First things first: Darren Bent’s last-second equaliser was not the slightest bit flattering to Sunderland.
Arsene Wenger looked angry and inconsolable, but when he reflects honestly on the game he will know that part of the match was no freak.
Second thing to say is that when playing Arsenal, there are things you just don’t do.
* give them a freaky goal start
* miss ample chances to turn overall dominance into a lead all the same
* fail to exploit a one-man advantage
* offer them the chance, with the softest of conceded penalties (though I see Collymore and many others consider it was a Chamakh dive; I thought there was contact whatever meal the striker made of it), to put the result beyond doubt.
Sadly, that – until Bent’s moment of glory at the end – is exactly what Sunderland did.
So we ended with another good result against top-class opposition but wasted the chance to make it even better.
And if Tomas Rosicky hadn’t blasted his penalty over the bar, we would have been very glum indeed tonight.
Whatever we were expecting after Arsenal’s pulsating recent form, it was not a great first half.
But Sunderland played well and deserved to be ahead, not behind, at half time.
That it was not the spectacle many among the TV audience will have hoped for was, in part, due to Sunderland’s success in coping with the Wenger academics.
That we went in behind was entirely due to the extraordinary luck Csec Fabregas enjoyed when Ferdinand made a woefully late and lazy clearance. It rocketed off the Spanish player’s shin and flew over Mignolet’s head into the goal. Richardson had hardly helped by turning attack into defence, but his pass back still allowed plenty of time for a routine hoof from the centre back.
Sunderland pressed forward impressively for most of the half. Henderson was good in open play and desperately disappointing with his dead balls; the lack of clinical finish and punch in the final third let us down repeatedly.
Mr Wenger will not have noticed this, but there was not a heavy tackle from any Sunderland player all half. Nor will he have discerned that there were 11 Arsenal fouls recorded, to SAFC’s one.
And he certainly won’t have seen that the worst examples of foul play were committed by Wilshere, a cyncical tug when beaten, for which he was booked, and Song, for an even more cynical double foul for which he received not even a telling off (he was booked later for something else, and had the gall to complain).
For all that, I like Wenger. I’d like him even more if he were to acknowledge that his elite came up against a very good team today, and would have been very, very lucky had they won.
He was wrong to look disgusted when Song was later sent off, unless his disgust was aimed at his player for yet another crude and ruffianlike challenge, .
But what a heartening slice of late justice to ensure the final scoreline was not determined by a fluke.