Tottenham 2 (Kane 56, 86) – Arsenal 1 (Ozil 11)
Man of the Match – Harry Kane (Tottenham)
North London derbies are always special occasions to look forward to and cherish. Only if you are on the side that wins, of course. Arsenal arrived at White Hart Lane in buoyant mood, having won 5 games on the bounce since getting beaten 2-0 at St. Mary’s by a resurgent Southampton. The 5 wins included knocking Hull and Brighton out of the FA Cup, a 3-0 win over Stoke at home, a fantastic 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium against defending champions Manchester City and a 5-0 drubbing of Aston Villa at home.
Tottenham, on the other hand are going through a mixed phase, having been knocked out of the FA Cup 2-1 by Leicester City at home, scraping past Sheffield United 3-2 on aggregate into the League Cup final against Chelsea and a 3-0 win at the Hawthorns. Young England striker Harry Kane, has been the brightest spark for Sp*rs this season, already banging in 20 goals in all competitions.
Arsene Wenger decided to replace the rusty Theo Walcott with Danny Welbeck, on the right wing. This was the former Manchester United striker’s first start since his thigh problem on 28th December. Sp*rs had much of the ball in the opening minutes, and like last season, seemed to be taking full advantage of home conditions, like they have in the past 3 seasons. Sp*rs won 2-1 in 2011 and 2013, while a Tomas Rosicky screamer last year bought home the points for Arsenal. Harry Kane forced David Ospina into a save in the 5th minute.
In the 11th minute, Danny Welbeck foxed Sp*rs left-back Danny Rose and raced down the right wing and crossed in for Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman’s wayward effort fell perfectly for Mesut Ozil, who volleyed the ball past Hugo Lloris. While it looked like it may have been offside, replays confirmed that Sp*rs defender Eric Dier playing the German international onside.
Sp*rs looked to respond and quickly set into action, targeting the vulnerability of young right-back Hector Bellerin. A shot from Danny Rose forced a save from Ospina, who had to push the ball away, before Nabil Bentaleb’s effort just whispered past the post on 20 minutes. Sp*rs were increasingly creating chances and harrying Arsenal’s midfielders who just couldn’t keep the ball for elongated periods. A Danny Rose shot flashed past the post and then Ryan Mason forced Ospina into a diving save. Cristian Eriksen, the in-form man for Sp*rs and Erik Lamela, the rejuvenated Argentine both shot over the bar, as Sp*rs enjoyed a period of domination.
Arsenal looked to employ the same tactics that won them the game at the Etihad, but seemed to be living more dangerously. This caused Sp*rs to enjoy massive amounts of possession, but Arsenal’s tight defending prevented them space to shoot from. Arsenal lacked any sort of creativity going forward, and moves were easily broken down within 3-4 passes. The referee had a busy game too, with Danny Welbeck and Danny Rose constantly having a go at each other. Nacho Monreal and Harry Kane saw yellow for some mistimed challenges.
Welbeck and Rose continued their hostilities after the start of the second half as well, and clashed on the touchline, with Martin Atkinson refusing to show a second yellow for the Arsenal man. Moussa Dembele was then fouled by Koscielny, which saw the Frenchman going into the book.
Sp*rs finally got their equalizing goal in the 56th minute, when Laurent Kosicleny attempted to clear a Ryan Mason shot, but ended up conceding a corner. Moussa Dembele’s header was fumblingly saved by Ospina, and Harry Kane pounced on the opportunity to put the ball into the back of the net to make it 1-1.
Sp*rs looked extremely confident by this time, and were constantly asking questions of Arsenal’s defenders. They piled on the pressure and refused to give away the ball. Only some last ditch tackling and desperate clearances Sp*rs from taking a 2-1 lead. The elongated period of pressure only ended when Belgian Dembele’s shot was saved by Ospina. Arsenal got a rare chance, through Welbeck’s pace, and his curling effort was pushed around the post by Lloris. From the resulting corner, Laurent Koscielny’s header went straight into Lloris’ hands.
The game reached frantic levels of excitement, as Dier’s header was cleared off the line, Ospina managed to ward off a Mason volley and then drew a top-draw save from a shot off Nabil Bentaleb. Cristian Eriksen’s free kick went just over, before Arsenal got a chance. Olivier Giroud could only head wide from an Ozil cross. Arsene Wenger withdrew the ineffective Santi Cazorla on 67 minutes and put on Tomas Rosicky, and later replaced Welbeck with Walcott. The game slowed down a bit as challenged flew around, Mason and Giroud getting booked.
Just when it seemed Arsenal would head home with a decent point, Sp*rs struck. From the troubled right wing, manned by Bellerin, Rose and Bentaleb combined well, for the latter to cross to Harry Kane, who made a perfectly timed run into the box, to head the ball past Ospina. Arsenal had only 4 minutes to respond.
Arsene Wenger replaced Francis Coquelin with Chuba Akpom, and Rosicky and Monreal had a go, but Sp*rs held for a 2-1 win. This result means there is a long way to go for Arsenal to secure Champions League football for next season. Tottenham moved into 5th place with 43 points, level with Manchester United, who have played a game less, while Arsenal moved down to 6th on 42 points.
A home game against Leicester up next.
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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