Late Van Persie goal rescues win for Arsenal

Robin van Persie gave Arsenal’s stuttering Premier League

campaign a boost on Sunday by curling home a late free kick to earn

the team a 2-1 victory over Sunderland.

The Netherlands striker added to the opener he scored for the

north London club after just 29 seconds by stepping up in the 83rd

minute to hit the winner with a sublime effort from 25 yards

(meters) for his fifth goal of the season.

”He made the difference with his skill which was just

exceptional,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. ”He is a

special football player.”

Sweden winger Sebastian Larsson had equalized for Sunderland

against his former club in the 31st minute with a free kick just as

impressive as Van Persie’s but the struggling visitors couldn’t

hold on, piling more pressure on under-fire manager Steve

Bruce.

While Sunderland remained a place above the relegation zone,

Arsenal’s third straight league victory at the Emirates – and fifth

in all competitions – lifted it to 10th place in the table as

Arsene Wenger’s team looks to rebound after a poor start to the

season that included an 8-2 defeat at Manchester United.

The Gunners look as if they will invariably have to lean heavily

on Van Persie, the team’s captain and attacking fulcrum, to have

any chance of climbing back into the top four – where they have

been habitually finished during Wenger’s 15-year reign.

The Dutchman’s first goal, which came when he ran onto

Gervinho’s through-ball and fired a low shot into the corner, was

the quickest in the Premier League in nearly four years.

”I guess it was my first touch,” Van Persie said. ”I was a

bit surprised.”

And after taking the lead, Arsenal appeared ready to run away

with the game as Van Persie chipped a superb angled shot back off

the far post in the 12th minute before curling just wide from 25

yards (meters) soon after.

With Sunderland’s defense continuing to stand off, Gervinho

fired over from a good position before the visitors finally got a

foothold in the match.

Their goal came against the run of play after Mikel Arteta was

penalized for handball, with Larsson stepping up to whip a shot

into the top corner beyond the reach of Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech

Szczesny to underline his status as one of the Premier League’s

leading dead-ball specialists.

Szczesny then scrambled across his line to make a point-blank

stop from Lee Cattermole’s close-range header in the 35th.

”I would be disappointed not to stick that in from three

yards,” Bruce said. ”But it was a great save.”

Arsenal re-established its authority in the second half but

failed to seriously test Sunderland ‘keeper Simon Mignolet,

increasing the frustrations of the home crowd.

Russia forward Andrey Arshavin came close to putting Arsenal

ahead after the substitute embarked on a run in the 73rd that took

him past four players before poking his shot narrowly wide.

Van Persie, however, stepped up to rescue Arsenal with a late

winner that showed how important he will be to the Gunners

following the offseason departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir

Nasri.

”Many people questioned his leadership qualities,” Wenger said

of Van Persie, who is still to sign an extension to his contract

that runs out in the summer of 2013. ”I believe he is totally

committed to the cause.”