It was a case of the late, late show in both of the Sunday games in the Premier League, as Sunderland edged the latest Tyne-Wear derby and Liverpool snatched a dramatic draw against Champions League place chasing Arsenal deep into injury time.

Newcastle United 0 Sunderland 1

Gus Poyet came perilously close to substituting his eventual match winner, Adam Johnson, minutes before his vital goal. He was thankful for a change of mind as the tricky winger sent the away fans into rapture to seal a 1-0 victory for Sunderland at St James’ Park, in a predictably entertaining match between the near neighbours. Alan Pardew’s men were hoping to reverse a recent trend in favour of the Black Cats in the fixture, but once again left disappointed as Newcastle lost the derby for the fourth straight time with the winner arriving in the 90th minute.

As befits such a keenly contested derby, no quarter was given nor asked for as the challenges flew in early on, but the game turned into very watchable fayre, with both teams having a number of chances to take all three points and bragging rights for the upcoming weeks.

Sunderland hit the bar from a Steven Fletcher volley and Connor Wickham saw his skimming shot turned on to the post by Jak Alnwick in the Newcastle goal in the first-half, as the game settled down. As the game ebbed and flowed, the home side saw chances of their own squandered with Sammy Ameobi’s smart footwork ending with a tame shot straight at the keeper and Ayoze Perez’s curling shot just going wide of the post.

Newcastle seemed to be creating the better of the second-half chances as Costel Pantilimon in the Black Cats’ goal defied them with a string of fine saves from Perez, Adam Armstrong and Moussa Sissoko, but were stretched at the back on several occasions as they pushed on for the winner.

Johnson’s match-defining goal followed a spell of Newcastle pressure, with the ball being cleared and Sunderland swiftly switching play to the other end, sensing that Pardew’s players may have overcommitted themselves. As the away side cleverly switched their probing from one side to the other and stretched the defence to its limits, Johnson found space in the area to smash his shot into the net.

Seb Larsson almost made it two deep into injury time for Sunderland as he rounded the keeper but his shot found the side netting. It mattered not as Sunderland held on.

Liverpool 2 Arsenal 2

For Liverpool it was a bittersweet and hard-earned point against Arsenal at Anfield in the end. After dominating possession in the first-half and going in front through Philippe Coutinho’s neat footwork on the edge of the Arsenal box and precise right foot finish off the inside of the post, they found themselves behind entering the nine minutes of added on time at the end of the match. It had taken Arsene Wenger’s mercurial side just two minutes to regain parity after the Reds took the lead, as a period of head tennis inside the box ended with Mathieu Debuchy outjumping Martin Skrtel to head in and take the sides slightly surprisingly into the break all-square.

Arsene Wenger’s men then played mainly on the break and thought that a slick move involving Santi Cazorla that led to Olivier Giroud’s sweeping the ball through Brad Jones’ legs had clinched it for them, especially when substitute Fabio Borini was sent off for two yellow cards to reduce the home side to ten men. His first booking was particularly idiotic as he threw the ball away in dispute over a decision, but the second was not in dispute as his high studs visibly left Cazorla’s shirt torn.

Liverpool were thankful for the nine minutes of injury time indicated by the fourth official and against the odds forced a number of corners, one of which led to the head-bandaged Skrtel (after an earlier collision with Giroud) rescuing a point at the death as he convincingly headed in to the net.

As the injury time ran out, there was still time for Cazorla's driven shot to require a smart save from Jones to maintain parity.

Brendan Rodgers believes his side are getting back to something like their form of last season and can still grab a top four place in the league this time around, but they may have left it a bit too late for that unless their results dramatically improve in the New Year and other teams above them falter. More likely is a top six place, so he will be keen to progress in the Europa League where a Champions League place is to be awarded to the winning team.

Arsene Wenger’s men maintain their hopes of a top four finish and would have been the happier (in hindsight) with the draw one feels, but can not afford to let too many wins slip from their grasp as this one did.

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