Sunderland produced a gutsy rearguard action to preserve their Premier League status with a tense 0-0 draw against Arsenal on Wednesday. Dick Advocaat was reduced to tears at the final whistle as his side delivered another great escape despite Arsenal laying siege at their goal during the second-half

Arsenal created a host of chances but were held to a goalless draw by Sunderland on a frustrating evening at the Emirates Stadium. The Gunners dominated almost from the first whistle, testing Sunderland goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon through Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla in quick succession. With the visitors showing little attacking ambition, ArsA?ne Wengera s side were free to dictate play as they pressed and probed in search of an opening.

Arsenala s task ahead of the match was straightforward: win and automatic entry to next seasona s Champions League was their prize. In fact, a draw would pretty much do it too, considering their superior goal difference to fourth-placed Manchester United. To that end, Sunderland may have seemed inviting opponents. The Black Cats had not beaten their hosts for 10 games and had taken the fewest shots on goal in the Premier League this season. However, Advocaata s appointment as manager had provoked an upturn in form that had lifted them out of the relegation zone and to the brink of survival. A draw may have been an attractive outcome for both teams, but Wenger had spoken of his determination to end the campaign on a high ahead of the FA Cup final. Momentum was key, but having named an unchanged side for six successive matches, he opted to freshen up his team this time around.

Dick Advocaat’s side knew a point at the Emirates Stadium would be enough to guarantee their survival and they achieved that goal with an obdurate defensive display that kept Arsenal at bay despite a barrage of pressure from the hosts.

FC Arsenal vs AFC Sunderland

Superbly marshalled by holding midfielder Lee Cattermole and central defenders Sebastian Coates and John O’Shea, Sunderland still needed a fine performance from goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon to emerge unscathed.The Black Cats, now four points clear of third bottom Hull, can start planning for next season instead of nervously facing a decisive trip to champions Chelsea in Sunday’s final round of fixtures.

Arsene Wenger’s team are three points clear of fourth placed Manchester United with a significantly better goal difference with only one match to play. Sunderland’s point means that the final relegation place from the Premier League will be filled by either Hull or Newcastle.”We can say that we dominated possession but we lack a bit of sharpness at the moment in our movement and the way we take our chances,” Wenger told reporters at the Emirates Stadium.”We were a bit jaded tonight. Also we havena t scored in the last three games at home and that played a big part in our spontaneous finishing. You have to expect your opponent to play well. We are in a strong position to finish in the top three, so let’s do it.”

“We didna t look like scoring, honestly. Even if we had 20 shots on goal, there was always something missing. We needed something special to score tonight and they defended very well. There was always a body there, particularly [Sebastian] Coates and [John] Oa Shea from crosses. The point we took at Manchester United on Sunday was vital. If wea d lost that game, we would be in trouble.”

Courtesy AFP