London derby ended all square, virtually extinguishing Arsenalís fading
chances of a title win, while for Spurs the 3-3 draw saw them come back
from behind twice to gain a point in their chase for fourth place. The
mental strength of the Tottenham team, who were 0-1 and 1-3 behind, was
in stark contrast to that of the Woolwich Wanderers, who once more let a
lead slip through their fingers.
Redknapp choosing to put out a side with Peter Crouch and Roman
Pavlyuchenko up front, possibly to test the aerial ability of the
susceptible Gooners defence, it left a midfield four with van der Vaart
roaming on the right. That didnít help Spurs in the early stages of the
game, when they went one down and then 1-2 within 12 minutes. Some of
it was sloppy defending, some a lack of bite in midfield, but Arsenalís
passing and movement was opening Spurs up too easily.
Four minutes had gone when Fabregas slid a pass to the
left of centre through the Tottenham back four, as Dawson came out to
close him down. Walcott was on it like a flash and took the ball back
towards the middle of the D, before putting the ball low past Gomes as
he tried to come out to close him down.
An early goal was the last thing Tottenham needed
against them, but the response was almost immediate. A ball from Vedran
Corluka through to Rafael van der Vaart on the right side of the area,
16 yards out, saw him take one touch and then rifle a quickly taken low
shot past Szczesny in the Arsenal goal, with the Dutchmanís right foot
shot going in right by the post, leaving the net rippling in the seventh
minute. Rafaís celebration was probably more exuberant than that at the
Emirates, which earned him a yellow card, but this time, his finger to
the lips gesture to the Gooner fans saw him get away with it.
But once more the joy was short-lived, as Arsenal
passed their way up the field and when Nasri and Sagna exchanged passes,
the midfielder found himself in space 20 yards out and with Dawson
having to come out once again to shut him down, the shot went through
the Tottenham captain and left Gomes little chance as it went along the
ground and past his dive.
12 minutes gone and 1-2 behind.
Gareth Bale had been having trouble getting along the
left, as Arsenal double-teamed him. He was forced to turn back on a
number of occasions, but this did leave space for Assou-Ekotto, who had
an outstanding game, to knock the ball across. The aim was to find
Crouch on the far post matching up against Clichy, thus enabling him to
head back across goal for a team-mate to come in on, except, that rarely
happened. Crouch was playing his part, but Pav and VDV both missed
opportunities to latch onto his knock-downs.
Spurs had a couple of shouts for a penalty, but it was
hard to tell from where I was if they had any real substance. Bale had
already been clattered by the Arsenal keeper when jumping for a high
ball, when he was cleared out by Szczesny, as he raced into the box for
a 50-50 ball. The injury he picked up ended his game, as he limped
around for the remainder of the first half and then did not appear for
the second, when Lennon replaced him at the start of the second half.
There was perhaps a bigger shout when Modric went down under challenge
from Djourou, but Martin Atkinson, who had a poor night of non-decision
making, let play go on. Modric had previously been denied by the
visiting keeper when his low shot was beaten out at the near post.
But a slack piece of workfrom the Tottenham defence
allowed Arsenal to go 3-1 ahead, as from a throw-in, the ball found itís
way into the box and Gallas tried to chest the ball out with his chest
as he went to his knees at the near post and only succeeded in playing
the ball back to Walcott, who dinked a cross to the far post where the
waiting Robin van Persie headed at goal. Heurelho Gomes, produced a
fine save, clawing the ball out, as it almost looped over him. However,
the ball only fell for van Persie to fire into the roof of the net in
the 34th minute.
Five minutes before half-time, Spurs got a goal to
narrow the gap. A corner on the Tottenham left was partially cleared by
Fabregas and it dropped to Tom Huddlestone 20 yards out, just to right
of centre. Showing the excellent technique he has, Hud hit the ball
first time as it bounced on the half-volley with the ball travelling two
and a half feet off the floor and passing between VDVís legs leaving
Szczesny rooted as it ripped into the net. At 3-2, the gap was narrowed
and gave Spurs, attacking their favourite Paxton end in the second
While the introduction of Lennon, along with Kaboul
coming on for Corluka, did not seem to make much of an impact initially,
the balance of the game seemed to swing slowly in Tottenhamís favour.
