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Match Report: Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 Arsenal

Monday 7th March 2016
The early kick on Saturday off saw a North London derby with more at stake than the usual temporary bragging rights. In the short term there was the matter of second place in the Premier League table at stake. In the longer term, a win for Spurs' could give them encouragement in their quest to topple Arsenal as the primary club in the North of the capital, where the power balance has been as uneasy as ever of late.

This game began as tensely and frantically as expected. Both sides struggled to retain possession in the opening exchanges. Tottenham, in particular, had great success in nicking the ball off Arsenal toes in their own half, with the intensity of the home side pinning the visitors in for much of the opening period, without them really displaying any scoring threat. Arsenal in that time failed to threaten with any regularity, and Danny Welbeck's searing pace in behind stood as their only effective weapon. The England striker narrowly failed to latch onto hopeful balls forward twice, with Vertonghen, and the fleet-footed Lloris taking turns to snuff out the danger for the home side.

Tottenham's dominance was only rewarded in terms of free-kicks, and Eriksen's usually precise delivery was found lacking. From three dangerous positions in the opposing third, he placed one in the midriff of the defensive wall and two more into the welcoming arms of Ospina in the Arsenal goal. The first chance of any real significance fell to Erik Lamela, as he slung a limb at Kyle Walker's vicious cross, only for Ospina to palm it wide of the post. That level of pressure on Arsenal's defence continued, with Francis Coquelin feeling obliged to stop one Tottenham foray by falling hands-first on the ball, and receiving a yellow card from Michael Oliver for his troubles.

Having weathered some early assaults, Arsenal played their way into the game as the half wore on, and they rather rapidly found reward. A throw-in down their left-hand flank was flicked behind Spurs' backline, and Welbeck, their only dangerous player to this point, tore into space before sliding a ball the width of the area to the onrushing Bellerin, who calmly squared to Aaron Ramsey. Finding himself in space and with Lloris in his sights, a delicate stroke of his right foot sent a lofting flick over the helpless Frenchman and into the corner of the net. Ramsey's unlikely goal seemed to spark his side into action, and a flurry of spurned chances could have seen his side pull further in front as the break approached.

Having established a lead against the run of the first forty-five's play, Arsenal assumed a defensive shape when they reemerged for the second, looking to absorb pressure before breaking with the pace of Welbeck and Sanchez. The stability of their collective set-up was soon shattered by individual misjudgment. Coquelin, already in Oliver's book following his first-half misdemeanor, lunged at the feet of Kane near the touchline, narrowly missing the ball and sending the Spurs man looping over his outstretched legs. The referee was left with little choice and Spurs were given fresh impetus.

In a matter of moments, Coquelin's error had undone Arsenal's efforts. Alli, in an abortive attempt at repeating his swivel-and-volley goal from earlier in the season, earned the home side a corner kick. Having had that one defended, Spurs pushed on yet further and earned another. Eriksen found an improved set-piece delivery when it was required of him, with the ball falling to Alderweireld at the back post, on the half-volley, the centre-half showed impressive technique to send a rifled shot into the far corner.

With a newly acquired momentum and an extra man, Spurs surged into the ascendancy again. A ball from the Spurs' backline was skimmed towards Arsenal's corner flag and Per Mertesacker set off in pursuit. Deli Alli, his physicality having been troublesome throughout, appeared out of his slipstream and reached it first, imaginatively back-heeling the ball to keep it in play. Harry Kane collected and, ignoring the passing options that rushed upfield to greet him, lashed a superlative curling effort inside the far post from the most acute of angles. The masked striker wheeled into the opposite corner to a rapturous reception from his teammates. A weary Arsene Wenger placed his face deep into his hands on the away bench. It seemed like a tale all too familiar to the manager was unfolding in the Lane.

Arsenal's title challenge was teetering on the brink. Alexis Sanchez assumed responsibility for his depleted sides tilt at their leaders, but had his initial efforts snuffed out by a resolute Spurs' defence. Rain started to stream from the heavens as the game passed the seventieth minute. Kane had a chance to bury his side's rivals shortly thereafter, swivelling in the box and earning himself a yard of space, but his shot drew just wide of the post. Olivier Giroud emerged from the bench to join Welbeck in the Arsenal front line, with Sanchez joining from the left to form an attacking three as and when he could. Almost immediately after this shift, Spurs' most valuable of leads was extinguished. A rapid counter saw Sanchez slipped into space for the first time and his slightly scuffed shot skimmed and bobbled into the left-hand corner, it's bounce taking it just out of the range where Lloris could have landed a useful blow on it.

In the game's closing scene both sides of the rivalry had chances to seize a victory. Eriksen had a shot palmed over and Sanchez saw a free-kick from range forced wide. Gabriel nervily sent a clearance looping onto the roof of his own net, and Aaron Ramsey saw his burst into the opposition area ended by a potentially game-saving lunge from Wimmer. In the end of a pulsating encounter in North London, the sides shared the spoils at 2-2. Spurs' will have been disappointed to fail to win from their commanding second half position, while Arsenal will perhaps be relieved to have come away with a face-saving point. Both sides title challenges splutter onward, with league leaders Leicester having an opportunity to stretch their advantage at the top yet further in their evening-time encounter with Watford.


David Irwin

21 year old student living in Dublin, Ireland. Liverpool fan from birth and Bohemians fan through geography.

Total articles: 5

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