With a strange line-up and a FA Cup semi-final defeat in extra time
behind them, the Spurs eleven took the match to their more favoured
rivals and took the three points with a dynamic performance that shook
the Gooners and transformed them into Gonners, as Danny Rose and Gareth
Bale struck to hand Spurs a 2-1 win.
The team performed in a manner that brought
them a well deserved victory against an Arsenal side who dominated
possession, but failed to make a lot of it, with a lack of conviction
when it came to the final third. Their play up to the edge of the
Tottenham penalty area was good and adventurous, but when it came to the
crunch with a damaging final ball or effort on goal, the visitors failed
to capitalise on the situations they created, by passing responsibility
and the ball to someone else.
An early chance came when a corner hit
Sol Campbell's not insubstantial frame and bounced goalwards, but Benoit
Assou-Ekotto was in the right place to chest the ball down for Heurelho
Gomes to grab the ball in front of the line. That was after just
ninety seconds and it looked as though it might be a long night for
Spurs fans. But despite Denilson hitting Spurs players with late
tackles (and Clattenburg doing nothing to reprimand him), the game was
moving in the opposite direction and when Rose and Kaboul linked on the
right, the defender crossed low for Pavlyuchenko at the near post to
shoot, but it flicked off Vermaelen and went over the top. From
the corner, it was one of those slow-motion moments that you will
probably remember for years to come. Modric's corner was too near
Almunia and the keeper punched the ball out to a good distance from
goal, but it went straight to Premier League debutant Danny Rose, who
returned the ball with interest. Rose had moved to left side of
the box to counter any breakaway by Clichy, but unexpectedly ended up in
the right place to meet the ball with his favoured left foot and time it
so sweetly that he didn't even kick right through the ball. It was
enough to see the ball fly back past Almunia at head height, but as he
had flopped to the floor after the punch to make it look good, he was
not up quick enough to stop the volley and it rippled the net behind him
to cue rapturous celebration from 80% of the crowd.
Rose had started to counter the pace in
the Arsenal side, but his 10th minute volley saw him using his speed to
race to the other end of the ground with his team-mates in his wake.
The early goal gave Spurs something to
With Ledley King back in the line-up, he
showed pace of old when he raced back to make one interception and he
and Dawson were blocking very well. Rosicky did manage to get
between Assou-Ekotto and Bale, but his shot skewed off his foot and went
very wide indeed. Defensively, things got worse for Arsenal when
Vermaelen kicked the ball out before falling to the floor. He
limped off to be replaced by Mikeal Silvestre, making the central
defensive pairing carry a combined age of 118.
The play was slower when Arsenal were in
possession, except when they broke out from Tottenham corners, while
Tottenham were trying to make headway at breakneck speed.
Free-kicks were being conceded around the edge of the box and Modric was
booked when Sagna went over his leg and then Kaboul got a yellow after
bringing down Rosicky as he ran through towards goal. Nasri took
the resulting free kick from the corner of the box and missed by a yard
In the last five minutes of the half,
Tottenham worked the ball through the middle with some Arsenal like
short passing and a return pass from Pavlyuchenko set Modric through to
the edge of the area and as he got into the box, Almunia was out quickly
to him and the Croatian's shot went up in the air to be headed out for a
corner by the covering Campbell. Nothing came of the corner, but
Clichy got away at the other end on the Arsenal left, but, in a good
position, he chose to hit a shot at goal rather than crossing and he
could not beat Gomes at his near post and hit the side-netting.
Just before the half-time whistle, Defoe did well to show strength
enough to hold off the bulky Campbell and hit a shot that was straight
at and straight-forward for Almunia to stop.
The half-time interval was brightened up
by the repetitive re-runs of Rose's goal and the appearance of David
Ginola, who showed a politician's ability to not answer the questions
that Paul Coit asked him. In the background, David Bentley was
being taken to the dressing room to prepare to come on for Danny Rose,
who had tweaked his knee.
