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Spurs v Arsenal, 14.04.10

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
WEDNESDAY APRIL 14TH, 2010
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1) ARSENAL 1 (0)

Spurs scorers:-
Rose, 10
Bale, 47

Arsenal scorer:-
Bendtner, 85

Attendance:- 36,041

Referee:- Mark Clattenburg
Assistants:- Mr. D. Bryan & Mr. M. Murphy
Fourth Official:- Mr. S. Atwell

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Kaboul, Dawson, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Rose (sub Bentley, 46), Huddlestone, Modric, Bale; Defoe (sub Gudjohnsen, 67), Pavlyuchenko (sub Crouch, 88)

Subs not used:- Alnwick; Bassong, Walker; Livermore

Booked:- Modric, Kaboul, Dawson

Arsenal (4-3-2-1):- Almunia (Capt.); Sagna (sub Walcott, 52), Campbell, Vermaelen (sub Silvestre, 20), Clichy; Nasri, Denilson (sub Van Persie, 68), Diaby; Eboue, Rosicky; Bendtner

Subs not used:- Fabianski; Eastmond, Merida, Eduardo

Booked:- Denilson

An English Rose, Welsh Wizard and Brazilian Brave

It was truly a great, great night last night at The Lane, and easily the game of the season for Spurs fans as their team produced an outstanding performance to win their first league game against Arsenal this century. The last such win was in November 1999, when the scoreline was the same, thanks to Steffen Iversen’s finish and Tim Sherwood’s free kick. One young man who will never forget the game is 19 year old Danny Rose, who on his league debut for Spurs scored a 30 yard goal that was worthy of this nineteenth anniversary of “St. Hotspur Day”. The goal was so spectacular to be comparable to that marvellous Paul Gascoigne moment. Not only will Danny Rose never forget that moment, but neither will any Spurs fan.

Rose was not the only hero of course, because at the start of the second half, 20 year old Welsh Wizard Gareth Bale popped up in the Arsenal area to finish off Jermain Defoe’s cross to make it 2-0. Incredibly, this was Bale’s first goal for the club in 65 games. He scored three goals in his first five games for Spurs, but hadn’t scored since September 2007. Arguably there were 14 Spurs heroes, but one other player who has to be mentioned is goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, who in the second half made three astounding saves in quick succession after Van Persie came on for the gooners, who piled on the pressure to try and keep their title hopes alive. The fact that the players ran to Gomes at the end of the game to embrace him says it all really, and Gomes has to be given the man of the match award, just for those world class saves.

Both teams were missing key players of course. Arsenal had lost Gallas, Fabregas and Arshavin, along with Song, although they did have Van Persie back after a five month absence, although he was held in reserve on the bench. Spurs were missing Aaron Lennon (and have been since December 28th), Wilson Palacios and Vedran Corluka to name just three, but they were pleased to be able to field club captain Ledley King for only his fifteenth league start of the season. Ledley hadn’t played for two months this time, but it was as if he’d never been away with such a stylish and composed performance, which always gives extra confidence to Michael Dawson.

The Spurs engine room was always going to struggle against an Arsenal team which fielded Nasri, Denilson and Diaby in front of their defence, with Eboue and Rosicky supporting Bendtner from the flanks. Modric in particular fought valiantly, and the whole Spurs team worked as hard as you could wish, without always succeeding in their intended moves or passes.

Not that it needed it, but of course the game was given additional spice by the presence of Sol Campbell in the Arsenal team, for whom he has now signed twice just to exacerbate the hatred from his former fans. Campbell was basically booed heartily with his every touch, but there was no other audible abuse. The energy of the game and the general atmosphere put the Campbell agenda quite well down the list of issues. I was wishing for a flat on the face moment, and although there was one near stumble in the first half, it has to be said that the man played well, almost scoring in what might be his last game against Spurs. Campbell lost his central defensive partner Thomas Vermaelen after just 20 minutes, so Spurs were up against the old guard, as 32 year old Mikael Silvestre joined the fray to partner our nemesis.

It was Campbell who had the first effort on goal, after just one minute after a corner from the right. Gomes had to dive towards his left post to make the save, but he did quite comfortably. The pattern of the game from the start really was that Arsenal dominated possession, but rarely showed any edge in front of goal. Bale and Ekotto were occasionally caught out by Eboue getting too much space on the flank, and Ekotto made one or two dodgy passes, but generally Spurs looked in control in their defensive dome, with every ounce of effort being given.

Roman Pavlyuchenko was also tireless and he started and finished an excellent Spurs move after 9 minutes. He battled for the ball near the right touch-line at the half way line, before feeding Modric, who in turn sent Bale away down the left. Bale’s deep cross was headed by Huddlestone to Rose, whose effort was blocked before Kaboul sent in a low cross. Pavlyuchenko’s shot was deflected and Spurs won the first of two corners. The second corner was punched out by Almunia and fell for Danny Rose lurking 30 yards from goal in an inside left position. Rose hit an incredible rocket type volley with his favourite left foot that soared into the roof of Almunia’s net like an arrow in front of the Park Lane stand. Danny was away towards the North Stand to celebrate, as did the Spurs fans – wildly!

