FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 16TH NOVEMBER, 2002
ARSENAL 3 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Referee:- Mike Riley
Arsenal (4-4-2):- Shaaban; Luzhny, Cygan, Campbell, Cole; Wiltord, Gilberto, Vieira (sub Van Bronkhurst, 78), Ljungberg; Bergkamp (sub Pires, 26), Henry (sub Jeffers, 74)
Subs not used:- Taylor; Toure
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr, Richards, King, Bunjevcevic; Davies, Redknapp (sub Anderton, 64), Freund, Etherington (sub Poyet, 46): Sheringham (Capt) (sub Iversen, 64), Keane
Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Perry
Booked:- Davies, Poyet
Sent off (2nd Yellow), Davies, 26 (NB:- The red card was subsequently rescinded by Mike Riley, because the first yellow card was deemed inappropriate)
There are no redeeming factors for Spurs in this one out of ten performance in a match where the least their fans expect is passion, and 100% effort. Full marks to Arsenal for an excellent display of football, but Spurs were not competing when they had 11 men on the pitch. When Mike Riley sent Simon Davies off for a second bookable offence only midway through the first half, Spurs were already 1 down, and the best we could hope for was that the margin would be kept to reasonable limits. That was not to be though, and this defeat was our worst at the hands of the enemy since that infamous 5-0 at The Lane in December, 1978. Spurs have only one point to show for their last four games, which have included three away defeats, and we only have four weeks to get some form back before having to face the red horde again on December 15th.
Glenn Hoddle rang the changes yet again, and his insistence in switching the team so much is beginning to rankle more than a bit. Ledley King played beside Dean Richards, whilst Matthew Etherington started but only lasted the first half before being replaced by Poyet. About all that Poyet brought to the game was a booking within minutes of his arrival, but it is unfair to mark individuals out, as collectively we failed to match the hosts for athleticism, skill, and movement. The home fans understandably had plenty to crow about, and Highbury was not a pleasant place to be today for a Spurs fan.
Spurs had already been on the back foot as the Arsenal side ran the midfield, and threaded threatening balls through to Henry and Wiltord, but Spurs did have the first shot on target, when Jamie Redknapp's shot at least brought a save from Shaaban, playing only his second game. Spurs failed to test the new Arsenal keeper to any real degree in the game. Within a minute of Redknapp's shot Arsenal did have the ball in the net, but thankfully the linesman's flag was up. This happened a second time later in the first half.
Spurs were under pressure and Keller had to be sharp to prevent a Bergkamp through ball reaching Henry. Then Ledley King had to clear a follow-up shot from Keller's save. Arsenal went one up through a brilliant goal by Henry. Freund took a throw for Spurs deep in the Arsenal half, and the ball fell to Henry who ran fully 60 yards, leaving all white-shirted opposition behind him, before beating Keller with a left foot shot to the keeper's right corner. The Frenchman then ran all the way back to his own half to taunt the Spurs contingent at the Clock End with his celebrations. Spurs struggle to find the energy to run up the field once, never mind there and back again.
Spurs did have a decent attack after 20 minutes, led by Stephen Carr (the Arsenal fans were taunting Spurs with the promise that he would be joining Campbell soon). Carr found Davies, whose cross was headed towards goal by Robbie Keane, but with no power, and the catch was easy for Shaaban. Davies then got two bookings for exuberant rather than malicious tackles, but Riley (one of the worse refs in the league, in my book) decided they both warranted yellow, and Simon had to go. In between, Arsenal lost Bergkamp to injury, replaced by Pires, making his own return to league action after a lengthy lay-off.
After the loss of Davies, Teddy led the line, with Keane reverting to the middle, but the combination of Freund, and Bunjevcevic too often lost balls that should have found a white target. Spurs were like frightened rabbits, caught in the headlights for too much of this game. Poyet arrived after the break, but Spurs failed to create anything threatening, and it wasn't long before the game was put well beyond them. Jamie Redknapp was bundled off the ball by Ljungberg, and expected Riley to give a free kick. No chance! Arsenal were away, and Henry got deep into the penalty area, before laying the ball up for an easy finish by Ljungberg, who had made the all-important run. Game over.
On the hour, Richards broke out of defence and had an exchange with Poyet before sending a weak shot beyond the keeper, but which was easy for Cygan to clear. Then Pires chipped a desperate Keller, but the ball landed on the net. Teddy was replaced by Iversen, and Darren Anderton took Redknapp's place, but only one team was going to score any more. Wiltord had hooked over a Ljungberg pass, before scoring after 70 minutes, when Keller saved from Henry, but Pires, following up gave Wiltord an easy finish.
Arsenal are top, at least for a day, before Liverpool play tomorrow, and Spurs slip to ninth, with the prospect of going below Leeds, who host Bolton tomorrow. Leeds will be our next opponents, and you have to say, we do not look like beating any team at the moment.
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