Walcott inspires Arsenal to win over Sunderland

Theo Walcott may not yet have secured his seat on England's World Cup plane to South Africa.

But he could hardly have turned in a better audition than the performance he produced in front of England manager Fabio Capello at the Emirates stadium today.

Nicklas Bendtner scored the first-half goal and Cesc Fabregas the injury-time penalty which defeated a sterile Sunderland side but it was Walcott who produced the pace and the menace.

At times it had shades of Zagreb 2008, the night Walcott scored a hat-trick against Croatia which set England on the right course in their World Cup qualifying campaign.

There were no goals this time but if you want a winger to terrorise defenders, then Walcott in this mood does it better than most.

But if Walcott was Arsenal's most lethal attacker, the other man who made the difference was Manuel Almunia.

Arsene Wenger had been anxious to stress his support for Lukasz Fabianski after the young Polish goalkeeper's two howlers had sunk the Gunners in their Champions League defeat against Porto in midweek, but it did not stretch to keeping him in the side.

He went for the experience of 34-year-old Almunia, who was back after passing a fitness test on an injured finger. Sol Campbell, whose backpass also contributed to the Gunners' downfall, started on the bench.

But if the disappointment of Portugal lingered then it did not show. Arsenal were quicker to the ball, Fabregas and Aaron Ramsey seizing control in midfield with their slide-rule passing and pretty patterns.

Walcott announced his desire as early as the fourth minute, sprinting past Sunderland full-back George McCartney like an Olympic finalist - which is not that far-fetched, considering he has been timed at a hand-held 10.2 seconds for 100m.

McCartney must have wondered then if it had been a good idea to get out of bed this particular Saturday.

The answer came time and again over the next hour or so as Walcott tempted him in and then left him in his wake in a straight foot race.

Quite how Sunderland went in only one goal down in that first-half is one of life's little mysteries.

McCartney was part of the reason, deflecting one Samir Nasri shot over the crossbar and then somehow diverting a Bendtner left-foot blast on to the bar only to see it bounce to safety.

The opening goal, however, came courtesy of a slaloming run from Emmanuel Eboue which would not have been out of place on the slopes in Vancouver.

At the end of it he found a precision pass across the box which found Bendtner loitering in cavernous space at the far post. Bendtner may have scored easier goals but it is doubtful.

True, Fraizer Campbell did bring one fine save from Almunia - and how Kenwyne Jones did not score when clean through with only Almunia to beat, only he knows. But for the most part Steve Bruce's side were out-thought, out-manoeuvred and out-played.

They were also somewhat fortunate to finish with a full complement after Sunderland captain Lorik Cana launched a two-footed tackle which felled Eboue. Referee Steve Bennett produced a yellow card, which could easily have been red.

The second half was more of the same, Arsenal flooding forward, full of spark. Walcott brought a fine save from Gordon, Thomas Vermaelen almost decapitated the Sunderland goalkeeper with a free-kick pile-driver and chances were made and squandered in equal measure.

Arsenal almost paid the price - and would have done if it was not for the quick thinking of Almunia, who raced out to smother a Darren Bent shot when the striker was clean through.

There were a few nervy moments for the Gunners as they failed to cash in on their superior possession.

But in injury time Fabregas was brought down by Campbell on the edge of the area and the Spaniard, forever Arsenal's orchestrator, got up to rap home Arsenal's second from the spot.

It was no more than Wenger's men deserved.

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Field of broken dreams: Andy Bell visits Passchendaele
news5 News's Andy Bell visited the killing fields of the Great War, and his ancestor - known only from his compelling war diary - came to life
Travel
travel
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel