Robbie Keane twice spurned opportunities to give Tottenham a chance to
level things and then to establish a 2-1 lead at the Arrogants Stadium,
but Arsenal still lived up to their "lucky" epithet, as they escaped on
another occasion when referee Styles over-looked another stonewall
penalty, allowing them to go on to a 2-1 victory.
Coming into the game, Spurs were missing
Jermaine Jenas, Darren Bent and Michael Dawson, on top of al the other
injuries, so it meant a first start for Jamie O'Hara in midfield.
With the lack of options, it looked as though it would be a backs to the
wall affair, but in the end, it didn't turn out like that and although
the first half was poor, the second was very lively.
The first five minutes saw Arsenal carve
out two half chances as they played the passes around in front of the
Spurs penalty area, but neither were hit with great power. Firstly
Flamini got on the end of a through pass, just wrapping his foot around
the frame of Kaboul to guide the ball at goal, but it hit the side
netting. That made a section of the Arse fans all excited, but it
was wide and lucky it was, as Robinson wouldn't have been able to do
much about it if it had been on target. When Fabregas' free-kick
fell nicely for Toure, he could thankfully only get a half-hearted
shot at Robinson.
Spurs were not rattle by the home side's
start and worked a move on the right to free Lennon, who sent in a cross
that was a little too high for Berba, but Sagna got a touch on it to
take it away from Keane as he came in at the far post.
As both sides looked to play longer
passes into their forwards, the defenders were winning the ball or
closing down the men on the ball quickly. When Arsenal did get
Eboue through on the right hand side of the area, his shot was well
pushed aside by Robbo for a corner in the 34th minute. Five
minutes later, Tottenham had their first effort on target, as Berbatov
hit a free-kick from 30 yards out, but with little power to trouble
Almunia, who gathered the ball comfortably. In the next attack, we
came a bit closer, as Lennon pulled the ball back to the right hand
corner of the penalty area to Kevin-Prince Boateng and he curled a shot
over the Arsenal keeper and it went about two feet over the far angle of
the bar and post.
ENO showed his England class once more,
just three minutes before the break. Fabregas played a pacy corner
into the area, where Toure met it with his head and from close range,
Robinson dived quickly to his left to push the ball wide to keep the
scoreboard redundant when the half-time whistle arrived.
With both sides passing less than
accurately and lacking a potent threat on goal, you felt the second
period would be more action-packed. And so it proved, from almost
the first minute of the half.
Tottenham allowed Arsenal to do what has
been our undoing before and as Fabregas ran at goal, he was not closed
down and he back-heeled the ball into the path of Adebayour, coming in
from the left flank and he guided his side-foot shot under Robinson to
open the scoring. It was a good move by the opposition, but one
the team should have been briefed on before the match, as the Spaniard's
breaks forward often are the pre-cursor to goals.
The score rattled Spurs for a while and
Fabregas had a long range shot without any defender approaching him, but
luckily, it flew wide. Boateng made way for Tom Huddlestone, just
after the German had just picked up a yellow card and the big ex-Derby
young man looked to pass the ball through the Arsenal defence.
On 65 minutes, Robbie Keane had his first
chance to level things up and when he got on the end of Lennon's cross
that eluded Sagna, his far post volley rattled the crossbar and the ball
bounced a long way out. The woodwork only delayed the equaliser a
minute, as Keane chased down a ball forward from Chimbonda, turned his
man close to the dead ball line and played it into Dimitar Berbatov's
path. Although he was less than a yard in from the line and had
two players around him, he drilled his shot at goal and it beat Almunia
at his near post to make it 1-1. While not of the same difficulty
or as far out, it was similar to Marco van Basten's strike in the
European Championship final of 1988 against Russia.
It was a bit odd that Berbatov received a
yellow card for tugging a shirt, while Flamini perpetrated two bad
tackles and Gallas and Rosicky were guilty of shirt-pulling too.
Homer ??? You decide. Tainio's booking for a foul on Adebayour was
nothing more than a foul, but Styles doesn't seem to be able to
differentiate between what constitutes a caution and what doesn't.
With 70 minutes on the clock, a ball into
the Arsenal area bounced around and fell to Berba, who shuffled his feet
and went past one defender before Toure went over the ball and fouled
the Bulgarian halfway up his shin. Styles could do little else
than point to the spot and Robbie Keane's usual reliability from the
spot was hoped for as he stepped up to the mark. He did his
trademark shimmy in his run-up, but Almunia stood still instead of
showing the Irishman which way he was going and when Keane struck the
ball to the keeper's right, he got down to it and palmed it aside.
It was a golden chance to put the game in Tottenham's favour and it was
With Defoe coming on for Keane and
Bendtner replacing Eboue, these changes swung the match. The
Arsenal sub's first touch was to head the ball unchallenged from
Fabregas' corner. It was a goal that we have let in all too often
this season and with a quarter of an hour left, it was a match still to
Ramos decided to risk all and put Taarabt
on for Lee, with the impressive O'Hara going into the left back slot
after doing very well on his debut. Adel gave us what we expected
from him. One double step over and two nutmegs announced his
arrival and the second incident of slipping the ball through Sagna's
legs took him into the penalty area, where the French defender missed
the ball and took his legs from behind, with Styles well placed for a
view of the challenge.
Having given one, Styles was not going to
award another penalty to Spurs, but it should have been a spot-kick and
Tottenham's last chance to get back into the match. Hud had a shot
late on, but pulled it wide off Defoe, who rarely had a chance himself.
Unfortunately, having played very well up until the last ten minutes,
Berbatov showed why his body language tells us he wants away. His
efforts were shocking in those final stages of the game, as he lost
possession without too much concern, failed to tackle back and generally
shrugged his shoulders at other team-mates as the game slipped away from
It was a disappointing end to a game that
Arsenal did not play well in, but one in which we could have got more
than the 1-2 defeat we ended up with. Without a recognised back
four and missing Zokora and others, it perhaps indicates that the
ability is there. What we need now is the concentration and the
taking of chances to make sure we have a base to build on.
Ramos has worked wonders in a short time
and given longer, with a stronger squad, I am sure he will make a
difference at the club. Arsenal have had the upper hand for a
number of years now, but for how much longer ?