Arsenal 2-1 Sunderland

Robin van Persie celebrates his first goal with Theo Walcott
Van Persie's brace made it six goals for the season

Two classy finishes from Robin van Persie earned Arsenal victory over Sunderland at Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners' captain opened the scoring after just 29 seconds - the fastest goal of the Premier League season.

Sunderland drew level on the half-hour thanks to a stunning free-kick from former Gunner Sebastian Larsson.

But Van Persie had the final say when he fired in a free-kick of his own eight minutes from time to give Arsene Wenger's men victory.

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Arsene Wenger praises 'special' Robin Van Persie

Van Persie declared his commitment to the club in the matchday programme following reports he was planning to join Manchester City - and then backed that up with his match-winning display on the pitch.

Sunderland kicked the game off, and were stunned to find themselves behind within 30 seconds as the Gunners worked the ball down the left flank and Gervinho picked out Van Persie - who was given far too much space by Wes Brown - and he fired the ball low past Simon Mignolet.

The Dutchman almost doubled the lead after 12 minutes with a sublime piece of skill, turning effortlessly on the edge of the box before spotting Mignolet off his line but his chipped effort hit the post.

The visitors were finding it impossible to shackle Van Persie and he caused more alarm with a left-footed effort which went wide of the target.

Sunderland began to settle down and created an opportunity in the 27th minute.

Wojciech Szczesny raced wide out of his penalty area to collect the ball and was beaten to it by Kieran Richardson but no-one could get on the end of his cross.

But it was still against the run of play when the Black Cats levelled through Larsson's third goal of the season.

Mikel Arteta was penalised for handball and Larsson curled in the resulting free-kick from 25 yards into the top corner.

And it was Sunderland who could have led at the break but for a brilliant save from Szczesny as he kept out Lee Cattermole's close-range header.

The visitors set their stall out to defend after the interval, and four quick-fire yellow cards were the stand-out moments, although the Gunners were frustrated with Alex Song's attempt to find Theo Walcott as one of several attacks broke down.

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Bruce vows to 'turn round' Sunderland

Andrey Arshavin wriggled free to create a chance but his weak shot was off target.

Just as it was looking like being another frustrating afternoon for Wenger's side, Van Persie intervened in style, curling in a fine free-kick from 25 yards.

The Gunners did have a late scare when Sunderland subsitute Ji Dong-won had the ball in the back of the net but it was rightly ruled offside as the Gunners held on for a win which takes them into the top half of the Premier League.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger:

"The spirit in the team is exceptional and in the second half we just came out and played in their half. We are growing as a team and getting stronger and stronger.

"Robin van Persie is a special player and he's shown that again today. He's blessed at the moment and let's touch wood with his injuries. He's shown what a great player he is when he can be consistently playing.

"We have answered a few critics but not enough and there is a lot more for us to show."

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce:

"We keep getting beaten by the odd goal. We had an awful start and we had an awful start last week but we showed a little bit of resilience and a little bit of character to get back into it.

"When you have the big chances like we had just before half time, if you are going to win here at the Emirates, you need to take them.

"That's been the story so far. It's not been quite happening for us but we'll keep sticking at it and working hard then I'm sure we'll turn it round."

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