In preparation for writing this bit, I tried recollecting as much as I could about the game before I started writing and researching. My abiding memory was being there, of course, but also Kieran Richardson pretending the flag was a mic stand when he celebrated.
He was a character, wasn’t he? I loved him. He could play just about anywhere, gave his all, had goals in his locker, pace, good movement - a proper player, one that perhaps doesn’t get enough credit for the job he did in a Sunderland shirt.
That goal against Arsenal was actually his first for us in the FA Cup - not that he scored loads like, but he did his bit.
The week before the game we hosted Arsenal at the Stadium of Light in the league, and lost a close game 2-1. You might remember that we took the lead after Per Mertersacker’s Achilles went PING, and James McClean capitalised by taking the loose ball and scoring past Szczesny in the Gunners’ goal. They responded well - Aaron Ramsey got the equaliser just five minutes later, before Thierry Henry scored the winner in the last minute on his return to the club. We were all pissed off at throwing away the lead, and rightly so.
That placed some added focus on the follow-up game the weekend after in the cup. Winning would soften the blow of losing the week prior, and also stuck us in an FA Cup Quarter Final - and we don’t get to those very often.
The Lads were simply class on the day - David Ornstein wrote in his report of the game that Sunderland “out-thought, out-fought and out-worked” Wenger’s side, fair comments on a performance from a team who had won ten of their fifteen games since Martin O’Neill had taken over as manager late in 2011.
Having started well, Arsenal suffered an early setback when Francis Coquelin left the pitch with a hamstring injury, which kicked Sunderland into life.
The Lads controlled the game and, with Kieran Richardson, Lee Cattermole and Seb Larsson driving from midfield, we had the Gunners on the back foot for most of the first half.
Arsenal had a handful of chances - a Van Persie free kick going narrowly wide, another as Mignolet made a fantastic save from Gervinho, and then a superb tackle inside the box from John O’Shea denying RVP and almost certain shot at goal. But, O’Neill’s men remained resolute, and the visitors were unable to break us down.
Our pressing was fantastic, and our energetic performance prevented an Arsenal side usually used to controlling possession from forcing openings and creating chances.
Craig Gardner’s fantastic harrying of Johan Djourou was indicative of the mood that we were in that day - having robbed the Swiss defender of the ball inside the Arsenal half, Djourou brought the midfielder down, and received a yellow card for his troubles.
We were then rewarded with the opening goal from the resulting free kick. Seb Larsson’s deep delivery against his old side was headed out of the box, but not far enough as the ball fell to Kieran Richardson, whose shot found its way through the crowd of players and past Fabianski to send the 26,000 Sunderland supporters wild, five minutes before half-time.
He ran in front of the South East Corner, clutching the corner flag as though he was Freddie Mercury, putting on a show - a cracking goal, and a cracking way to celebrate it!
We continued to press for a second, and Seb Larsson’s free kick span just wide from the edge of the box - inches from nestling into the top corner.
Buoyed by the vocal support from the Sunderland favourite, we pressed and countered and really had Arsenal on the back foot - with Stephané Sessegnon proving to be a real pain in the arse through the middle for the opposition defenders.
It was Sessegnon’s fantastic running, trickery and movement that led to us doubling our lead and winning the game in the 78th minute - he picked up the ball inside his own half before beating off the challenge of Mikael Arteta, carrying it to the edge of their box before feeding in Seb Larsson down the right. The Swede poked his shot past Fabianski and off the post, with the ball deflecting off the onrushing Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and into the net.
2-0, job done, game ower - we were in the Quarter Finals!
Though, it’s probably best that we don’t talk much about that...
Happy thoughts only, please.