SUNDERLAND striker Darren Bent is plotting the downfall of more of the Barclays Premier League big guns after having his own say in the title race once again.
Three weeks after his last-minute penalty condemned Manchester City to defeat on Wearside, the England international struck five minutes into injury-time to deny 10-man Arsenal victory at the Stadium of Light.
Bent’s fifth goal of the season and the draw it secured were just reward for another spirited performance from the Black Cats, although the degree of difficulty is set to increase even further over the next few weeks.
After Tuesday night’s Carling Cup clash with West Ham, the Black Cats head for Liverpool – where they have a dreadful record – and then entertain Manchester United knowing they will need every ounce of the resolve they showed on Saturday if they are to emerge with a similar or better result.
However, while Bent and his team-mates will take nothing for granted, they will approach two of their more testing fixtures in confident mood.
Bent said: “We have got Liverpool and Manchester United coming up, so I don’t really want to say too much.
“But we always seem to raise our game for these big boys and always put on a performance, and we have to do that in every game now.
“Against Manchester City a couple of weeks back we put everything into it and once again late on we got the result and managed to get all three points, and on Saturday, we picked up a point.
“But we have got some hard games coming up and every point counts.”
The scoreline barely began to tell the story of a game which put managers Steve Bruce and Arsene Wenger through the full range of emotions.
The Sunderland boss had his head in his hands with 13 minutes gone when Anton Ferdinand’s attempted clearance cannoned back off the closing Cesc Fabregas and looped over keeper Simon Mignolet and into the net.
The Spaniard soon departed with a hamstring injury, and although the home side responded gamely, there was little sign of the drama which was to follow.
Alex Song’s 55th-minute dismissal for a second bookable offence gave the Black Cats fresh impetus, but Arsenal retained possession for fun to keep them at bay.
They should have wrapped up the win with 16 minutes remaining when, after Samir Nasri had been tripped by Ahmed Elmohamady inside the box, referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot.
However, substitute Tomas Rosicky blasted the penalty high over the bar, and Sunderland made the most of their escape.
The clock had ticked into the fifth-minute of injury-time when Gael Clichy’s attempted clearance deep inside his own penalty area fell to Bent, and he gleefully slammed home his fifth goal of the season.
Wenger, who had sarcastically patted fourth official Martin Atkinson on the back following Song’s premature departure, vented his frustration at him again at the final whistle, appearing to push the official, and his reaction could yet have repercussions.
However, Bent was convinced a point was no more than his side deserved.
He said: “When you are a top, top player like Cesc is and playing for these top teams, you seem to get all the luck in the world, and you can’t get much luckier than their goal.
“But then they missed the penalty, which turned the game and in the last few minutes, I managed to get a chance and stick it away.
“We definitely deserved it because we didn’t sit back like a lot of teams do against the big boys. We went and had a go and we got our rewards in the end.”
Wenger admitted his side had contributed to their own downfall.
He said: “We had chances to kill the game, but we didn’t do it. I believe the back four did well, but we made a mistake on the goal.”
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