Football: McCann puts lid on it

Sunderland 2 Butler 28 McCann 82 Leicester City 0 Half-time: 1- 0 Attendance: 30,105
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IT WAS perhaps inevitable that the defining moment of a match notable chiefly for errors and ill-temper should have been composed of a combination of the two.

The Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips had been making no more impression against Leicester's solid back three than his England team-mates had against Poland in midweek but his pace and determination finally provoked Gerry Taggart into two clumsy tackles in the space of five minutes. The defender was dismissed and with him went Leicester's hopes of pulling back the goal by which they had been adrift since the 28th minute.

Despite the pace and skill of the Sunderland winger Nicky Summerbee and the patient prompting of Leicester's Neil Lennon, chances were so scarce in this scrappy match that, as long as the numbers remained even, a set- piece was the most likely source of a break in the deadlock, and so it proved. Tim Flowers was forced to scramble a sloppy backpass away for a corner, and Sunderland's def-ender Paul Butler loped forward to meet Gavin McCann's kick with a powerful header from the angle of the six-yard box.

"We decided to put Phillips and his pace on Taggart in the second half and it paid off," said the Sunderland manager, Peter Reid. Indeed, Phillips could hardly have been less anonymous than he had seemed in the first half, and when Niall Quinn gave him his first opportunity 10 minutes into the second period he could only pull his shot across the face of goal.

But Taggart's dismissal left Leicester with no alternative but to throw men forward, leaving large holes at the back, a situation which Phillips and McCann combined to exploit eight minutes from time, the midfielder guiding the ball neatly past the exposed Flowers. It could have been worse for Leicester but for a couple of fine point-blank saves by Flowers from Phillips.

"We had plenty of possession but we could not make it count in the first half, and the sending off of Taggart was the turning point," the Leicester manager, Martin O'Neill, said.

Leicester's best chance fell to Lennon, but Thomas Sorensen made an excellent stop. Both sides were forced to clear off their goal-lines in the dying minutes, Chris Makin from Andy Impey and Frank Sinclair from Sunderland's substitute Daniele Dichio, but in the end Sunderland comfortably retained their unbeaten record and climbed to eighth place in the Premiership.