Spurs kicked off the second half kicking
towards their favoured Paxton Road end and you could see why after just
100 seconds of the new half. Hud lifted a ball to Defoe who was up
front on his own. He brought the ball down with the outside of his
boot up around his hip and then held Campbell off until he shook off the
lumbering defender and played a diagonal ball through the middle of the
Arsenal defence to the edge of the area. Silvestre stood and
looked while Sagna did his best Tony Adams impersonation appealing for
offside, but Bale had timed a great run from the right side of the box
and waited until Almunia had committed himself before passing the ball
left-footed past the keeper and into the net from five yards out.
Again, the Spurs crowd, who were very vocal all night, went into frenzy.
2-0 up can be a dangerous lead for many
teams and even more so for Spurs (although 3-0 is worse). Arsenal
were obviously going to get back into the game, but they looked
shell-shocked and Tottenham pressed forward relentlessly. In one
move Pav, JD and Bale all had shots that were blocked or in Bale's case
went over the top. Wenger made a change that brought the wonder
boy of English football (apparently) - Theo Walcott on in place of Sagna.
Eboue dropped back to right back and with Bale and Assou-Ekotto on that
flank, it was a move intended both to push them back and to get Arsenal
going forward. It failed to work too often, as they still looked
for a pass rather than a shot and Walcott's passes were rarely finding
25 minutes from time, Walcott did put
Bendtner away through the right hand channel, but his shot went across
Gomes and wide, even wider than the trickling effort he screwed wide in
the first half. Defoe was taken off and Gudjohnsen replaced him,
while Arsenal threw Robin van Persie into the fray in place of the
inconsequential Denilson. Spurs almost went further ahead, as BAE
took the ball down the left and pulled a low ball back for Gudjohnsen,
who failed to get a good contact and the shot went wide. Not quite
as wide as Rosicky's effort when he cut in from the left and fired a
drive at goal ... which hit the corner flag !!
With ten minutes to go, van Persie
started to get involved. Diaby's ball onto the Dutchman's chest
brought a waist high volley that was heading for the top of the net,
until Gomes produced a fine save by getting a strong palm to the ball
and pushing it over. From the corner, Rosicky had a shot that came
off Dawson's leg and went just wide. In the next minute, Dawson
was booked for a foul on Diaby and with the ball just five yards outside
the box, van Persie hit a fierce shot that was flying towards the top
right corner of Gomes' goal, but the Brazilian threw out a long arm at
full stretch to tip the ball wide and made a memorable save.
But Heurelho was not done yet, as form
the corner, Campbell headed goalwards and the keeper reacted excellently
to push the ball up and onto the bar and away to keep the opposition
However, Gomes was finally beaten a
minute later, when van Persie played in Walcott on the right and his low
ball across the six yard box cut out Gomes and left Bendtner the easy
chance to knock the ball home from a yard out. Even the Dane
couldn't miss that one. So, 84 minutes gone and six minutes left
and plus four minutes to be added on. Would Spurs be able to hold
onto their lead ?
As Arsenal pushed forward, it did allow
Spurs to hit on the break, even with their tired legs. Gudjohnsen
put Modric through the middle, but the midfielder took a heavy touch and
the ball ran through to Almunia. As the ball was coming back too
often when Spurs cleared it, Harry took Pavlyuchenko off, replacing the
Russian with Crouch, who did well in his short time on the pitch.
It was Spurs, who looked the more likely to score, with Bale breaking
away, still full of running in injury time, but he could not keep the
ball in and then a break saw Bentley get the ball on the edge of the box
and strike a shot that deflected off Silvestre and took the sting out of
the effort. As a corner was taken short, with Spurs trying to keep
the ball there, the final whistle went to the massive cheers of the
Spurs fans and silence from what had been a subdued away section and was
now already the half empty away section.
The team put in a heroic effort coming so
soon after the Wembley semi-final, but it was what the team needed and
will need to reproduce again on Saturday and the Saturday after.
It might have damaged Arsenal's chances
of winning the title, but what will it do to our chances of finishing