Arsenal miss chance to go topOctober 5th, 2008 - 4:10 pm ICT by IANS
London, Oct 5 (DPA) Arsenal missed a great chance to go top of the English Premier League, for 24 hours at least, when they were held to a 1-1 draw at Sunderland.Arsene Wenger’s side needed an injury-time header from Cesc Fabregas to snatch a share of the points that had seemed to be Sunderland’s after Grant Leadbitter’s 86th-minute goal Saturday.
The result leaves Arsenal still one point behind joint leaders Chelsea and Liverpool, who both play Sunday, while champions Manchester United moved up to sixth after a 2-0 win at Blackburn.
At the Stadium of Light, Arsenal were again frustratingly inconsistent and when Leadbitter scored four minutes from the end, it looked like the Gunners would suffer their third league defeat of the season.
Robin van Persie had earlier been denied by a fine save from Craig Gordon, but Fabregas popped up in the box to head a Van Persie corner for a last-gasp equaliser to rescue Arsenal’s blushes.
Wenger was frustrated by Sunderland’s excellent defence.
“They defended with great spirit and were resilient for the whole game,” Wenger said of the home side.
“I like to think usually the team that takes the initiative should be rewarded, but it is not always like that in football. We lacked a little bit the sharpness to get them out of position.
“We needed character to come back and at least get a point. Is it a good point or a bad point? I don’t know, but it was a frustrating day for us because we didn’t create the chances we usually do and I must say, Sunderland defended very well.”
At a rainy Ewood Park, champions Manchester United were convincing winners over Blackburn Rovers.
Wes Brown headed them in front midway through the first half, though Blackburn claimed Nemanja Vidic had impeded the goalkeeper, a claim seemingly backed up by television replays.
United then doubled their lead 20 minutes into the second half thanks to a superb strike by Wayne Rooney, after a great burst of speed by Cristiano Ronaldo on the wing.
Blackburn huffed and puffed in an effort to get back into the game, but United looked the more likely and ran out easy winners to move within three points of the top two.
Middlesbrough also scored late on to snatch a 1-0 win at Wigan to move well away from the bottom three, Jeremie Aliadiere breaking the deadlock two minutes from the end.
Manager Gareth Southgate praised his side’s defensive effort before their late winner.
“We were excellent across the back five today,” he said. “It’s the type of game where centre-halves get the opportunity to stand out and they certainly did that today.
“Our mentality going into the game was different and you could sense a determination about them. The irony is we’ve played much better football in our last two games and taken nothing.
“We said we had to keep doing the right things which we did defensively, then take our chances when they come. We managed to finish one of them today and that was the important thing.”
West Brom moved into the top half of the table thanks to a 1-0 win over Fulham, with Roman Bednar scoring midway through the second half.