Tomas Rosicky defiant over goal criticism

Tomas Rosicky insists he was not acting irresponsibly by starting to walk to the halfway line before Sebastian Larsson's brilliant free-kick had struck the back of the Arsenal net in yesterday's 2-1 victory over Sunderland.

Robin van Persie once again saved the Gunners from another disappointing Barclays Premier League result yesterday when he lashed home a free-kick to give the Londoners victory after Larsson had equalised the Dutchman's opener.

As brilliant as Van Persie's winner was, Larsson's free-kick was the pick of the goals, with the former Arsenal man curling a wonderfully-arched set-piece over the wall and in to the top right-hand corner of Wojciech Szczesny's goal.

Rosicky, who was stood just off the wall for the free-kick, caused fury among the Arsenal fans by starting his walk to the halfway line with his back to goal for the restart without even turning around to see if the ball had actually gone in.

The Czech international, who did the same when Wayne Rooney struck with a free-kick against the Gunners at Old Trafford in August, even appeared to laugh as soon as Larsson struck the goal-bound free-kick.

The midfielder defended his actions today, claiming that there was no need to turn around to see if he could help clear any rebound as he thought Larsson's shot was so good that there was no way that Szczesny could have saved it.

"That wasn't a laugh - it was a desperate laugh that such a screamer would be scored again. I don't have to turn around," Rosicky said.

"When I see his face and he is celebrating, why should I turn around? I have been here six years and anyone who thinks I would laugh at that... for people to take it that way is frankly unbelievable."

Larsson's free-kick drew high praise from the man who sold him to Birmingham four and a half years ago - Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.

"Larsson is maybe the best player in the league at taking free-kicks," the Frenchman said.

The win lifted the Gunners in to the top half of the table and alleviated some of the pressure on Wenger after the club's woeful start to the season.

Four defeats in eight games - one of which was an 8-2 hammering at Manchester United - has left many speculating the club will struggle to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League for the first time since the 1997-98 season.

But despite the team's poor start, and the fact that they lost Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri this summer, Rosicky is convinced that the club can finish in the top four.

"It was a very difficult start for us but the season is very long and I don't feel it is impossible for us [to finish in the top four]," he said.

"Every game is very difficult and you have to fight hard. The season is long and there are so many points to play for. Arsenal is a great club that always has to play for the top four. Even if we started badly, it must still be our aim."

Sunderland headed back to Wearside having seen another chance to move away from the relegation zone pass them by.

Steve Bruce's men will drop in to the bottom three if they lose to Bolton in a huge game next weekend.

Twenty-one-year-old Jack Colback, who battled well in midfield yesterday, believes he and his team-mates gave a good account of themselves considering the calibre of opposition they came up against.

"We played Chelsea at home but I don't think they move it around as quick as Arsenal," he told Sunderland's official website, www.safc.com.

"They make the pitch really big and they're constantly rotating so you don't really get a chance to have a breather."

Colback, who spent half of last season on loan at Ipswich, admits the experience was beneficial to his development despite the defeat.

"It was hard work and a tough match, but these are the games you want to play in," he said.

"It's a great experience for me to play and start the game."

PA

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