When Santi Cazorla put Arsenal up in the 36th minute at Sunderland, it looked like the beginning for an easy day for the Gunners. Their normally prolific passing game was accompanied by a precision the Gunners often lack, movement toward goal that hinted this many be a rare easy Arsenal road victory. The team went into halftime up one at the Stadium of Light, but it seemed only a matter of time before the visitors doubled their lead. There was little reason to think the match would end 1-0.
Yet that’s precisely what happened. Shortly after the hour mark, Arsenal were left to rue their near-misses and plunked uprights when they lost one of their defenders. Booked for the second time, right back Carl Jenkinson left his team to play with 10 for the last half hour, a disadvantage that caused the match to flip. In a game where Arsenal outshot their opponent 19-14, Sunderland posted eight shots to Arsenal’s four after the sending off. Unfortunately for the Black Cats, none of their shots had to be collected from Arsenal’s net.
(MORE: Bale, Spurs sink Newcastle)
Saving his team, goalkeeper Wojiech Szczesny gave Arsenal a man of the match-caliber performance, even if his numbers failed to capture his impact. His five saves where fewer than the seven recorded by Simon Mignolet, but late stops on chances that would have otherwise been goals (specifically, a late heard by Steven Fletcher) backboned a superficially strong defensive performance. Arsenal was able to keep a clean sheet, but even for a team reduced to 10 men, their defense was often too easily breeched by the Black Cats.
(MORE: Chelsea back in win column.)
After their leery 30 minutes, Arsenal was left with more than just a fortunate victory, in so far as any prolonged survival with 10 men requires some fortunate. The win was an impressive one for a team that’s often criticized for lacking perseverance. On the road, down a man, and having lost one of their better players to injury (Jack Wilshire, whose injury seemed minor), Arsenal got a valuable result, one which keeps them within four points of a coveted Champions League spot.
The group stage of qualification is complete, as 20 teams have clinched a berth at EURO 2016, which kicks off next summer in France.
The top-two finishers in each group automatically qualified, as did the best third-place side out of all the groups (Turkey). France qualified automatically as the host nation.
[ MORE: EURO 2016 roundup ]
That leaves eight third-place teams to battle for the final four spots through a play-off. The draw for the matchups will take place on October 18, and those matches will be held from November 12-17 as a home-and-home play-off.
- Czech Republic
- Turkey (automatically qualified as best third-place side)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina (qualified for play-off)
- Ukraine (qualified for play-off)
- Republic of Ireland (qualified for play-off)
- Slovenia (qualified for play-off)
- Northern Ireland
- Hungary (qualified for play-off)
- Sweden (qualified for play-off)
- Norway (qualified for play-off)
- Denmark (qualified for play-off)
The group stage of qualifying for the 2016 European Championship has come to a close, and one of the top teams in the world will not be playing in France next summer.
Netherlands 2-3 Czech Republic
The Netherlands finished second at the 2010 World Cup and third at the 2014 World Cup, but have failed to qualify for EURO 2016. Playing in front of a home crowd in a must-win match against the Czech Republic, the Dutch got off to a dreadful start, falling behind 2-0 as manager Danny Blind was forced to make a substitution within the opening 40 minutes. The Czech Republic was sent to ten men before the break, but an own-goal from Robin Van Persie made it 3-0 as the Dutch couldn’t recover. A disastrous result for the Netherlands, as big changes will surely come from the top down.
[ RELATED: David de Gea fighting for starting goalkeeper position with Spain ]
Italy 2-1 Norway
Italy finishes atop Group H without a loss after defeating Norway 2-1 today. Norway took the lead through Norwich City’s Alexander Tettey, but late goals from Alessandro Florenzi and Southampton’s Graziano Pelle gave the Italians all three points.
Malta 0-1 Croatia
With Norway’s loss, Croatia jumped into second place in Group H and secured qualification to EURO 2016 with a 1-0 win away at Malta. Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic scored the game’s only goal, as Croatia advances despite having one point deducted due to inappropriate actions from their fans.
Elsewhere in EURO qualifying
Turkey 1-0 Iceland
Latvia 0-1 Kazakhstan
Belgium 3-1 Israel
Wales 2-0 Andorra
Cyprus 2-3 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bulgaria 2-0 Azerbaijan