Arsenal return to top of the table

LONDON, England — Robin van Persie fired two superb goals to send Arsenal back to the top of the English Premier League with a 3-2 victory at home to 10-man Sunderland on Sunday.

The Dutch forward, who scored Arsenal’s winner against Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League in midweek, struck the opening goal with a cracking free-kick that went in off the underside of the crossbar in the seventh minute.

And when Philippe Senderos stabbed the ball home in the 14th minute following a mis-kick by the recalled Abou Diaby as the visitors failed to clear a corner, it looked like the London side were set to romp to victory.

But Roy Keane’s visitors fought back bravely and were level just after half-time.

After a let-off when Diaby’s 20th-minute effort was ruled out when Mathieu Flamini was adjudged offside, Ross Wallace reduced the deficit from the edge of the penalty area after keeper Manuel Almunia did well to block an angled shot by Kenwyne Jones.

Craig Gordon denied Van Persie before the break and Senderos headed wide from close range from the resulting corner before Jones levelled in the 48th minute.

The striker scored his second goal for Sunderland following his transfer from Southampton in August, climbing above Gael Clichy to send downward header past Almunia following Liam Miller’s deep cross.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger responded by bringing on young forward Theo Walcott for Diaby, and soon after Kolo Toure cracked a 30-yard screamer which hit the inside of Gordon’s right-hand post.

And Van Persie made the breakthrough in the 80th minute, brilliantly controlling a pass from Walcott to score after the sub did well to turn and set up the chance.

Sunderland then had defender Paul McShane sent off for an ugly tackle on Alexander Hleb in the 90th minute before Walcott hit the post in injury-time.

It was unbeaten Arsenal’s 10th successive victory in all competitions this season, and put Wenger’s team two points clear of second-placed Manchester United having played one less match.

Defending champions United beat Wigan 4-0 on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Fernando Torres’ injury-time equalizer salvaged a fortunate 2-2 draw for Liverpool to prevent Tottenham recording a win which would have lifted the pressure on manager Martin Jol.

The visitors fought for everything only to have their hearts broken two minutes into injury-time when Torres rose to head home the leveller.

Andriy Voronin opened the scoring for the home side after goalkeeper Paul Robinson could only half-stop Steven Gerrard’s free-kick.

Tottenham equalized after 44 minutes when Dimitar Berbatov nodded on Robinson’s long clearance, and captain Robbie Keane got in between Steve Finnan and Sami Hyypia to flick a shot past the advancing Pepe Reina.

Two minutes into the second half Keane struck again. Robinson’s free-kick for a foul by Torres soared down the field to be headed on by Berbatov, and this time Keane got to the glanced pass to lift the ball over Reina into the roof of the net.

The visitors seemed set to hold on for victory, but Torres finally found some space in the box when he rose to head home Finnan’s cross to give Liverpool a fortunate point.

Chelsea’s revivial continued with a 1-0 victory at Bolton. A cool finish from Salomon Kalou in the 41st minute — the Blues’ first league goal in 460 minutes — was enough to give manager Avram Grant his first league victory since taking charge.

Manchester City maintained their superb early season form, and made it five home wins from five, with a 3-1 victory against Middlesbrough — Brazilian Elano netting twice for City — while Michael Owen made a rapid return from a hernia operation to find the net in Newcastle’s 3-2 win over Everton.

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