Aaron Ramsey was the two-goal hero for Arsenal but it was all about referee Martin Atkinson in a game that was much closer than the scoreline suggests.
The man in the middle controversially failed to play advantage when Jozy Altidore had the ball in the back of the net for an equaliser when Sunderland were 2-1 down.
“It was a key moment that decided the outcome,” said Black Cats boss Paolo di Canio.
“The referee has the power to wait. You can see Altidore is more powerful than Sagna. So he made a mistake.”
Arsenal’s record signing Mesut Ozil made an impact after just 11 minutes, controlling Kieron Gibbs’s long ball and crossing for Olivier Giroud to grab the opener.
Sunderland were back in the match after the break, Craig Gardner slotting home a penalty after Laurent Koscielny fouled Adam Johnson.
Aaron Ramsey crashed home a volley to make it 2-1 against the run of play. Then came the disallowed goal.
Bacary Sagna and Altidore wrestled for the ball and, just as the Sunderland man broke free, Atkinson blew for a foul.
“It’s one of these things that was controversial,” said Gunners manager Arsene Wenger.
“If there was no goal, people would have moaned if he didn’t give the free kick, but we were a bit lucky.”
Minutes later Ramsey grabbed his second with a simple tap-in after nice work on the edge of the area by Ozil and Giroud.
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