REPORT Sunderland 0 Arsenal 0: Cats move out of the relegation zone

Wahbi Khazri
Wahbi Khazri
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It may only be on goal difference, but moving out of the relegation zone won't do Sunderland any harm psychologically at this business end of the season.

A goalless draw against Arsenal saw Sam Allardyce's men leapfrog Norwich and move out of the bottom three after Sunderland registered their third clean sheet in four games.

Sunderland had the chances to take maximum points against the Gunners, with Patrick van Aanholt going closest to a breakthrough with a free-kick which clipped the woodwork.

Yet Sunderland were also indebted to several smart saves from Vito Mannone, who was aided by a resilient effort from his back four.

Sunderland began the game with too many needless giveaways and they were a whisker away from going behind in the fourth minute when Alex Iwobi was allowed to dribble to the edge of the Black Cats box, before hitting a low drive inches wide.

The hosts' ball retention remained poor, Per Mertesacker heading a Mesut Ozil corner straight at Vito Mannone from 12 yards.

Sunderland gradually began to get a grip and saw a succession of long-range efforts go wide within a couple of minutes - Yann M'Vila, Wahbi Khazi and then Lee Cattermole, who came closest to finding the net.

The woodwork then denied Allardyce's men the breakthrough midway through the first half after a beautifully-flighted free-kick from 25 yards out by Patrick van Aanholt.

Arsenal keeper Petr Cech was completely beaten, yet the ball bounced off the angle of post and crossbar.

However, the Gunners kicked again and twice went desperately close to going ahead 10 minutes before the interval.

First, Alexis Sanchez's right-footed free-kick from 25 yards required a stunning save from Vito Mannone low to his right, before DeAndre Yedlin made a brilliant block to prevent Iwobi netting the rebound.

From the resulting corner, Nacho Monreal's header was cleared off the line by a combination of Mannone and Yedlin.

At the other end, Sunderland had big penalty appeals waved away by referee Mike Dean after Mertesacker blocked Jermain Defoe's shot with his outstretched arms at point-blank range.

Dean equally ignored claims by Arsenal that they should have had a penalty for handball after Yedlin's block on Iwobi's shot.

A wonderful pass from Jan Kirchhoff created a chance for Jermain Defoe within five minutes of the restart after the German picked out the striker with the outside of this right foot down the right-hand channel of the penalty area.

Defoe's half-volley was turned away by Cech, before M'Vila's scuffed effort on the rebound was again saved by the Arsenal keeper.

Moments later, Khazri's low shot from 20 yards was turned away low at the near post by Cech.

Defoe was a whisker away in the 65th minute after being picked out by a lovely threaded pass by Lee Cattermole down the right-hand channel.

Sunderland's top scorer lifted the ball over Cech, but it bounced a couple of yards wide of the open goal.

The Black Cats remained on the hunt for a breakthrough, yet it was Arsenal who almost nicked it with three minutes to go after Alexis Sanchez cut into the penalty area off the left flank.

Sanchez hit a low shot from 18 yards towards the near post which Mannone managed to turn away low to his right.

Sunderland: Mannone, Yedlin, Kaboul, Kone, van Aanholt, Kirchhoff (Larsson 77), Cattermole, M'Vila, Khazri, Borini (Watmore 74), Defoe. Subs not used: Pickford, Jones, Rodwell, N'Doye, O'Shea. Booked: Borini (58), Khazri (90)

Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Ramsey, Elneny, Ozil (Wilshere 84), Sanchez, Iwobi (Walcott 71), Giroud (Welbeck 71). Subs not used: Ospina, Gabriel, Campbell, Coquelin. Booked: Bellerin (49), Elneny (76), Koscielny (90)

Attendance: 45,420