LONDON, January 9 – Holders Arsenal came from behind to beat Sunderland 3-1 on Saturday, maintaining manager Arsene Wenger’s record of having never been eliminated from the FA Cup in the third round.
Second-half goals by substitute Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud proved decisive at the Emirates Stadium after Joel Campbell had replied to an early Sunderland opener from Jeremain Lens.
Both sides had made wholesale changes with Arsenal, the Premier League leaders, making five and Sunderland, who occupy one of the top-flight relegation slots, seven.
Wenger, with one eye on Wednesday’s trip to Liverpool, rested Mesut Ozil and Ramsey, among others, although Petr Cech continued in goal as David Ospina, who was to have played, was ruled out by a thigh complaint.
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce had already voiced his displeasure at Wednesday’s trip to Swansea City being scheduled so close to this cup tie and left main goal threat Jermain Defoe on the bench as a result.
Sunderland, in lurid green, began with a shot from Lens that clipped a post after Duncan Watmore had set him up.
But the visitors soon required debutant goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to prevent Kieran Gibbs, played in by Giroud, from opening the scoring at the other end with a brave parry.
Sunderland continued to counter-attack with menace and were rewarded with an opening goal from Lens in the 17th minute that was also a personal disaster for Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny.
The France international allowed himself to be dispossessed by the Dutchman on the edge of the area after Gibbs had played the ball back to him, allowing Lens to fire home.
Teenager Alex Iwobi, making a rare start for Arsenal, saw an effort blocked, but in the 25th minute Theo Walcott cut the ball back from the left for Campbell to calmly stroke in the equaliser.
Arsenal were energised and Pickford soon had to beat out Walcott’s long-ranger, but Sunderland negotiated their way to half-time without further alarm.
The Gunners lacked a spark in the absence of Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, who is still not fully fit, but Campbell and Iwobi were keen to get on the ball and Pickford punched away a free-kick from the former.
– Oxlade-Chamberlain hits post –
Campbell almost fashioned a breakthrough, but DeAndre Yedlin booted the ball away from the goalmouth before anyone could pounce on the Costa Rican’s pass.
Arsenal came close to a second goal when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shot hit a post and Walcott put the rebound narrowly wide.
Sunderland responded with a similar chance, however, which saw Steven Fletcher head Yedlin’s cross against the bar and Watmore lash the rebound over.
Campbell, the man who had to wait three years for his Arsenal debut, was his side’s most impressive performer and he forced Pickford into another good save following a one-two with Walcott.
Wenger sent on Ramsey and the fit-again Mikel Arteta for Iwobi and Calum Chambers with just over 20 minutes remaining.
Pickford continued to prove hard to beat and denied Walcott after Gibbs had picked him out, but Ramsey gave him no chance in the 72nd minute.
Hector Bellerin did the leg work down the right with a one-two that culminated in him crossing for the Wales star to score from close range.
Bellerin was also the man who set up Giroud for the third three minutes later, with Yedlin unable to cut out his cross, allowing the Frenchman to finish first time.
Arsenal were convinced Yedlin had brought Giroud down in the box from their next attack, but referee Martin Atkinson ruled otherwise.
Pickford denied Giroud another by tipping over his header after Cech had made a rare save at the other end to deny Danny Graham.
Cech also fielded Patrick van Aanholt’s free-kick with the last kick of the game to ensure Arsenal’s progress.