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Arsenal v Spurs, 20.11.10

(12.45 p.m.)

Arsenal scorers:-
Nasri, 9
Chamakh, 27

Spurs scorers:-
Bale, 50
Van der Vaart (pen), 67
Kaboul, 85

Attendance:- 60,102

Referee:- Phil Dowd
Assistants:- Mr. D. Cann & Mr. S. Long
Fourth Official:- Mr. A. Marriner

Arsenal (4-2-3-1):- Fabianski; Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy; Song, Denilson; Nasri (sub Rosicky, 77), Fabregas (Capt.), Arshavin (sub Walcott, 77); Chamakh (sub Van Persie, 68)

Subs not used:- Szczesny; Djourou, Eboue; Wilshere

Booked:- Sagna (foul on Bale), Denilson (foul on Bale), Koscielny (foul on Bale)

Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Gomes; Hutton, Gallas (Capt.), Kaboul, Ekotto; Lennon (sub Defoe, 46), Jenas, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (sub Palacios, 87); Pavlyuchenko (sub Crouch, 73)

Subs not used:- Cudicini; Corluka, Bassong; Bentley

Booked:- Van der Vaart (post goal celebrations)

God Bless you Spurs!

God Bless you Spurs! God Bless you Harry Redknapp! God Bless you Gareth Bale! God Bless you, Rafael van der Vaart! God Bless you Younes Kaboul. Oh yes, and even God Bless you Phil Dowd!

To the best of my recollection, I personally have never witnessed a Spurs win at the home of Arsenal, wherever that may be. Spurs came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 and thus gain their first meaningful win at their place since the Littlewoods Cup in 1987. Yes, we won there in 1993, but they fielded a weakened side in anticipation of the FA Cup Final, and our team wasn’t so strong either. This was a momentous day for Spurs and their fans. Not only did we put paid to the long record of failure to win at Arsenal, but at long last we put an end to the 68 game run of failure to win at a “Top Four Ground” whatever that may mean. After all, Spurs may have set themselves on the road to regaining a place in that coveted area of the Premier League.

I’ll get to the match report soon, but I had so many memorable moments today, that I shall remember until my dying day. At half time, and at 2-0 down, I said to various sons, friends and acquaintances words to the effect of “Why do we keep coming here?” After the game I had one text response that simply told me “That’s why we do it! Fantastic!”. I probably kissed more men today than I have at any other time and at any other Spurs game – even after beating Chelsea in the 2008 Carling Cup Final. I shared hugs and kisses with fellow away season ticket holders, who have borne the year in- year out pain of failure at either The Emirates or Highbury. I hugged and kissed my son. We danced in the aisles. I kissed Darren Alexander (twice or more). Other fans such as “Cardiff Dave” and former Trust Chairman Daniel Wynne made a specific effort to come to us and share their/our joy.

I danced in the concourse with my son Greg after the game. I fell over in a state of ecstasy. I shall carry the bruises for days to come (with joy). I came to the defence of my very good friend Cassim as we walked away from the ground over the bridge that goes over the protective moat around the “Polonium Dome”. One little squirt of an Arsenal fan could not stand our joy and celebrations, and when I told him to “Take it on the chin (we have for years)”, an older Gooner actually approached me and (here’s a confession) I shook him by the hand as he agreed with me, and said “You’re right, we have to take it on the chin” We eventually found a pub down the Holloway Road that would let us in, and (this is true dear reader) I kid you not, we celebrated in this pub which was and is called “The Library”.

I hope I have managed to convey to you the deepest joy I have experienced today.

Say what you will about Harry Redknapp, but in the space of little more than two short years, he has taken us from “2 points from 8 games” (had to mention that) to the brink of European qualification in that first season; to qualification for the Champions League in his first full season, which included wins over Arsenal and Chelsea at home, and Manchester City at their place! Now in only his second full season, Harry has given us an aggregate win over Champions of Europe Inter Milan, and our first win over Arsenal at The Emirates. Harry, I love you!

We got the news that Jermain Defoe was on the bench for this game, and Harry fielded just about his strongest available side, with Roman Pavlyuchenko getting the nod over Peter Crouch up front, with Van der Vaart playing the support role, and Aaron Lennon on the right wing. William Gallas led our team out as Captain for the day against his former team, and (not that I saw it) Samir Nasri refused to shake the hand of his former team-mate in the preliminary formalities.

