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Sunderland AFC v arsenal (A)...
LINES FROM LONDON: EXILES BLOG

So David Moyes was incredibly disappointed with our showing against Swansea? Well, now he knows how we’ve all felt for a long while. I was pleased by a hint that he might not actually be with us next season but I don’t want to get my hopes up. Swansea looked a cut above us and they deserve to stay up. Denayer is a doubt this evening – so what’s new? Big Vic is also injured but I hope that he plays as he can make a difference to our performance. Moyes was saying he might field a number of our Under 23 squad today but as they’re playing tomorrow night too surely we don’t want to jeopardize our chances of winning something this season. Sanchez is a doubt for them and that can only be good for us but even Arsenal players whom I’ve never heard of are of a different class to most of ours. They gave us a good thumping at home last autumn and are on a bit of a roll having given Stoke a good hiding at the weekend. They’ve got to fight for that Champions League spot and will be showing no mercy this evening. I’ll be at the game and will be accompanied by a workmate who’s a diehard Spurs fan and who calls Arsenal, Woolwich Wanderers. I see Arsenal haven’t conceded a home goal for more than five hours and I can’t really see us putting a stop to that. Match prediction: 3-0 to them.

There were a lot of empty seats in our section but that’s hardly surprising for an already-relegated club playing far away from home on a Tuesday night. What was surprising was that there were thousands of empty seats in the rest of the stadium for a home game on which Champions League qualification depended. The noise made by the Arsenal fans was negligible and my mate, who’d never even entered the Emirates before, joined in heartily with chants of, “Is this a library?” and “Your support is fuckin’ shite!” As some home fans left early for half-time he shouted at them, “Is this a fire-drill?”

Catts and Oviedo started for us and Sanchez started for them, more’s the pity as it turned out as he won the game with two typical poacher’s goals from close range; one a tap-in and the other bit of as bundle-in. Until the last twenty minutes we hadn’t done too badly and had defended in numbers and robustly. Pickford had another great game and made a number of crucial saves. We were on the back-foot most of the time and Arsenal won at least twelve corners to our three or four but as time went on I began to feel that we might cause an upset. Any such fantasies were quelled by the arrival of Welbeck in the sixty-eighth minute and as Arsenal turned up the pressure a notch my mate said, “It’s gonna be a long twenty minutes.” I couldn’t help but reflect on that Chelsea match, not that long ago but it feels like a different world, when we beat them 3-0 at Stamford Bridge and Welbeck scored our third. Anyway, within twelve minutes we were two down and even after the first one, the game was clearly up for us.

Shortly after the second-half started a dodgy back-pass to Cech obliged him to turn the ball out for a corner with his hand. At least we all thought it was a corner, and maybe the ref too, but after some discussion we were awarded an indirect free-kick because Cech had handled a back-pass. It was taken from a couple of yards to the right of where the offence had taken place actually, which can’t have been right as Cech had dived to stop the ball going into the net. Anyway, Seb chipped it into the air and it was headed over for a corner. I’d never heard the term ‘indirect free-kick’ for years. At another corner Seb was warmly applauded by our fans as he came over to take it. I hope we can keep him as he plays with passion and he’s got the yellow-cards to prove it. In contrast, when Januzaj’s name was announced as the sub for Manquillo shortly before the end, there was a lot of booing from our fans. Loathe though I am to give him credit, he did make a battling run into the box and win a corner. When Gibson’s name was announced as sub for Ndong there was utter silence from our end till a lone voice announced, “Fuck off, Gibson!”

This was a routine victory for Arsenal but we did manage to make it hard for them for a while. Right at the very end there was a decent chant of, “We love you, Sunderland we do!”. Downstairs at half-time there was a chant of, “On our way! On our way! To the Championship we’re on our way!” which seemed to cheer everyone up. Also at the break I was amused to see in the rather capacious urinal a pint glass full of piss. That seemed to sum up our season for me. Anyway, see you at the Bridge on Sunday – fancy dress optional.

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