Tottenham 3-3 Arsenal: Gunners’ title hopes rocked as Spurs come from behind in scintillating north London derby
A flurry of five first half goals lit up the north London derby as Tottenham and Arsenal played out a wonderfully attacking and thrilling game which provided a glut of goals and fantastic entertainment at White Hart Lane. Goals from Theo Walcott, Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie for the Gunners and Rafael Van Der Vaart and Tom Huddlestone for Spurs were enough to seal what could be the game of the season in the Premier League.
The draw, in reality, doesn't help either side in their respective aims as Arsenal fail to make the most of Manchester United drawing on Tuesday with Newcastle and Spurs needed the win to keep the pressure on Manchester City, but those in attendance will have not have thought of this fact as they made their way home after a fantastic display from both sides.
The importance of tonight’s game was paramount for both sides. Tottenham were coming off the back of their exit from the Champions League at the hands of Real Madrid and Arsenal were keen to expel the Liverpool result from their collective system.
With the need for this purging, Arsenal came out of the traps with purpose and positivity. The game begun in a style often expected of local derbies, fast, fluid and bombastic and within 5 minutes the opening goal had rocked White Hart Lane. Cesc Fabregas, so often a tormentor of Spurs, made the most of a Tom Huddlestone error to feed Theo Walcott with the kind of pass forwards dream of. The through ball delivered by the Spaniard left Michael Dawson in the dust and Walcott did the rest with a burst of speed and a deft right foot finish.
The frantic tempo of the game didn’t subside and within three minutes Spurs had wiped out the Arsenal advantage through a delicious long, looping pass from Vedran Corluka which Rafael Van der Vaart controlled magnificently and hammered beyond Wojciech Szczesny to level things up.
Arsenal didn’t take kindly to this affront from their local neighbours and once again showed the undeniable quality they do possess, but often, frustratingly fail to impose. Samir Nasri was left unchecked and this flaw in the Tottenham defence was punished as the Frenchman made Gomes look ordinary as he beat him low to his right.
Theo Walcott had a chance to increase the lead to two but his low daisy cutting drive took the lightest of deflections of the right hand of Gomes to slide wide of the right hand post.
Walcott’s influence on the game stretched to more than just scoring the goals. With a terrific chipped cross on the byline, Walcott crafted a goal for Robin Van Persie which made the scoreline 3-1 and the stadium couldn’t catch breath with the blistering display playing out in front of them.
Credit to Tottenham for exhibiting the tenacity required to keep this close and once again Harry Redknapp’s side bounced back through a Tom Huddlestone goal which atoned for his earlier error. A header from Peter Crouch was poorly cleared by Fabregas and Huddlestone smashed the ball back into the danger area leaving Szczesny a forest of legs to look through as he tried in vain to deal with the shot.
As the half drew to a close, it could have been all square when Luca Modric's run was halted by Johan Djourou. Martin Atkinson said no and and it would have been harsh to have given it.
The second half didn't slow down and there were chances aplenty as both sides continued hell for leather. Van Der Vaart had a chance for a second but it wasn't until substitute Aaron Lennon speed beat Szczesny and the Polish 'keeper brought down the winger to give Spurs the chance to level it up once more.
Van Der Vaart stepped up with confidence and hammered the ball in to give Spurs a way back and deal another blow to Arsenal.
Tottenham had more chances to take the lead with Modric forcing a brilliant save from Szczesny and Peter Crouch heading over the bar. Neither side was willing to give an inch as both were fighting to hold supremacy in their patch.
The game will be remembered for many years as the goals, commitment and sheer entertainment were something not likely to be seen anytime soon. But the truth remains that both sides needed to win this encounter and because they failed to do this, both Manchester sides would have been very pleased with the result.