Shola Ameobi denied Sunderland a first league double over Newcastle for 42 years after being given no choice but to play by manager Joe Kinnear despite only just returning to fitness after injury.

Kinnear revealed after seeing the 27-year-old smash home a 68th-minute equaliser from the penalty spot that he had felt his injured ankle during a fitness test before the game.

However, with Michael Owen, Mark Viduka and Obafemi Martins all still on the sidelines, Ameobi was pressed into service and was eventually rewarded for his efforts. Kinnear said: "I gave him a fitness test in the morning. He said he was feeling it [his injury], but I said, 'You still have to play'."

Ameobi, who scored in the reverse fixture at the Stadium of Light in October, finally came to Newcastle's rescue as his side launched a second-half fightback.

Sunderland were horrified to see referee Howard Webb pointing to the spot after Steven Taylor went down under Steed Malbranque's challenge, but Ameobi did not bat an eyelid as he smashed the spot-kick into the roof of the net to claim a point.

Black Cats boss Ricky Sbragia described the penalty as "soft" with some justification, but Kinnear applauded the decision after seeing Damien Duff rightly pick up a booking for an earlier dive in the box.

He said: "If you are tackled from behind, it is obviously a penalty.

"I don't think Damien's was a penalty - I didn't see the lad make any contact with that challenge."

Sbragia, who later on Sunday sealed a loan deal for Manchester City defender Tal Ben Haim, said: "Credit to Newcastle, they put us under severe pressure in the second half and maybe we were lucky to come away with a draw.

"They had many chances as well. Earlier in the season, we might have folded with the pressure we were under."

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Topics:
Sunderland
Football
Steven Taylor
Manchester City
Michael Owen
Premier League
Obafemi Martins
Damien Duff
Steed Malbranque
Mark Viduka
Shola Ameobi
Tal Ben Haim