SUNDERLAND suffered a torried afternoon in the capital after being on the end of a second-half masterclass from Arsenal to crash to a 4-1 defeat.
The Gunners took a fifth-minute lead through Natalia Sanchon’s cross-cum-shot from the left.
It looked good for the Lady Black Cats when Beth Mead’s second WSL1 goal of the season levelled on 25 minutes.
But after the break it was all Arsenal.
The hosts went ahead when Abby Holmes brought down sub Kelly Smith and was sent-off.
Sanchon converted the 74th-minute penalty and further goals by sub Carla Humphrey (78) and Dan Carter (85) added further pain to the 10-woman Cats
Sunderland made a sluggish start and were punished by Arsenal in the fifth minute.
Sanchon got the better of Steph Bannon down the left. She was given time to cross and her cross-cum-shot curled beyond Rachael Laws and into the net.
After that set-back, Sunderland began to find their feet and Keira Ramshaw won a corner and soon afterwards Rachel Furness volleyed over from the edge of the box after Brooke Chaplen’s cross
Arsenal looked dangerous every time they had the ball but Sunderland were a threat themselves and Mead fired just wide of the keeper’s right-hand post in the 17th minute.
But the equaliser came eight minutes later and it was no surprise MEAD was the marksman.
Laws delivered the ball downfield which Furness flicked on for Mead to run into the area and beat Byrne with a sublime finish.
Sunderland were on the attack seconds later but the cross from sub Emma Kelly (on for Ramshaw) was not a good one and Byrne collected easily at her near post.
The Lady Black Cats then had what looked two good shouts for a penalty.
Mead went down under a challenge from Casey Stoney when both went for a loose ball in the box, while Chaplen was then wrestled to the floor by Alex Scott.
Each time, referee Stuart Franklin waved play on.
Sunderland were forced into a change at half-time when Furness was replaced by Kelly McDougall.
And McDougall had a chance to score in the 52nd minute when Mead got the better of Jemma Rose and ran into the box. She teed up the veteran midfielder but her shot was a tame one and straight at Byrne
But Arsenal came close to scoring at the other end seconds later when Carter went wide.
From then on it was all Arsenal.
Sanchon hit the bar on the hour and Sunderland were struggling to get a kick, and the difference between the clubs was highlighted when the Gunners were able to bring on the great Smith.
And the Gunners legend was soon making a difference and won the penalty which gave the hosts the lead.
She got on the end of a 1-2 and was brought dopwn by Holmes when about to shoot.
Holmes was red-carded while Smith received treatment behind the goal.
From the penalty SANCHON sent Laws the wrong way.
It was a deserved lead for the Gunners and it was soon 3-1 when Carter crossed low from the left and sub HUMPHREY sidefooted in from the six-yard box.
Sunderland conceded a fourth in the 85th minute.
CARTER was given time to turn and shoot from edge of box and she obliged with a powerful right-foot shot past Laws.
ARSENAL 4 SUNDERLAND 1
Arsenal: Byrne, Williamson, Stoney, Rose, Scott, Losada, Bailey, Sanderson (Smith 65, Mitchell 76), Obogagu (Humphrey 66), Sanchon, Carter. Subs: Augustus, Smith, Yankey, Humphrey, Weir, Mitchell, C Kelly
Sunderland Ladies: Laws, Holmes, Sharp, Bannon, T Williams, Joice, McFadden (Greenwell 62), Furness (McDougall 46), Chaplen, Ramshaw (Kelly 16), Mead. Subs: