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Paul Chronnell at Emirates Stadium
Saturday, November 17, 2012
Premier League: Arsenal 5 Spurs 2
Arsenal recorded a second successive 5-2 win over bitter north London rivals Spurs, but there was only one name on the lips of everyone at the Emirates after the game – Emmanuel Adebayor.
The former Arsenal striker had seemed destined for a day to remember after firing Spurs into a 10th-minute lead at the Emirates, but was then sent off just 17 minutes later for a wild hack at Santi Cazorla.
It left his team-mates to play for more than three-quarters of the game with 10 men, and it was a task that emphatically proved beyond them.
Goals from Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud saw the Gunners lead 3-1 at the break, Santi Cazorla extended it to four on the hour-mark and Theo Walcott made it five just before the end.
Gareth Bale, who had a quite superb game, pulled one back for Spurs as they saved pride late on, and indeed there was no disgrace in defeat for the 10 players who remained on the pitch.
Adebayor’s moment of madness had cost them dearly, and while a 1-0 lead after 10 minutes was no guarantee of victory – especially bearing in mind last season’s derby when a 2-0 lead ended in a 5-2 defeat, there was no doubt the sending-off had on the outcome.
The game as an even spectacle was irrevocably altered, which was a shame because these were two closely-matched sides going into the game, despite both arriving with patchy league form in recent weeks.
Both managers had big decisions to make before the kick-off, with Arsene Wenger deciding to recall a fit-again Wojciech Szczesny in place of Vito Mannone in goal, while Jack Wilshere returned from suspension to the centre of midfield.
However, it was Andre Villas-Boas who played the bolder hand, deciding not only to change his goalkeeper with Hugo Lloris replacing Brad Friedel, but also playing former Gunner Adebayor and Jermain Defoe in a 4-4-2 formation the Portuguese head coach does not usually favour.
However it was another ex-Arsenal man, William Gallas, who looked like he had struck the first blow of this derby when he reacted first to Tom Huddlestone’s blocked shot and slammed the rebound into the net after eight minutes only for an offside flag to cut short his celebrations.
The visiting supporters did not have to wait long to celebrate a real goal, as they scored from their next attack on 10 minutes. Jan Vertonghen’s precise long pass picked out Defoe, who accelerated beyond a ponderous Mertesacker only to see his shot saved by Szczesny who palmed the ball into the path of the onrushing Adebayor to score from close range.
Arsenal were nervous and Spurs looked to take full advantage with Aaron Lennon coming within a whisker of doubling the lead but fizzing his shot just past the far post after another slick move.
Then came the moment that was to change the game on 17 minutes, and one that pretty much summed up the turbulent career of Adebayor.
The Togolese striker had made his name at the Emirates and once been a favourite with Arsenal fans, but has long since blotted his copybook following his infamous goal celebration shortly after his move to Manchester City in 2009.
Still fired up from his goal and then a mild altercation with Wilshere, Adebayor charged into a reckless late, high challenge on Cazorla, catching the Spaniard on the ankle.
Howard Webb checked how the the Arsenal midfielder was and took his time, but there was a sense of inevitability about the red card that followed and the long, noisy walk to the players’ tunnel for Adebayor.
He may have given his side the lead, but leaving them to play 73 minutes of a north London derby with 10 men was foolishness in the extreme. It was not long before Arsenal made him pay, and were level.
The Gunners had been pressing since the red card when, after a corner was only partially cleared, Walcott found some space on the right flank and centred for Mertesacker, who had stayed upfield, to climb highest and send a towering header past Lloris for his first Arsenal goal.
Tottenham, who had naturally reverted to a 4-4-1 formation after the red card, were on the back foot now. They could have been behind but for Lloris, who made a superb one-handed save to tip over a header from Giroud.
The French keeper denied his international team-mate again on 40 minutes, but Arsenal were camped in the Spurs half now and three minutes before the break the Gunners were in front.
Mikel Arteta attempted to exchange passes with Giroud on the edge of the box, but the ball fell to Podolski who evaded the close attentions of Gallas to squeeze a shot past Lloris and into the far corner.
Spurs were desperate for the half-time whistle, but before it arrived the visitors were further behind. Referee Webb played a superb advantage when it appeared Cazorla had been fouled, but the Spaniard stayed on his feet, and centred for Giroud to glide in between Vertonghen and Gallas and clip a low finish past Lloris. Cue pandemonium at the Emirates.
Villas-Boas knew he had to do something at the break, and he acted – removing his full-backs Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton and bringing on Clint Dempsey and Michael Dawson, and playing three at the back.
Dawson’s first act was to clatter into Walcott by the touchline, a fair challenge but one that left the Arsenal man clutching his shoulder in pain.
The reshaped Spurs had started the half positively, with Dempsey adding extra presence up front and Bale looking a threat whenever he could get possession.
But the visitors were a man short, and when they lost the ball it told. On the hour mark Arsenal extended their advantage when a sweeping move ended with Cazorla converting Podolski’s cross from the left flank.
Cazorla was orchestrating the game from the centre of the park now, and how Spurs fans must have wondered back to the two midfield creators they lost in the summer, Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart. Sandro and Huddlestone looked a sluggish combination in the centre up against Arsenal’s fleet-footed movement, even if they were at a numerical disadvantage.
The same could not be said of Bale, who was simply superb in adversity. On 70 minutes the Welshman picked up a loose ball, and with Arsenal defenders backing off, unleashed a ferocious drive past Szczesny into the bottom corner. What price a comeback?
With Wenger furiously prompting from the bench, Arsenal played the possession game instead, and fashioned two superb chances for Walcott.
The England man spurned both, however, showing too much of the ball to Lloris on both occasions and allowing the French keeper to deny him.
Arsenal fans were by now willing their side to force a repeat of February’s 5-2 thumping, and with Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on for a tiring Wilshere and Podolski that suddenly did look likely.
There were still nervy moments for the home side though, notably when Bale or Lennon got the ball out wide, but the clock ticked down on any thoughts of another famous 4-4 scoreline.
Ultimately Arsenal fans got their wish, with Oxlade-Chamberlain scampering down the flank and squaring for Walcott to net the fifth.
Arsenal hold the bragging rights in north London again and will enjoy their Saturday evening. Spurs fans will not and will curse their former Arsenal striker Adebayor long into the night.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Arteta, Walcott,a Wilshere (Ramsey, 70), Cazorla, Podolski (Andre Santos, 79), Giroud (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 86).
Subs not used: Mannone, Jenkinson, Coquelin, Arshavin,
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker (Dawson, h-t), Gallas, Vertonghen, Naughton (Dempsey h-t), Lennon, Sandro, Huddlestone (Carroll, 72), Bale, Adebayor, Defoe.
Booked: Lennon, Sandro.
Sent off: Adebayor
Subs not used: Friedel, Livermore, Sigurdsson, Townsend.
Referee: Howard Webb