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Saturday, 30 December, 2000, 17:06 GMT
Sunderland fight back at Arsenal
Arsenal 2-2 Sunderland
Gavin McCann struck a stunning equaliser to complete a fine Sunderland comeback at Highbury.
McCann curled a rasping shot beyond Alex Manninger to complete Sunderland's revival after Arsenal had completely dominated the first half.
Patrick Vieira and Lee Dixon put the home side 2-0 up at half time and Arsenal were in complete control until Kevin Phillips pulled one back from the penalty spot eight minutes into the second half.
Vieira was harshly adjudged to have handled, giving Sunderland a lifeline which they grabbed with both hands.
Arsenal grabbed control of the game from the first whistle and it was no surprise when they took an early lead.
Henry's darting run was ended by Craddock's tackle but, from the resulting corner, Pires' corner was headed home by the towering Vieira, despite Craddock's efforts to clear off the goal line.
The goal went some way to erasing Vieira's nightmare of the opening day of the season, when he was sent off at Sunderland.
This time, it was Sunderland's central defender Stanislav Varga who was suffering.
The Slovakian, so impressive in the 1-0 win over the Gunners at the Stadium of Light, had a first-half nightmare as the home side forced a string of errors.
Poor finishing spared his blushes on a number of occasions, not least when Pires fired into the side netting after a poor exchange of passes between Varga and Craddock.
Pires, Henry and Kanu were making Sunderland's visit to Highbury a painful one and Kanu was denied a second goal when Thomas Sorensen tipped over his goalbound header on 11 minutes.
Sorensen was outstanding. If it had not been for his agility and Arsenal's profligacy in front of goal, the home side would have won the game inside half an hour.
Kanu sidefooted woefully wide after Henry had teed him up and a dazzling Ljungberg run warranted a better finish than the one which the Swede sent over Sorensen's crossbar.
Sorensen made excellent blocks to deny Pires as Arsenal's total dominance continued, but it was defender Lee Dixon who finally struck the crucial second goal.
Henry's cross was missed by the in-rushing Ljungberg, but veteran full back Dixon was on hand to sidefoot clinically home from 10 yards for his first Premiership goal of the season.
Sunderland strikers Niall Quinn and Phillips were virtual spectators for most of the game, though Manninger was forced into an excellent block to deny Phillips after former Arsenal midfielder Stefan Schwarz had created the opening by nutmegging Tony Adams.
Having forced only one chance of note in the first half, Sunderland came out after half time desperately searching for a way back.
But it took a gift from referee Graham Barber to hand them the lifeline they so badly wanted.
As Vieira and Quinn tangled as they waited for a loose ball to drop, Vieira's outstretched arm made contact with the ball, though Mr Barber was one of the few in the ground to spot the offence.
Phillips needed no second invitation and clinically rattled the spot kick beyond Manninger to bring Sunderland back into contention.
Indeed, all their first-half shortcomings could have been undone in the space of a single second-half minute.
Sixty seconds after his penalty strike, Phillips was again denied by the alert Manninger and Sunderland were nearly gifted a bizarre equaliser from the rebound.
Igor Stepanovs' hurried clearance bounced off Quinn and against a post before Silvinho hacked the loose ball clear.
Sunderland's dominant minute caused a few concerns among the Arsenal faithful, but a Sunderland comeback still looked an unlikely prospect.
Henry forced another good stop from Sorensen before limping off injured, but Sunderland snatched a point seven minutes from time.
Vieira's attempted tackle on Alex Rae only succeeded in sending the ball spinning out to McCann, who lashed home in glorious fashion.
Phillipos could so easily have completed the comeback when he skipped clear of Stepanovs before firing a shot across the face of Manninger's goal.
There was still time for Arsenal to have penalty appeals of their own turned down by Mr Barber in injury time, but the Gunners can only have themselves to blame for failing to take all three points.
Arsenal: Manninger, Dixon, Stepanovs, Adams, Silvinho, Pires, Ljungberg, Grimandi, Vieira, Henry, Kanu. Subs: Parlour, Danilevicius, Vivas, Lukic, Cole.
Sunderland: Sorensen, Makin, Gray, Varga, Craddock, Hutchison, Schwarz, Rae, McCann, Phillips, Quinn. Subs: Kilbane, Dichio, Williams, Macho, Arca.
Referee: G Barber (Tring)
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