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Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011

Striker carries Arsenal to win


LONDON — Robin van Persie fired Arsenal into the top half of the Premier League table with a classy double in a 2-1 victory over Sunderland while Newcastle denied Tottenham a fifth straight win with a late equalizer in a 2-2 draw on Sunday.

Van Persie again showed his importance to Arsenal by opening the scoring after just 29 seconds at the Emirates and then curling home a free kick seven minutes from time, sandwiching Sebastian Larsson's sublime equalizer for Sunderland in the 31st.

"Robin van Persie is a special player," said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, whose team climbed five places to 10th with its third straight home win. "He's blessed at the moment — he's shown what a great player he is when he can be consistently playing."

Shola Amoebi was fourth-place Newcastle's savior, coming off the bench to drill in a low shot in the 86th minute and maintain his team's unbeaten record after eight games.

Newcastle needed to rally twice at St. James' Park, with Amoebi canceling out Jermain Defoe's goal in the 68th after Demba Ba leveled in the 48th following Rafael van der Vaart's opener from the penalty spot before the break.

"There's determination and a winning mentality in the squad and today that showed," Newcastle defender Steven Taylor said.

In the day's other match, Chris Brunt and Peter Odemwingie scored for West Bromwich Albion in a 2-0 victory over struggling Wolverhampton Wanderers, which has now lost five matches in a row to slip to fifth from bottom.

Having lost playmakers Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in the offseason, Arsenal is increasingly turning to Van Persie for inspiration this season and the Netherlands striker delivered against Sunderland to take his tally in the league to five goals.

Van Persie's first goal, which came when he ran onto Gervinho's through ball and fired a low shot into the corner, was the quickest in the Premier League in nearly four years.

Sunderland recovered from its slow start and Larsson equalized when he winger whipped home a free kick into the top corner from 25 yards (meters).

Van Persie matched that effort with seven minutes remaining, breathing new life into Arsenal's campaign after a number of damaging early results, including an 8-2 hammering at Manchester United.

"We have answered a few critics but not enough and there is a lot more for us to show," Wenger said.

Arsenal is still 12 points behind league leader Manchester City, which beat Aston Villa 4-1 on Saturday, and 10 behind second-place United, held 1-1 by Liverpool on the same day.

Newcastle is the season's surprise package and it checked Tottenham's momentum to remain one of only three teams — along with the two Manchester clubs — yet to be defeated.

"When you're 2-1 up in the 80-whatever minute, you're looking for the three points, that's for sure," Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said. "This is always a tough place to come and they're unbeaten this year so they're a tough side, but we were in a position to finish them off."

Like north London rival Arsenal, Tottenham is also returning to form after a poor start to the season and went ahead Van der Vaart slotted away his penalty after Emmanuel Adebayor was tripped by Taylor.

Ba equalized from close range for his fifth goal of the season but Defoe regained the lead for the visitors by spinning his marker to lash a low shot into the corner from just outside the box, five minutes after coming on as a substitute.

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