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Spurs v Arsenal, 20.04.11

(7.45 p.m.)

Spurs scorers:-
Van der Vaart, 7, 70 (pen)
Huddlestone, 44

Arsenal scorers:-
Walcott, 5
Nasri, 12
Van Persie, 40

Attendance:- 36,138

Referee:- Martin Atkinson
Assistants:- Mr. J. Flynn & Mr. P. Kirkup
Fourth official:- Mr. S. Attwell

Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka (sub Kaboul, 46), Gallas, Dawson (Capt.), Ekotto; Van der Vaart, Huddlestone, Modric, Bale (sub Lennon, 46); Crouch, Pavlyuchenko (sub Sandro, 78)

Subs not used:- Cudicini; Bassong; Pienaar; Defoe

No Bookings

Arsenal (4-2-3-1):- Szczesny; Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy; Diaby (sub Wilshere, 52), Song; Walcott (sub Arshavin, 81), Fabregas (Capt.), Nasri (sub Bendtner, 81); Van Persie

Subs not used:- Lehmann; Squillaci, Gibbs; Ramsey

Booked:- Clichy (foul on Van der Vaart), Song, Djourou (both for fouls on Modric)

Great Spurs come-back in another pulsating derby

Everyone is agreed. It was a great game of football, and one of the best Premier League games seen this season. Spurs made a great come back from another two goal deficit against their near rivals, and although they looked the more likely team to win in the second half, they had to settle for the draw. Arsenal will be the more disappointed team with that return, as they have fallen to third place and lost ground in the title race. As for Spurs, they are still two points behind Man City, but with the game at Eastlands still to come, we can say that we are still in control of our Champions League destiny.

One of the points I have made about manager Harry Redknapp’s team tactics is that he does not always get his selection right, when faced with too many options. Here he had more players available than of late, and whilst he did score a smashing goal to bring the scores back to 3-2 just before half-time, I do wonder if Tom Huddlestone was the right choice in a game when Arsenal chose to attack with verve, with only Diaby and Song playing at the back of midfield, whilst team captain Fabregas moved forward at will to support Walcott, Nasri and Van Persie. There was also an argument for utilising Lennon’s width, but Rafael van der Vaart had his best game for ages, capped with two goals to cement his position as Spurs leading scorer so far this season.

There were several other excellent individual performances for Spurs with Ekotto particularly impressive at left back, defending stoutly, and with his usual style, which was enhanced by a number of fine cross-field passes and crosses. Ekotto also sent Lennon away for the penalty which brought Spurs level at 3-3. Gallas was caught in two minds for Arsenal’s third goal, but otherwise gave a solid performance, despite being hampered at times by injuries from which he bravely recovered. Skipper Dawson and Luka Modric were also to the fore, but perhaps it is not fair to highlight individuals in what was a team performance where effort was superb, if not always coupled with the best of decisions and final ball.

Arsenal came for all three points, without a doubt, and after one early Spurs effort, the visitors showed they meant business. Ekotto had sent over a ball that Crouch headed on to Corluka, who in the absence of Lennon had taken on the duty to give width down the right. Corluka’s deep ball was met by Modric who hit a good low right footed shot just outside the post. However, Arsenal, led by Fabregas, gave warning of their intentions after just three minutes, with a ball inside the box to Walcott. Gallas did just enough to block Walcott’s charge, and Gomes cleared. However, Spurs were struggling to hold onto the ball at this early stage and they fell behind to the Fabregas/Walcott combination in the fifth minute. Again, Walcott was in a central position and got goalside of the defence for Fabregas’s ball, to fire low past Gomes’ left hand in front of the Paxton Road stand.

Spurs came back though, almost immediately. It was a great riposte too, provoked by Corluka’s ball to Van der Vaart in the right channel. Rafa hit a sweet right footed shot just inside Szczesny’s left post on the narrow side.

It was end to end stuff, with barely time to absorb the preceding action. Referee Martin Atkinson was doing well to keep up with the play in such a fast-moving game. Gomes made a good save from Van Persie’s shot from a tight angle on the left of goal, and then held the corner. Gomes threw out to Ekotto who hared down the line and sent in a cross that was just too close to the Arsenal keeper. Two minutes later though, Arsenal were in the lead again. Diaby passed to Nasri who tried a shot from 22 yards that got a slight deflection from the inside of Dawson’s legs, and went through at least one more pair of legs to beat the unsighted Gomes in a fairly central position in goal.

