21 May 2015

Sunderland stay in EPL

2:11 pm on 21 May 2015

Sunderland have secured their English Premier League football survival after managing a scoreless draw at Arsenal, with the point enough to all but seal third place and a spot in the Champions League group stage for the Gunners.

Sunderland football fans

Sunderland football fans Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The battle to avoid relegation is now a straight shootout between Hull City and 17th-place Newcastle United, who are two points better off heading into this weekend's final round.

Hull are at home to Manchester United while Newcastle host West Ham United.

Sunderland needed a point to ensure their top flight status and defended like their lives depended on it to move up to 15th, four points clear of Hull City in the final relegation place.

It was a frustrating evening for Arsene Wenger's Arsenal, who are now unable to catch Manchester City in second, but are three points clear of fourth placed Manchester United with a comfortably superior goal difference.

It was to be expected that Sunderland would arrive at the Emirates with a gameplan designed to stifle their opponents with bodies behind the ball and it proved to be a remarkably well-executed strategy.

It took 29 minutes for Arsenal to have a sniff of goal as Mesut Ozil latched on to a chipped ball over the top from Alexis Sanchez but fired high over the bar, before Olivier Giroud flashed a shot wide two minutes later.

The France forward went close again 10 minutes after the break, drawing an excellent save from Costel Pantilimon by darting to the near post and steering a sharp finish back across goal that the Sunderland keeper did well to keep out.

There was a sense that it was not going to be Arsenal's evening in front of a largely muted home crowd when Kieran Gibbs had a header well saved, Sanchez had an effort blocked and Sunderland nearly grabbed a breakaway goal as Steven Fletcher failed to beat David Ospina when through on goal.

Fletcher then had arguably the best chance of the night but somehow failed to convert a Patrick van Aanholt cross from six metres out.

Arsenal, however, continued to pile forward with Theo Walcott beating Pantilimon only to see his goal-bound effort cleared desperately by a back-tracking Sebastian Coates and Sunderland's Billy Jones inadvertently directing a cross against his own post as Arsenal pressed in vain.

The final whistle prompted ecstatic celebrations from the Sunderland players as well as manager Dick Advocaat, who masterminded his side's survival after being appointed in March.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs

We have regular online commentary of local and international sport.