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Gardner hopes to kick on from Arsenal display
CRAIG GARDNER hopes that his positive impression on Sunderland's second half against Arsenal can kick-start his season.
The midfielder was a half-time substitute in Saturday's 3-1 defeat to the Gunners, but scored his side's only goal from the penalty spot and put in an impressive display in an area of the pitch which is causing a real headache for manager Paolo Di Canio.
Gardner missed the first game of the season through suspension and has struggled to get his campaign off and running, but the former Birmingham and Aston Villa man feels that Saturday's game will be a catalyst.
“I’d like to think I made a difference in the second half,” said Gardner. “I came off the bench and I’ve got fire in the belly. I want to impress. I’ve had a slow to the season what with being suspended and not playing and being injured. It’s not good.
“I want to play games, I want to get involved and I was delighted to get the goal. Hopefully I can kick on from here.”
Sunderland were criticised by Di Canio for being too passive in the first half, with Gardner's introduction in place of David Vaughan giving the hosts some much-needed impetus in the middle of the park.
Gardner added: “I think in the second half we took it to them a bit more. We were on them. We got the goal, hit the post from the free-kick and could have scored another two or three. We were right on top when they got the second, which came as a bit of a blow to us to be honest.
“There were signs of an improvement in the second half. Against a team like Arsenal - a Champions League team - I think you’re going to have to have periods like we did in the first half. In the second half we created enough chances and we might have gone on to win the game. We have to take something from that.”
While there was controversy with Jozy Altidore's goal being disallowed as Martin Atkinson had already stopped play for a foul on the American, Gardner refused to be drawn into criticising the Halifax official.
“I don’t like to knock referee’s decisions,” admitted Gardner. “I’m a player, not a referee but I don’t know. Could he have played advantage? I don’t know. I didn’t really see it. I just saw everyone stop and I stopped too because the ball was rolling towards the goal. As I say, he’s the referee and you have to respect that decision.”
Gardner was a spectator in the first half as Mesut Ozil made his introduction into the Premier League, taking 11 minutes to register his first assist in the league, his 73rd in five years of top-flight football. And Gardner was impressed with what he saw from the £43m man.
“Obviously in the first half I was on the bench and I saw his touch for the first goal,” he said. “You just have to admire him because he’s a top class player and from one perspective its a pleasure to play on the same pitch as someone like him and test yourself.
“But its not about players you’ve played against, it’s about results and getting the three points for Sunderland and I’m obviously gutted about the result.”
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