BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
WEDNESDAY 29TH OCTOBER, 2008
ARSENAL 4 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 4 (1)
Van Persie, 68
Referee: - Mr. M. Atkinson
Attendance: - 60,043
Arsenal (4-4-2):- Almunia; Sagna, Gallas (Capt.), Silvestre, Clichy; Walcott (sub Eboue, 75), Denilson, Fabregas, Nasri (sub Song, 88); Van Persie (sub Diaby, 81), Adebayor
Subs not used: - Fabianski; Toure; Vela; Bendtner
Booked: - Diaby
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Gomes; Hutton (sub Gunter, 790, Corluka, Woodgate, Ekotto; Bentley, Huddlestone, Jenas (Capt.), Bale (sub Lennon, 55); Modric; Pavlyuchenko (sub Bent, 65)
Subs not used: - Cesar; Zokora, O’Hara; Campbell
Booked: - Ekotto, Bentley, Huddlestone, Jenas
Goal, game and escape of the season!
I don’t know about the Harry Houdini headlines in this morning’s papers, but Harry Redknapp is certainly the genie in the bottle that has allowed the Tottenham Hotspur spirit to rise again. First we had what will surely be THE goal of the season by former gooner David Bentley, scoring his first goal against his old club in spectacular 40 yard fashion. The match could clearly be described as one of the games of the season, even when Spurs were 4-2 behind, but when Jenas scored a brilliant solo goal with added time approaching, then Aaron Lennon followed up Luka Modric’s rasping shot when it rebounded off the post to give Spurs a dramatic 4-4 result, the status of the game was assured.
Some Spurs fans (including my son) left the ground at 4-2. Others left with that Jenas goal, which looked as if it would be a consolation, but those die-hard Spurs fans that remained to see out the bitter end were literally dancing in the aisles after Lennon’s goal. I didn’t kiss any men last night, but hugged plenty. My friend Cassim and I had to infiltrate a home pub after the game to celebrate our achievement. Even sharing the tube and the north-bound train with loads of gooners was a pleasure with a permanent big grin on my face!
The Spurs team featured purely predictable changes, with Jonathan Woodgate returning to the defence in place of Ledley King, and Gareth Bale back from suspension to play left side of midfield. The plan must surely have been to keep tabs on Theo Walcott, but it has to be said he was quite dominant throughout his time on the pitch, getting plenty of ball, and a number of shots on target to boot. Van Persie played just off Adebayor, and for Spurs, Luka Modric filled the role behind Roman Pavlyuchenko. The game was played at very high tempo throughout. Spurs defended with confidence in the early stages, and had good possession themselves, but the home side consistently play with pace and accuracy.
A good early ball by Tom Huddlestone gave the advancing Gareth Bale half a chance down the left channel, but the shot passed wide of goal. The first real chance for the home team came after 11 minutes, when Sagna’s pass was laid off by Adebayor for Walcott, whose shot was just outside the left post, in front of the away end. Then David Bentley gave us that spectacular opener. Jenas and Modric had already been involved in the build up, before Modric’s overhead kick was touched towards Bentley by Jermaine Jenas. Bentley popped the ball up for himself, just goal-side of the centre circle, then hit a fantastic powerful lobbed shot that Almunia got a hand too, but could only help into the net. Bentley ran all the way back to the Spurs end to celebrate.
Having had such a positive start, Spurs now had to endure almost relentless pressure from Arsenal, and struggled to keep the same composure they had shown in the early stages. Fabregas ran over a free kick and Van Persie’s shot was saved by Gomes. Shortly after that Van Persie hit a shot wide after Walcott’s pass. Gomes was in one of his less inspiring moods today, and as has since been reported, looked as if he was carrying an injury. He dropped a corner, and in the follow-up Walcott fired over the bar. Gomes did hold the next Walcott shot after 31 minutes, diving low to his right.
Spurs were getting nothing out of referee Martin Atkinson, who ignored an apparent foul on Jermaine Jenas in the build up to Arsenal’s equaliser. Fabregas advanced down the left channel, and his shot across the goalmouth was saved by Gomes for a corner, from which Spurs failed to defend against Silvestre’s angled header. It was just like the old days really with the central defenders scoring Arsenal’s first two goals from dead balls. Modric went on a diagonal run from right to left and allowed himself room for a left foot shot that was not far outside Almunia’s right post.
Not many of the middle tier would have been back in their place when William Gallas scored the second home goal from a Van Persie free kick. Huddlestone had perhaps been harshly penalised for a foul spotted by the linesman and not the referee.
Spurs were panicking in defence and after a ball was only half-cleared Denilson hit a shot that Gomes could only parry. Lennon replaced Bale, but did not figure in the game for a little while, as Spurs were under pressure. The home fans taunted Spurs with “1-0 and you f***ed it up!”, but those Spurs fans would have the last word before the end of the evening. Gomes pinched the ball off the feet of Walcott, and by now the referee had started administering yellow cards to any Spurs player who dared to challenge with a bit of metal. Even the gentle giant that is Tom Huddlestone saw yellow in this spell.
Adebayor failed in front of goal after 59 minutes, but then Bentley (receiving from Modric) hit a decent effort which Almunia saved cleanly, diving low to his right. The Spurs defence was broken by a ball to Nasri who chipped over Gomes, and Adebayor provided the finish in front of goal with Hutton in pursuit.
Darren Bent replaced Pavlyuchenko, and made the perfect start to his game with his fifth league goal of the season. The excellent Modric had been involved again, feeding Huddlestone who hit a rasping shot, only parried by Almunia, and spilled in the direction of Bent who gratefully snapped up the offer to put Spurs within reach again. The feel-good factor was so short lived though, as Adebayor took advantage of Hutton’s error, and passed across the area for Van Persie to make it 4-2.
It was never say die stuff from Spurs though, as Jenas just failed to reach Bentley’s free kick into the 6-yard box. Such adventure carried risks though and Van Persie should have converted Nasri’s cross in front of goal. Adebayor also had a chance with a header from a cross that went wide back across the goal mouth. Arsene Wenger had already replaced Walcott with Eboue, and now he replaced Van Persie with Diaby, perhaps seeking to ensure the two-goal advantage was maintained. It didn’t happen though, as Jenas took advantage of Gael Clichy’s uncharacteristic slip near the half way line and went on a run right to the edge of the area. Whether or not Harry Redknapp has had an influence I don’t know, but in the past Jenas would be hesitant and look for a pass rather than take on the chance. This time he picked his spot with a beautiful shot into the net right of Almunia. It was a great goal, that would be heralded as such in most circumstances. Jenas did not celebrate but called his men back to the centre.
It looked like that would be a consolation goal, but Spurs knew better as with a minute left of added time, Modric hit a terrific shot that got a deflection, then rebounded off the post. Aaron Lennon was on hand to score a quite miraculous equaliser. At the final whistle, Bentley was jigging in front of the away fans, who danced a few jigs themselves, I can tell you. It felt like a win of course, and whilst we remain bottom, the spirit and confidence in the squad now is such that not only is the only way up – it’s a certainty!
· Spurs record in recent London Derby matches
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.
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