Rose is a left sided player but he was being asked to play on the right wing, where over the course of the half he may have been a little exposed when it came to defensive duties. Rosicky was proving dangerous on the left flank, whilst Nasri and Diaby also got forward to good effect. Rosicky squeezed a ball to Bendtner after 26 minutes, but the striker placed his shot wide of Gomes’ left post.

The game was played with the full passion of THE London Derby, and Mark Clattenburg showed a lot of leniency in the early stages, settling for “words” with any offenders during that time. The official also sought to let the game flow as much as he could, which might have been frustrating for the partisan fans at times, but which was generally good for the game. There was a spell around the half-hour mark though, when three players went into the referee’s book. Younes Kaboul in particular “took one for the team” when he hindered Rosicky’s advance upon Gomes’ goal.

Luka Modric had a great chance to increase the score after 39 minutes, after good work in the build-up by Defoe and Pavlyuchenko. Luka got into the box, but his shot carried insufficient strength and was blocked anyway. Danny Rose tried to follow up, but Almunia was on top of the situation here. As half-time approached the visitors were knocking the ball around with some style, whilst Spurs consistently fell back, playing like the away team letting their opponents come onto them, seeking effective breakaway attacks. Clichy got past Kaboul and hit a shot outside the post. Modric was the provider for Defoe, who whilst under great pressure did manage to get a right foot shot on target, which was held.

Harry Redknapp replaced Rose with David Bentley at half-time. Within a minute, Spurs were two up. The move started with a supreme long ball by Huddlestone which was excellently controlled by Defoe on the left flank. Bale had made a straight run into the Arsenal box, and Defoe picked him out with a ball that beat the old guard, allowing Gareth to sweep home with his left foot to the left of Almunia. The noise in the stadium was fearsome!

World Cup 2006 tourist Theo Walcott replaced Sagna after 51 minutes, and Arsenal’s intentions were clear – to attack the Spurs goal with venom. Spurs defended stoutly, and David Bentley made a great clearing ball from near the right corner flag after 62 minutes, which was held with skill by Pavlyuchenko, before being returned to the now advancing Bentley. After his cross, Defoe, Modric and Pavlyuchenko all had shots on goal blocked. Bendtner got behind Ledley King to reach a long ball down the middle after 65 minutes, but hit his right foot shot wide across Gomes’ goal. So far the Spurs keeper had not really been called upon to make a difficult save.

Spurs replaced Defoe with Gudjohnsen, who retreated to help the Spurs midfield more, whilst Pavlyuchenko patrolled alone at the front. Van Persie also made his entrance. Gudjohnsen had a fantastic opportunity to make it 3-0 after 68 minutes. Pavlyuchenko had hit a great long cross field pass to Bale who sent the over-lapping Ekotto away. Ekotto’s cross went to the feet of Gudjohnsen, but he skewed his shot badly, as it passed tamely wide. It was a shot made under pressure though, and an attempt at a first time hit.

Now Gomes was to become the star of the game with those three brilliant saves. Firstly Van Persie was onto a Diaby ball, and hit a powerful rising shot on the turn. Gomes dived to his right and palmed the shot away for a corner. The pressure from Arsenal continued and they were awarded a free kick after a foul by Dawson on Diaby. Whilst one gooner shaped up to take the kick, Van Persie was the actual striker, hitting with his left foot around the wall and towards Gomes’ top right corner. Gomes was equal to it, and again pushed the ball round the corner from a position where most keepers would have been beaten. His third save came from a close range header by Campbell (who still hasn’t scored against us), which was pushed onto the post and away. The “I love you Gomes” chants came with gusto from around the stadium!

Spurs did finally succumb to the pressure, when Walcott’s low cross reached Bendtner, who finished from close range, with Gomes on the left side of his goal area (and his defence)beaten by the cross. Now it was nail biting time, as Arsenal sought to maintain the pressure, but failed to threaten the goal to the same degree. Spurs in fact carved out another chance for Modric after some great play out of defence by Bentley and Gudjohnsen, but Modric’s shot was saved. Crouch was a late replacement for Pavlyuchenko, and Spurs managed to play out the four minutes of added time for a memorable and crucial win.

Spurs are just one point behind Man City, and of course we still have to play there, so at this time we are in control of our own destiny. However, one crucial game is followed by another, with Chelsea coming to The Lane on Saturday. Europa League football is looking good for Tottenham after this win, and the race for a Champions League place is still on. The result was of course a great boost after Sunday’s Cup disappointment, and the excitement shows no sign of letting up just yet!

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