Younes seemed to give us a bit more strength at right back, while
Lennonís pace was troubling the Arsenal left side. But it was Luka
Modric, who had been hassled off the ball to start off with, but took on
a more central role as the game progressed. With van der Vaart dropping
deep to pick up the ball and working hard to try and close people down,
Spurs got a bit of a foothold in midfield, where Arsenal had dominated
in the first half. Huddlestone started to have more influence, with
some good passing, whereas in the first half, several passes went
astray, much to the disgust of quite a few Spurs fans.
Where Song and Diaby had been covering a lot of ground
and were moving the ball on, they suddenly found themselves being turned
by Modric and van der Vaart as they cleverly used their bodies to sway
past them and held onto the ball well. Two savage fouls on Modric by
Song and Djourou brought bookings for the Arsenal men, adding to that
shown to Clichy in injury time in the first half for clattering Rafa.
It was clear that a bit of discipline was being lost in the Arsenal
side, as the pressure grew. It may be why Wenger brought on the
nuisance value of Wilshere for Diaby.
Spurs failed to produce too much in this spell and
were reliant on Gomes taking crosses into the box and the defence
stopping shots on goal, with Gallas reading the play well to make some
timely interceptions and Dawson making a good block to stop Nasriís
effort. Rafael took Modricís pass and hit a shot that looked as if it
was going in the top corner until Szczesny tipped it wide in the 54th
minute, but first Walcott fizzed a low ball across the face of goal with
Farbegas not having the legs to get onto the end of it and then van
Persie got away on then left and produced an awful chip to try and get
the ball over Gomes or it could have been an even worse cross for
But a couple of minutes later, Benoit Assou-Ekotto
played a beautiful pass inside Clichy for Lennon to race onto and as he
got the ball Szczensy came flying out and Aaron got a touch before being
absolutely clattered by the keeper in the box. Penalty to Spurs and no
doubt about it this time, although Atkinson seemed unable to bring
himself to book the Pole. As it turned out the punishment was even
harsher, as Rafael van der Vaart stepped up and confidently planted a
powerful spot-kick to Szczesnyís left, as the keeper dived the other
way. So, 3-3 with 20 minutes left and Arsenal had relinquished their
lead like they had done so many times before this season.
Tottenham were on a high now and when Kaboul was freed
down the right by VDVís back-heel a couple of minutes after the goal,
his low ball into the box was met perfectly by Luka Modric around the
penalty spot, but even though his low shot was perfectly struck,
Szczesny threw his body at it and the ball rebounded off him and away.
But within a minute, it was Gomes who was called upon to save, with
Fabregasí shot from the edge of the box coming through Dawson and the
keeper must have seen it late, but he got his hands down behind the ball
as it flew straight at him and at his feet. Two minutes later, Gomes
made an even better save, with Nasri setting up Fabregas to his a
full-blooded drive that looked to be heading inside Gomesí post until he
stretched to his fullest extent to get his fingers to the ball and
divert it wide.
Harry brought on Sandro for Pav to try and stem the
tide, but Spurs then got a second wind and when Assou-Ekotto slung a
cross over from the left onto Crouchís head, the England striker brought
a tip over from the goalie although the ball looked as if it would only
have hit the bar. Bendtner and Arshavin came on for Walcott and Nasri,
but neither had an effect on the play in the remaining 10 minutes.
And towards the end, it looked as if Spurs were the
most likely to win it as Arsenalís first half efforts caught up with
them and they lost their possession game. With six minutes left, Sandro
took the ball into the left side of the box, shifted the ball onto his
right foot and struck a low drive at Szczesnyís near post, but was
unlucky to see the keeper sitting on the ball in a most unusual way of
stopping a shot.
Wilshere almost played in van Persie, but he was
stretching to reach a high volley and only succeeded in hitting the ball
sideways, but it did fall for Fabregas eventually, although his shot was
blocked by Dawson. The Arsenal captain did have one last shot in injury
time, but it went a few feet wide of Gomesí right hand post and the
whistle went on a well-earned point for Tottenham and two lost for
With Harry shrugging off the limp lettuce handshake
proffered by Wenger, the Tottenham players too the cheers of their fans,
while the Arsenal players trooped over to their ever familiar emptied
out section of the stadium to take the less than enthusiastic plaudits
for their less than convincing overall performance.
With six games left, Spurs perhaps a little more to
play for than Arsenal, which might help the Gooners, if we get anything
at Stamford Bridge in ten days time. If we do, it will conversely
help us even more !!