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Spurs v Arsenal, 03.03.13

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 3RD MARCH, 2013
(4pm)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (2) ARSENAL 1 (0)

Spurs Scorers:-
Bale, 37
Lennon, 39

Arsenal scorer:-
Mertesacker, 51

Attendance:- 36, 170

Referee:- Mark Clattenburg
Assistants:- Mr. D. Cann & Mr. S. Beck
Fourth official:- Mr. A. Marriner

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Lloris; Walker, Dawson (Capt.), Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (sub Gallas, 90), Parker, Dembele (sub Livermore, 87), Sigurdsson; Bale; Adebayor ( sub Defoe, 66)

Subs not used:- Friedel; Naughton; Holtby, Carroll

Booked:- Adebayor (foul on Ramsey), Vertonghen (foul on Giroud), Walker (kicking ball away after free kick awarded for foul on Wilshere)

Arsenal (4-2-3-1):- Szczesny; Jenkinson (sub Rosicky, 60), Mertesacker, Vermaelen (Capt.), Monreal; Arteta (sub Podolski, 77), Ramsey; Walcott, Wilshere, Cazorla; Giroud

Subs not used:- Mannone; Koscielny; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin; Gervinho

Booked:- Ramsey (foul on Lennon)

Seven point heaven!

Following cautious feedback after what was perceived as a quite audacious headline for my match preview, out of respect, I am not actually saying "Mind the gap", but the fact is that Spurs have won an oh so crucial match today, and established a seven point gap above our nearest rivals for a Champions League place - our hated rivals, Arsenal!

We have also regained third place, once again two points above Chelsea, so we are the top team in London, and should cheer on Aston Villa in their home match tomorrow night against Man City, who, as it stands, are just two points in front of us in second place. We all know there is plenty of work to be done yet, and more tough games ahead, but Champions League football definitely beckons our beloved team again.

In beating Arsenal today, Spurs have managed a Premier League record (for us) of 12 consecutive games unbeaten, having managed 11 games unbeaten on two previous occasions.

One irony about today's victory, in my view, is that both Spurs goals (scored in the space of two marvellous first half minutes) were of an Arsenal pedigree, with the scorers making runs behind the defence to reach superb passes down the channels.

It was a tense second half, with Arsenal predictably coming out of the traps in determined style, and scoring an early goal, but Spurs really should have extended their lead, with a couple of good chances, both falling to Gylfi Sigurdsson, making his first start in two months, selected in preference to Lewis Holtby.

Andre Villas-Boas's other change was to move Jan Vertonghen back inside to his preferred centre-back slot, and to play Benoit Assou-Ekotto at left back. Gareth Bale was allotted a central position, behind Adebayor.

Arsenal flooded the midfield, with Arteta and Ramsey playing in front of the back four, and Walcott, Wilshere and Cazorla behind Giroud. In my view, Cazorla, who has been such an influential player is season for Arsenal, was quiet today, and Kyle Walker should be given a lot of credit for that, with good support from the likes of Dembele and of course Lennon, who tracks back so ardently week after week.

For all the pressure that came our way though, particularly in the second half, it has to be said that Hugo Lloris had very few real saves to make. Similarly, Szczesny was also not directly troubled too much, but crucially, beaten twice!

Spurs did win an early free kick, taken from the right, but Adebayor was adjudged offside. Arsenal had a corner after 6 minutes, taken by Wilshere, headed by Giroud, and collected by Lloris.

Kyle Walker went on a great run from his own half, and got as far as the Arsenal area, but no further. Back in front of the Spurs goal, Giroud was onto a ball over the top, but Jan Vertonghen made a great tackle, neutralising the shot to such a degree that Lloris had an easy pick-up.

Adebayor got a booking for a foul on Ramsey, at about the same stage of the game at which he had been sent off in November at The Emirates. He was therefore on tenterhooks for the rest of the game, although, as it happened, he didn't last that long.

Adebayor did field a Lloris clearance after 20 minutes, feeding it back to Scott Parker, who in turn passed to Sigurdsson. Sigurdsson crossed low to his right, but the ball passed just in front of Bale.

