Wenger impressed by Gunners' Cup fight-back

LONDON • Arsene Wenger took another step towards becoming the most successful manager in FA Cup annals on Saturday and hailed Arsenal's "special solidarity" in fighting back to record a 3-1 third-round win over Sunderland.

The Frenchman has set his sights on landing the trophy for a record seventh time, eclipsing the mark he shares with George Ramsay, who led Aston Villa to six triumphs between 1887 and 1920.

Yet after piloting Arsenal to a 13th straight FA Cup victory as they seek to win the trophy for a third consecutive year, another unprecedented feat in the modern game, Wenger said there were worrying moments after Sunderland took a 17th-minute lead through Jeremain Lens.

"It was a test for us to come from behind. There was a great mental response and there is a special solidarity in the team," he told reporters.

"You always worry because, no matter how long you are in this job, you never know what is next."

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What came next was an impressive response from the Premier League leaders, inspired by a driving display in midfield from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and kicked off by Joel Campbell's half-volleyed 25th-minute equaliser.

The goal was the highlight of a performance from Costa Rican striker Campbell that Wenger hailed as "very good".

He had praise for others too, including Hector Bellerin, who set up Aaron Ramsey for Arsenal's second before the defender's pass also gave Olivier Giroud a simple tap-in for the third.

"He became stronger and stronger. Sometimes I felt in the last 20 minutes, every time he went forward, he created a chance on goal," Wenger said of Bellerin.

"The fact that he is only 20, there is a lot more to come from him."

In other Saturday ties, Southampton and Newcastle both fell at the first hurdle, but could at least console themselves that they were beaten by fellow Premier League sides.

Wilfried Zaha's 68th-minute goal gave Crystal Palace a 2-1 win at Southampton, while Troy Deeney punished a loose back-pass from Georginio Wijnaldum to give Watford a 1-0 home victory over Newcastle.

Bolton Wanderers, bottom of the Championship and at risk of bankruptcy, narrowly escaped succumbing to the day's biggest shock as Darren Pratley's scrappy 87th-minute goal earned them a 1-1 draw at fifth-tier Eastleigh.

The lowest-ranked team left in the tournament, Eastleigh had gone ahead in the 51st minute via an own goal by Bolton's French defender Dorian Dervite.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2016, with the headline 'Wenger impressed by Gunners' Cup fight-back'. Print Edition | Subscribe