couple of chances in quick succession from the Gunners as first Ozil exchanges passes with Ramsey, who fires a shot towards goal which Pickford gets a fingertip to. The resulting corner finds Holding completely unmarked in the middle, but he can only place his header straight at the keeper when he should do better.
8.42pmThe first half comes to an end at the Emirates Stadium, then, and we're still goalless between Arsenal and relegated Sunderland. The hosts have dominated possession and territory, but in truth they haven't done enough with it so far and Sunderland fought their way back into the match as the first half wore on.
8.44pmPerhaps Arsenal's best chance arrived after just 10 minutes when Ramsey slipped a pass through for Giroud, who found himself with only Pickford to beat. The Sunderland keeper made a big save to deny the Frenchman, though, while he has also made saves to keep out Xhaka and Holding - the latter of whom wasted another clear chance right at the end of the half.
8.46pmSanchez, Bellerin and Xhaka have had other shots during what was - for the most part - a one-sided first half, but Sunderland did pose a couple of threatening moments of their own. Cech was forced into two smart low saves in quick succession as Sunderland began to grow into the game, first denying Ndong before keeping out Defoe three minutes later.
46 minKICKOFF: Arsenal get us back underway for this second half, and what a big half it is for Arsenal. They need a goal!
47 minCLOSE! Wow, this would have been an own goal for the bloopers DVDs! Monreal doesn't look up and goes for a back-pass, not realising that Cech is out of goal making the angle better for his defender. Cech has to dart back and claw it away at full stretch to avoid it almost going in.
49 minThis is bizarre. After a discussion with his linesman, the referee rules - correctly - that it was a back-pass. Sunderland, then, have an indirect free kick on the right side of the six-yard box...
50 minSmart play from Larsson as he scoops the free kick over the wall - which is only six yards away - forcing Xhaka to nod it over from almost underneath his own crossbar. That was all rather farcical - a mess all of Monreal's making following that ridiculous back-pass.
52 minThis has been a very strange start to the second half. A scrappy period follows that back-pass and indirect free kick debacle, with the game now suffering a lengthy stoppage as Ndong receives treatment.
53 minOzil almost produces an exquisite pass into the box for Ramsey, but it is just a yard too far in front of the midfielder.
54 minYELLOW CARD! It hasn't been a very good start to the second half from Monreal. He now goes into the book for a trip on Larsson.
55 minYELLOW CARD! Ozil also appears to have been cautioned, presumably for a word or two out of place.
55 minCHANCE! Big chance for Sunderland from the resulting free kick as Larsson swings another beauty in towards the back post. He picks out Jones at the back post, but the defender goes for a diving header with the ball on the floor - he should have gone with his feet there!
56 minYELLOW CARD! O'Shea becomes the first Arsenal player to be shown a yellow card tonight.
57 minSAVE! That's a bit more like it from the hosts as Ramsey works space to shoot and hits a low drive towards goal, but Pickford gets down well to make the save.
59 minSHOT! Arsenal are beginning to build the pressure again here and Mustafi gets a shot away from inside the area after the ball fell for him, but Cattermole flicks it away just in front of his keeper.
61 minCattermole concedes a free kick in a dangerous area and it is no surprise to see Sanchez line it up, but the wall does its job and the ball deflects behind for a corner.
62 minOzil is getting a little frustrated here and he pushes Oviedo out of the way before kicking a free kick straight at the Sunderland man in an attempt to get him booked. Ozil himself is on a yellow, though, so he has to be a little careful.
64 minSo nearly a chance for Arsenal as Cech comes out his line and coolly takes the ball away from Defoe before giving it to Xhaka. Xhaka in turns sends a brilliant pass over the top for Ozil, but the German can;t bring it under his spell and the ball runs through to Pickford.
66 minCLOSE! It is back to being one-way traffic for Arsenal now. Holding swings a cross into the box from the right flank which Giroud meets with a good header, but he steers it just past the far post.