Aaron Lennon won a corner on the right after a great determined run to the bye-line. The corner was taken by Bale and half-cleared to Parker, who shot. First there was a handball shout, which fell on deaf ears, then, when Adebayor went down in the box, referee Mark Clattenburg was unsympathetic. Mr. Clattenburg is very visual with his decision making, but so few of them seemed to go our way today.

Vertonghen "took one for the team" when Giroud threatened to break just inside the Spurs half, then Ramsey stopped Lennon in his tracks, as the little winger headed for goal. Ramsey got a few pats on the back from his relieved team-mates, as he made his way to defend the resulting kick.

The game was transformed, and won, in the space of two dramatic minutes. Dembele made a nice win of the ball in the middle, and he and Sigurdsson shared skilled passes, before Sigurdsson threaded a ball inside the defence down the left channel, which Bale pounced upon inside the box. Szczesny was unprotected, and Bale was able to plant the ball to the left of the keeper in front of the Park Lane stand, most of which was ecstatic!

We were in raptures two minutes later as Scott Parker performed a similar task, creating a goal for Aaron Lennon, who was able to run around to the right of the keeper and score. Now I thought of that Lennon statistic (we never lose when Lennon scores), but I kept fairly quiet about that!

After the break, Spurs had the first chance when Bale crossed from the right. The ball passed in front of Adebayor, and Sigurdsson tried a shot, but hit it wide of the far post.

Arsenal reduced the deficit from a free kick, taken by Walcott, and headed home by Mertesacker. The pressure mounted upon the Spurs goal, and after a few high balls, left back Monreal fired high and wide. Lloris was alert and caught a cross from Arsenal's right flank at his near post.

After a slow build up from their own half, Spurs had a good chance after Dembele pushed the ball out to Assou-Ekotto on the left. His cross beat Adebayor, and Bale fired over from inside the area.

Arsenal started to ring the changes, replacing Jenkinson with Rosicky, who initially played inside Walcott and Cazorla, with Ramsey covering at right back.

Adebayor was on the ground for a long time, but no-one put the ball out and the passage of play ended with a free kick to Arsenal. There was a melee between the two teams, and Michael Dawson in particular was livid. Mr. Clattenburg had words with our brave Captain, who is certainly inspiring the team by his passion and example.

Adebayor had to be stretchered off, and the referee found reason to also have words with the Arsenal captain. Jermain Defoe entered the fray to great cheers from the Spurs faithful.

Spurs' best second half chance came after a great ball from his own half by Gareth Bale down the right flank to Defoe, who crossed for Sigurdsson who had a potential one on one situation, but tried a pass inside, which failed. He should have scored.

Scott Parker sent a great ball out of defence down the line to Defoe' who moved inside and tried a shot, which passed outside the goalkeeper's right post. Following a Spurs corner, and a Parker cross from the left, the ball was half cleared and fell to Bale, but his snap shot was held by Szczesny.

Now Arsenal took off Arteta, and added another striker to the mix in the shape of Podolski. Arsenal switched to a midfield four of Walcott, Wilshere, Rosicky and Podolski from right to left, with Cazorla operating behind Giroud.

Ramsey got into the Spurs area and forced a corner with a deflected shot. Sigurdsson fired wide for Spurs at the other end, before Dembele went down injured and had to be replaced by Jake Livermore. We were now reaching the closing stages of the game though.

Arsenal had a free kick about 25 yards out, taken by Walcott. His kick went over the wall, but curled too much and was safely outside Lloris's right post, much to our relief.

It was not good to see that there would be 6 minutes of added time, during which Podolski's shot was deflected for a corner, which Lloris managed to flap well clear across to the other flank.

Walker got a late yellow card, after kicking the ball away following a foul on Wilshere, and William Gallas got on the pitch for a maximum of 30 seconds before that final whistle blew and the celebrations of one of the most crucial wins of the season began.

More big games loom, with Inter coming to The Lane next Thursday night, but the visit to Anfield next Sunday is looking more important to this observer. I think I'd take a draw in that one, but all I am doing really is basking in the deep joy of victory over Arsenal, and a seven point lead (not a gap!)

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