Well, as North London Derby’s go, it didn’t hit the heights but it had incidents by the truckload. A penalty that had Harry “truffle-sniffer” Kane, half a yard offside and a dubious sending off in accordance with the interpretation of the law. Then there were the feisty tackles, the glaring misses from Lacazette, the heroic double save from Leno and the soft penalty of Aubameyang.
It wasn’t what fans had hoped for but as entertainment goes, it had enough of everything to keep the conversation going for several hours after the match. In reality, the score could have been a lot higher and Arsenal narrowly missed the opportunity to run off with the points at the death but let’s go back to the beginning.
It all got very tasty early on and the appetite for a goal was nearly realised within 3 minutes. Iwobi zipped in from the left, lofting the ball over the heads of the defenders.
It dropped perfectly to Lacazette, who spanked his volley wide and the subsequent ‘oooh’ of that miss, could be heard three miles away.
If ever a ball deserved a solid finish, it was this one and Lacazette will have night terrors about this until the end of the season, especially if Arsenal fail to take fourth spot by 2 points. Spurs then had to settle the nerves for a while and the game became patchy and edgy, with plenty of probing and prodding but no end product.
Then Harry Kane, the FA’s bastard offspring, who is above any form of prosecution, cantered forward only to be scythed down from Granit Xhaka, which raised mass smiles, applause and cheers. After 16 minutes, Wembley veteran Aaron Ramsey, in his beloved second home, picked up the ball after Sanchez made a hash of cutting it out. The Welshman raced off, like a thief after a bag snatch, rounded the keeper and the game was up and running.
Spurs withdrew back into their shell, well, they have to have somewhere to live. Subsequently, they resorted to long balls forward for Son and the truffle-sniffer, which Arsenal were comfortable with. At this stage, I thought to myself, I hope they have a plan B, because plan A is just a case of hoof it and hope for the best.
Then Arsenal fans hearts skipped, a beat as Trippier, who scored an excellent own goal during the week, provided Kane with an inch-perfect cross, which he parked firmly on his head and into the Arsenal net. The verdict was offside, he set off fractionally too early to the relief of Arsenal fans. Then Mustafi and Rose got into a match long scrap, each looking to brutalise the other as the opportunity came about.
Spurs looked lost at this point and you sensed that if this carried on for long enough, the Gunners would capitalise on the slackness, lack of confidence and fatigue that was obvious. After 41 minutes Iwobi on the left had Trippier chasing his shadow and released an awkward curler which Loris scrambled to clear.
Three minutes after that, Leno pulled off a magnificent double save from Erickson and then Sissoko. The Arsenal shot-stopper got a leg to the first effort and his left hand to the follow-up. Once the backline is sorted, Leno provides the perfect last line of defence and will make a massive contribution in the coming seasons.
It all then got slightly bitty until Eriksen put a ball across for Kane who was half a yard offside, Mustafi used a shoulder and Spurs were awarded a penalty which Kane confidently thundered the ball into the net. Then in the 90th minute, Mkhitaryan again found the perfect ball for Aubameyang, who set off like an express train down the right side, only to be caught by Sanchez for a penalty. It was a slightly soft penalty’s but it more than made up for the Truffle-sniffers penalty.
You would have put your life savings on Arsenal’s top scorer finding the net. Strangely, he looked overwhelmed by the opportunity and as the whistle blew, the Gabonese hot shot reduced the power of his delivery and gave no thought to its direction and Loris pushed it away. Aubameyang tried to turn it in from a yard and a half out, only for Vertonghen to somehow clear the danger.
Was there encroachment from the Spurs player? Yes, but this is the type of decision that goes their way on a weekly basis, so Arsenal can’t complain, it’s expected. If that wasn’t drama enough, well into extra time, Torreira attempted to pinch the ball from Rose but in the process showed his studs on the follow through. It looked a legitimate challenge with no harmful intent and he made contact with the ball but out came the red card. If this decision isn’t subject to a strong appeal, I’ll be amazed.
This was a game that neither could convincingly say they deserved to win. Both sides had excellent spells but they didn’t have enough to justify either being the clear winner. Manchester United’s win over Southampton now raises the stakes considerably for their clash at the Emirates on Sunday. United are 1 point in front of the Gunners and the winner of this contest is in a strong position to claim that vital champions league qualification place.
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