68 minSAVE! Sunderland win the ball back off Xhaka inside the Arsenal half, which gifts them another shooting chance. Ndong goes for goal from range and doesn't catch his effort well, though, and it is easy for Cech to stop.
69 minARSENAL SUBS: Arsenal are forced into their first change of the night as Danny Welbeck replaces Ramsey, who looks to have picked up an injury. Wenger makes it a double switch as Alex Iwobi also comes on in place of Gibbs.
71 minAlmost a chance for Arsenal as Xhaka plays the ball into the box for the run of Sanchez, but the Chilean can't get his header right as he tries to loop it over Pickford. The replays show that he was offside anyway, although the flag didn't appear to be raised against him.
72 minSAVE! Welbeck looks to make an early impact following his introduction as he drills a low strike across goal with his weaker right foot, but Pickford gets down to make another good stop.
72 minGOAL! Arsenal 1-0 Sunderland (Alexis Sanchez)
72 minArsenal finally have the breakthrough! Xhaka finds the run of Ozil down the left channel with a pass over the top and the German turns it back across the face of goal. Sanchez is there unmarked to tap in probably the easiest of his 27 goals this season to ease a lot of the tension around the stadium.
74 minYELLOW CARD! Cattermole is the latest player in the book tonight for a foul on Sanchez.
75 minOFF THE BAR! Big chance for Arsenal to kill this game off once and for all as Iwobi's shot deflects into the path of Sanchez, who is onside. He takes the ball down with a combination of his chest and arm, but then tries to lob the keeper when he may have done better to put his foot through it. His effort drops onto the top of the bar, although Pickford looked to have it covered.
77 minUPDATE: Arsenal and Man City both look like doing their bit tonight - the latter have taken a 3-0 lead against West Brom, with Toure getting the third.
78 minSUNDERLAND SUB: The visitors make a change with just over 10 minutes remaining as Lynden Gooch replaces Cattermole.
78 minCHANCE! Pickford is keeping Sunderland in this one tonight. Xhaka is teed up just inside the area and looks to bury his finish into the bottom corner, but the visiting keeper is there again to make a save.
79 minSAVE! And another save from Pickford! This time Iwobi drills a powerful low effort towards goal which Pickford gets down really sharply to save and crucially push away from Giroud following in.
81 minGOAL! Arsenal 2-0 Sunderland (Alexis Sanchez)
81 minArsenal have a second, and it is another tap-in for Sanchez. Giroud does really well to turn Bellerin's cross towards goal, only to be denied by a fine reaction stop from Pickford once again. This time, though, his save diverts the ball into the path of Sanchez, who is able to nod it into an unguarded net from point-blank range.
82 minSUNDERLAND SUB: The visitors make their second change of the evening as Adnan Januzaj replaces Manquillo.
84 minAlmost a chance for Sanchez to get his hat-trick as he breaks in down the left side of the area, but he looks for the pass instead of going for goal and the opportunity goes begging.
85 minARSENAL SUB: Third and final change for the hosts as Theo Walcott replaces Giroud.
86 minOFF THE BAR! Arsenal are so close to a third goal as Mustafi does really well get his head to a corner, but Pickford produces another top save to tip it onto the crossbar. A scramble ensues inside the area, but Sunderland eventually win a free kick.
88 minSUNDERLAND SUB: Sunderland make their final change of the evening as Darron Gibson replaces Ndong.
90 minThere will be three minutes of added time at the end of this match as Walcott goes through but fails to make the most of a good opening.
9.43pmThe referee brings an end to a frantic game at the Emirates, then, and it is Arsenal who emerge deserved winners in the end, although they were made to wait for it! A brace from Alexis Sanchez ultimately hands them the win they needed to stay in the top-four race, though, ensuring that it will go down to the final day of the season. The Gunners remain on the outside looking in, but they are at least in the conversation.
9.45pmRight, that is all we have time for this evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for tonight's Premier League clash between Arsenal and Sunderland as the Gunners take the top-four race down to the final day of the season. I will leave you with our match report, and be sure to stick around for reaction from both camps too. From me, though, it is goodbye for now!