At this point Corluka was not helping to relieve the pressure upon Spurs with one or two rather cheaply conceded corners. Spurs started to gain more possession and after a free kick just outside the area, Pavlyuchenko touched the ball to Van der Vaart, whose left footed shot was only just over the bar. Spurs had a half chance after a block tackle by Modric, and after the ball was headed away from the area, it was Corluka who tried a shot that passed just outside the post.

The Arsenal fans were getting cocky and started singing “Champions League – never again”, but Spurs were getting forward more and more, thanks to Ekotto breaking out of defence, sending a good deep ball that Crouch headed down for Van der Vaart, but Szczesny got to the ball first. At the other end, Van Persie sent Walcott away again and whilst Ekotto tried to get goalside of the “World Cup Tourist”, the winger got a shot in that skimmed Gomes’ right post.

Corluka did so well to win a corner after a Gareth bale ball had gone too long, and following the corner, van der Vaart fed Modric, who hit a good low shot that the keeper saved. Van der Vaart’s work ethic could not be faulted tonight and he won the ball in his own half before sending it forward where Pavlyuchenko also worked hard to a) win the ball and then b) win a corner. The corner was taken by Van der Vaart and headed over by Gallas. By this time, the Spurs fans had spotted Teddy Sheringham in the Sky TV Box.

Arsenal went ahead in the 40th minute by 3-1 after an attacking throw when William Gallas was caught in two minds, whether to head or chest the ball, and whether to direct it to the goalkeeper or out for a corner. He ended up chesting the ball too weakly, and Walcott chipped it for Van Persie to head goalward. Gomes made a good save, but the ball landed at the feet of Van Persie, who fired home for a two goal lead.

Gareth Bale was in the wars, not for the first time, and on this occasion lost out to Szczesny on two counts. One to reach the ball, and two, to suffer physically. Bale battled on until half-time, but did not emerge, to be replaced by Lennon. Tom Huddlestone restored the deficit to just the one goal, a minute before half-time. The ball had been crossed from the left and headed by Crouch, but half-cleared to big Tom lurking a good 25 yards out. Hudd hit a cracking los shot and Van der Vaart leap-frogged over the shot that beat Szczesny low to his left for a great goal. Modric had a great shout for a penalty before the break, as he ran onto Van der Vaart’s deft pass, and was felled by Djourou’s arm across the body as he entered the penalty area.

Arsenal took three bookings in a short space of time either side of the interval. First Clichy saw yellow for unfairly impeding Van der Vaart, and then both Song and Djourou brought a halt to Modric’s advances. Lennon had replaced Bale on the left, and Kaboul was on for Corluka playing in his right back position. The game lost a little of its momentum, but Van der Vaart forced another save by Szczesny after Modric’s pass. Rafa was then the perpetrator of a foul near the half-way line, which caused Arsenal substitute Wilshere to almost beg the referee to show Rafa a yellow, which did not impress the Dutchman. The referee was not persuaded either!

Van Persie did have the ball in the net, but the off-side flag had been up for ages, and the whistle had been blown as well. Another great ball by Ekotto into the Arsenal area gave Spurs half a chance, but we were just unable to get enough on the ball to have a shot on goal. A Spurs attack broke down with a failed pass by Pavlyuchenko, and Arsenal broke clear through Walcott, whose cross/shot evaded Fabregas who was offside anyway. Spurs then won a penalty after a great ball ahead of Lennon by Ekotto. Aaron raced into the box and Szczesny raced out to meet him, tapping his ankle as the winger tried to pass him. It was a penalty and Van der Vaart sent the keeper the wrong way, firing to his left into the net for his 12th league goal of the season.

Soon after, Van der Vaart sent Kaboul away down the wing with a clever back-heel. Kaboul crossed, and Modric’s shot was saved by the keeper’s legs. Gomes had to make two good saves from Fabregas at the other end as the tempo had risen to its earlier levels. Pavlyuchenko was replaced by Sandro, who gave the spurs defence more solidarity, but also offered support to the attack. Lennon was now working on the right, hitting a good cross field ball to Ekotto, who crossed where Crouch’s header was tipped over the bar for a corner. After a Spurs attacking throw, and a touch by Crouch, Van der Vaart hit a shot on target, but the keeper held.

Arsene Wenger inserted the fresh legs of Bendtner and Arshavin and would later claim his team tired because of their Sunday game, but Spurs had the best remaining effort on goal, after Sandro’s great effort to get forward, passing to Modric who hit a right footed shot that Szczesny only saved between his legs.

Spurs might have some tired legs, but they simply have to win Saturday’s game at home to West Bromwich Albion. See you there!

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