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Keano secures deserved draw

A late goal from Robbie Keane secured a deserved point up at Sunderland after the home side found the net in the first few minutes.

A late goal from Robbie Keane secured a deserved point up at Sunderland after the home side found the net in the first few minutes.

It appeared that it was going to be one of those frustrating and fruitless away days, where just desserts are off the menu, but Keane saw to it that there was some return from this particular trip with his crisp late finish in the 89th minute.

Harry Redknapp made four changes to the side that beat Middlesbrough in midweek with Darren Bent partnering Keane up front, Pascal Chimbonda facing his former club and Vedran Corluka and Ledley King back on defensive duty.

Sunderland were certainly the quicker out of the blocks and just over three minutes were showing on the clock when Kieran Richardson seized on some defensive hesitation and stole in behind before slipping the ball beyond Heurelho Gomes.

There were suggestions that the speed of Darren Bent and Aaron Lennon could make a telling contribution before the 10-minute mark had passed. Bent's chasing of an over-hit pass down the right flank resulted in Lennon being presented with a crossing opportunity which Bent himself did his utmost to get on the end of. Another Lennon sortie led to a Keane header being comfortably fielded by former Spur Marton Fulop.

On the subject of former Spurs, there was also Steed Malbranque and Andy Reid in the Sunderland starting line-up, while Calum Davenport was on the bench - the injured Teemu Tainio was in the tunnel greeting his old team on their arrival.

The gusting wind was making fluent football a problematic exercise, the ball hanging in the air from clearances and the stringing together of lengthy passages of possession was at a premium.

Pascal Chimbonda, operating at left back, was getting the bird from his former public of six months or so, while in front of him Luka Modric slowly became more influential as the first half wore on. On the other side Lennon was having to cope with being double-marked every time he received the ball.

From a Jermaine Jenas free-kick, Ledley King had a clear sight of goal on 34 minutes, the ball falling loose after striking a home defender and the central defender looked set to score before Fulop advanced and smothered his intentions.

Djibril Cisse got the run on King in the opening moments of the second half, the former Liverpool man thankfully steering his drive into the side netting.

Modric was clearly instructed to become a more active presence during the interval and he was quickly coming inside and increasing his involvement, whereas he remained stationed on the left during the first 45 minutes.

Control was almost complete in the first 10 minutes after the break, but still we were a goal in arrears as the final ball was lacking and so was a finish in the case of Bent on 58 minutes when Dean Whitehead spun a clearance back in the direction of his own goal and the leading scorer was through, only to blast over the bar. He later shot wide from a more difficult position on the right side of the penalty area.

Tom Huddlestone was introduced just after the hour mark in place of the hard-working Jenas, but the next significant chance came when Cisse was presented with a free header from a Reid cross which zipped just wide via the knee of King.

David Bentley was next on in place of Jenas, with Lennon switching to the left and Modric to the middle. Chimbonda and Vedran Corluka also swapped flanks.

There was a big handball shout against Phil Bardsley from a Lennon cross but pleas were ignored by referee Mr Dowd. Huddlestone then had a header fielded by Fulop following a precise cross from Chimbonda.

Roman Pavlyuchenko was our final throw of the dice and a defender - Corluka - was sacrificed in a bold attacking move for the final eight minutes or so.

It worked when Bentley picked out the run of Bent down the right, who crossed low for Keane to save the day.