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The BBC's Steve Lee
"Sunderland won a 5 goal thriller"
 real 28k

Saturday, 27 November, 1999, 17:35 GMT
Sunderland move into third
Ngonge scored within the first five minutes

Watford 2-3 Sunderland

A late winner from midfielder Gavin McCann moved Sunderland back into the Premiership top three after lowly Watford threatened an upset in a controversial five-goal thriller at Vicarage Road.

A Kevin Phillips double put Sunderland ahead after Graham Taylor's men had taken an early lead through Michel Ngonge.

And though Richard Johnson put the Hornets level with a hotley-disputed spot-kick, McCann slid home a 70th minute winner to move Sunderland one point behind Leeds, who play on Sunday, and two points behind Manchester United, who are in Tokyo.

Phillips was given a warm round of applause by both sets of fans at the club, which sold him for 325,000 to Sunderland when he was substituted with five minutes to go.

Late controversy

But the match ended in controversy as Frenchman Xavier Gravelaine was dismissed in the last minute by referee Uriah Rennie for a challenge on Darren Williams.

Match facts
4: Ngonge puts Watford in front
24: A Page own goal levels matters
33: Phillips gives Sunderland the lead
49: Johnson equalises with a penalty
70: McCann seals the points for Sunderland
90: Gravelaine sent off
At the start of the match Gravelaine had helped give the home fans hope of only their fourth win of the season.

He picked out Michel Ngonge with a long pass from the right and the striker skipped between two Sunderland defenders before crashing his fifth-minute shot into the top corner of the net.

It was Ngonge's third in three games, his fourth of the season, and it sent three-quarters of a packed Vicarage Road, including chairman Sir Elton John, attending his first game since Watford's Premiership return, into raptures.

Sunderland's goal machine was on target in the 25th minute although his shot needed a wicked deflection to take it past Watford keeper Alec Chamberlain.

There looked to be little danger as Phillips shaped to curl a shot from 25-yards but his hopeful left-foot strike hit Robert Page, wrong-footed Chamberlain, and rolled gently into the bottom corner.

Eight minutes later Phillips needed no luck as he put his side ahead with a powerful close-range header.

Headline figure



A sweeping move stretched Watford first to the Sunderland left, then back to the right where Nicky Summerbee lofted a cross to Phillips at the far post.

Watford forced themselves back into the match straight after the break when a break by Robinson earnt his side a 49th minute spot-kick.

Robinson charged into the Sunderland penalty area down the left and as the ball rebounded to Gravelaine, Rennie awarded a penalty on the advice of his linesman, who spotted an infringement by Williams.

Johnson sent Sorensen the wrong way from the spot to make it 2-2.

Sunderland made up for the perceived injustice of the penalty when they re-took the lead in the 71st minute.

Niall Quinn and found McCann running int the box and the midfielder slid a clinical finish beyond Chamberlain.

Watford had 20 minutes to try and grab a point but rarely threatened the Sunderland goal.

Instead they suffered a 90th minute dismissal as Graveleine was sent off for a foul on Williams, who appeared to be more to blame for his two-footed tackle.

Teams:

Watford: Chamberlain, Page, Palmer, Robinson, Ngonge, Johnson, Wooter, Gravelaine, Williams, Miller, Cox.
Subs: Hyde, Day, Noel-Williams, Gibbs, Smith.

Sunderland: Sorensen, Gray, Butler, Summerbee, Quinn, Phillips, Craddock, Williams, Schwarz, McCann, Roy.
Subs: Ball, Marriott, Rae, Thirlwell, Reddy.
Referee: U Rennie (Sheffield)
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Links to other FA Carling Premiership stories are at the foot of the page.