Premier League – Arsenal denied top spot at death
Cesc Fabregas scored a fortunate opener after 13 minutes, but in doing so picked up an injury that forced him off soon afterwards, and for so long the Gunners looked as though they were going to hang on despite having Alex Song sent off and Tomas Rosicky missing a penalty.
However, just after the clock ticked over into the fifth minute of second-half injury time Darren Bent capitalised on some poor defending from a set piece to snatch a point for the Black Cats, sending Arsene Wenger into a rage on the sidelines.
After a bright start for the home side defender Anton Ferdinand took too long to make a routine long clearance, and the Gunners captain charged him down, managing to steer the punt off his toe and over the stranded goalkeeper Simon Mignolet from 35 yards out.
After stretching to score that goal, Fabregas limped around the pitch for the next 15 minutes before eventually being replaced by Rosicky.
The goal was doubly harsh Sunderland as their first-half performance did not warrant seeing them a goal down.
Jordan Henderson‘s delivery soon after the goal came to Nedum Onuoha, but the defender headed over from close range. Moments later, Kieran Richardson‘s cross was headed back to Steed Malbranque, and the Frenchman’s half-volley flew over Manuel Almunia‘s crossbar.
Alex Song collected a booking for his persistent first-half fouling, but he could have doubled Arsenal’s lead had his downward header from an Andrey Arshavin cross not been turned round the post by a good Mignolet save.
Darren Bent had a penalty claim rightly turned down by referee Phil Dowd, but the Black Cats could have levelled when Cristian Riveros – starting in place of the suspended Lee Cattermole – headed Ahmed Al-Muhammadi’s cross wide from close range.
Arshavin spurned two chances to double the Gunners’ lead soon after the restart, first sidefooting Marouane Chamakh‘s low cross over from six yards before firing wide of the near post after good work by Rosicky.
After picking up a booking in the first half, Song’s cynical body check on Steed Malbranque left referee Phil Dowd with no choice other than the gave the Cameroon midfielder his marching orders, showing the 50th Premier League red card under Wenger.
As often happens when the Gunners go a man down, they were galvanised and began to starve Sunderland of the ball, although Bent spurned a brace of chances and Gael Clichy had to block Denilson‘s header as it was bound for his own goal.
But, when Al-Muhamadi broguht down Samir Nasri in the box 15 minutes from time, it looked all over for Sunderland. However Rosicky blazed his first ever Premier League penalty over the bar and the home side were back in the game.
Throughout the final quarter of an hour Sunderland did not come too close to levelling, but as the last of the four minutes of added time was up, Bolo Zenden hoisted the ball into the box and it caused pandemonium, with Gael Clichy’s attempted rebounded off Laurent Koscielny and into the path of Bent, and the man who scored the winner in the corresponding fixture last season blasted the ball home from close range to send the Wearside fans into delirium and Wenger into a rage.
Tony Mabert / Eurosport