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Rediff.com  » Sports » Arsenal gifted reprieve at Spurs, Liverpool lose

Arsenal gifted reprieve at Spurs, Liverpool lose

December 16, 2002 17:07 IST
A moment of madness from Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Kasey Keller helped an unsettled Arsenal salvage a 1-1 draw in a frenetic north London derby at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

Keller, the United States international, brought down Thierry Henry inside the area on the stroke of half-time and Robert Pires converted the resulting penalty to cancel out Christian Ziege's stunning opener for the home side.

The point shared restored the English champions' outright lead of the premier league with 36 points from 18 games, one more than second-placed Manchester United, who beat West Ham United 3-0 on Saturday.

In the later match on Sunday, shell-shocked Liverpool suffered their fifth defeat in six league games, going down 2-1 at struggling Sunderland.

Substitute striker Michael Proctor pounced for the home side's winner five minutes from time after Liverpool's Milan Baros cancelled out a goal from Gavin McCann -- who also missed a penalty.

Sunderland's fourth win of the season lifted them from second-to-bottom to 17th, while Liverpool stay fifth with 31 points, one behind fourth-placed Everton.

Chelsea are third with 34 points after their 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Birmingham City, who had captain Darren Purse sent off, leapfrogged Fulham in the table after American forward Jovan Kirovski gave them a 1-0 victory at Loftus Road on Sunday.

In north London, Spurs were left cursing missed chances as a famous victory went begging.

Robbie Keane was culprit-in-chief. The Ireland striker had two efforts cleared off the line by Ashley Cole and two more strikes well saved by an inspired David Seaman.

Another defeat would have intensified Arsenal's mini-crisis but, despite four losses already this term, Wenger is content with his club's progress.

WENGER SATISFIED

"We've had three tough games in a week and I'm happy with the reaction of the players," said Wenger. "I am satisfied with a draw today. We had a shaky first 30 minutes."

Spurs boss Glenn Hoddle, whose side moved above Southampton to seventh, said: "I'm proud of the way we played, but with clinical finishing and more luck we could have run out good winners."

Sol Campbell, whose controversial move from White Hart Lane to Highbury in 2001 made him extremely unpopular with Spurs fans, played an inadvertent role in his former club's opener.

His challenge on Gus Poyet 30 metres out was penalised by referee Neale Barry and Ziege, the Germany international, stepped up to bend a stupendous free kick into Seaman's top corner.

Seeking revenge for their 3-0 drubbing at Highbury last month, Spurs could have been three up after half an hour.

A header from Keane was cleared off the line by Cole on 14 minutes and the striker was again denied by the England left-back from a shot 16 minutes later.

Keller saved well from Henry after 43 minutes but just 60 seconds later he blotted his copybook by hurtling off his line in an attempt to thwart Henry.

The France international was running away from goal and danger, but Keller tripped him and Pires steered his low shot into Keller's bottom corner.

The second half brought more Henry magic, as he weaved his way past three Spurs defenders only to watch as Dennis Bergkamp's shot was blocked.

But the overriding emotion for the home side was one of frustration, especially after Keane was twice denied in a matter of minutes by 39-year-old Seaman.

'ERADICATE DOUBTS'

In a ding-dong battle at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland recorded their first home league win over Liverpool since 1958.

McCann's delightful chip gave Howard Wilkinson's side a 36th-minute lead, which McCann would have doubled on the hour but for Chris Kirkland's penalty save after Jamie Carragher was harshly adjudged to have handled in the area.

Czech striker Baros eventually beat man-of-the-match Jurgen Macho, the Sunderland keeper, after 68 minutes.

But just five minutes after coming on as a substitute, Sunderland-born Proctor slid home the winner.

"That match should eradicate doubts about the players' character," Wilkinson told Sky Sports television. "We've been out of the bottom three before -- now we have to stay out by putting together a run."

Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier said: "We had enough chances to win it, but nothing is going our way. It is a bad period for us but we have to stay together."

Houllier left club captain Sami Hyypia out of the line-up and said: "Sami had complained of tiredness, and this was a good chance for a break."

In west London, Birmingham's Kirovski curled a shot past Fulham keeper Edwin van der Sar after good link-up play with Clinton Morrison on seven minutes.

Purse was dismissed for two bookable offences, but Fulham failed to take advantage.

Steve Bruce's side climb to 13th in the table, with Fulham on the slide in 14th.

Stephen Wood