Arsenal played in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Song and Denilson playing in front of the defence, and Nasri, Fabregas and Arshavin behind Chamakh. Spurs were on the back foot from the start, with Gallas getting a good tackle in on Nasri within the first minute in the box. Arsenal wanted a penalty already, but referee Phil Dowd waved away those appeals. Spurs bounced back and won a corner, taken by Van der Vaart, with Bale taking a shot on goal, saved by Fabianski. Arsenal were on top though, and Spurs were in danger particularly down their left flank, where Bale was being forced back by the threat of Nasri, and the support of Sagna. Fabregas got a ball from that area after 5 minutes, and hit a low cross/shot that Gomes held at his left post. The early Arsenal domination was rewarded though in only the ninth minute, when Fabregas launched a ball down the right channel. Nasri got in front of Ekotto, and whilst Gomes came out to his feet, he failed to collect the ball. Nasri took the ball to a sharp angle beyond the keeper’s right post, and his shot beat Ekotto to creep over the line to give the home side the lead. The runes did not look good.

Arsenal did out-score Spurs on the day with regard to bookings, and all three of their booking related to fouls on Bale as he was on the advance. Sagna went in the book after only 12 minutes for such a foul. Fabregas gave us another scare though after 22 minutes, when Kaboul chose the wrong direction to try and defend the Arsenal skipper’s advance. Fabregas got through but hit his shot wide across Gomes’ goal.

Very sadly, Arsenal went two up in the 27th minute. Hutton had been fouled and gone down injure in his own half, but Spurs went on a decent attack through Lennon, before the ball was lost and Arsenal countered strongly. Hutton got up, but held his chest to let us all know of his pain. He failed to get close enough to Arshavin who received the ball from Fabregas, hitting a low cross, allowing a close range finish by Chamakh, with Kaboul close enough to have almost conceded an own goal.

Spurs did buck their ideas up a bit before the break with Pavlyuchenko doing well to hold the ball up and lay it off for Modric, whose shot did force a decent save by Fabianski. Pavlyuchenko also had a shot blocked after a Van der Vaart corner.

At half time, Lennon was replaced by Jermain Defoe, and Spurs reverted to a 4-4-2, with Van der Vaart nominally on the right of midfield, and Pavlyuchenko playing the deeper of the two strikers. Within 5 minutes, Spurs got their reward and a mighty incentive for the remainder of the game. Defoe actually won the ball against the Arsenal central defenders, and managed to flick on a header which Van der Vaart touched to Bale in a central position. Gareth set himself up beautifully and dinked the ball past Fabianski’s right hand with a lovely touch. We were in with a fighting chance!

After 55 minutes, Spurs played the ball well out of defence through Jenas, and Pavlyuchenko, before Defoe laid up the ball for Modric, who hit a right foot shot over the bar. Modric was involved in a move that won Spurs a free kick. Having been given the ball by Bale from the left, Luka squeezed between two Arsenal players before attracting the foul, and winning a free kick to be taken by Van der Vaart. Not only Fabregas, but another Arsenal player in the wall definitely had their arms up and handled the ball, making Phil Dowd’s penalty decision quite easy really. Super cool Van der Vaart stepped up and fired to the right of the keeper to make the scores level! Rafa got booked for alleged over-exuberant celebrations, but I have seen the Sky post-match reaction and even Ian Wright admitted that Rafa was entitled to celebrate in the way he did.

Van Persie had replaced Chamakh and took a 71st minute free kick which ended with the ball in the Spurs net, but disallowed for an offside flag. Deep joy! Now there were more substitutions and Crouch replaced Pavlyuchenko, whilst Arsenal took off both Arshavin and Nasri in favour of Walcott and Rosicky. Arsenal had started to run out of steam really, and their main supply line of Fabregas was probably being suppressed by an impressive second half showing from Jenas.

Bale attracted another booking – this time for Denilson – before he received a ball from Defoe and crossed for Crouch to head down for Van der Vaart. Rafa could not quite get a shot on target. Next up to foul Bale was Koscielny. The free kick was taken by Van der Vaart out on the right hand side. Younes Kaboul rose to score magnificently with a flicked header beyond the right hand of Fabianski. 2-0 down and 3-2 up. You can imagine the chants, I am sure!

Spurs had to see out 5 minutes of normal time, and there would be 5 minutes added too. Van der Vaart made way for Palacios, and Spurs had to withstand a little pressure, but any Arsenal efforts on goal were either wayward or retrieved by Gomes. One of my favourite moments of the game was when Bale raced away from Sagna, and literally (I mean literally!) left Sagna sprawling on the floor. Unfortunately, Bale’s cross did not find a target, but Spurs did see out that time to give the travelling fans such a wonderful day to remember for a long, long time. I just hope that my words can convey to you the depth of joy that this result gave me, and so many other Spurs fans today.

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