Spurs win last-ever North London derby at raucous White Hart Lane
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Tottenham Hotspur won the last ever North London derby to be played at the current White Hart Lane 2-0 after eclipsing bitter rivals Arsenal.
A passionate game played in a raucous atmosphere throughout saw Arsene Wenger’s team withstand long spells of Spurs pressure in the first 45 minutes.
But the match was decided in the space in a matter of minutes after the break as goals from an impressive Dele Alli on 54 minutes saw three quarters of the stadium erupt with joy.
The noise had barely died down before the home team went 2-0 up through a penalty from Harry Kane after Gabriel had felled him moments later.
In truth the victory was fully deserved as Spurs outplayed Wenger’s men and could have had a clutch more if it hadn’t been for the reflexes of Petr Cech.
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Wenger opted for a back three again this afternoon in the white heat of White Hart Lane with Nacho Monreal playing to the left of Laurent Koscielny - who was passed fit to play after his manager estimated on Friday morning him to be 60/40.
Kieran Gibbs played as left-wing back as Theo Walcott drops to the bench for Olivier Giroud
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Kieran Trippier replaced right back Kyle Walker and Heung-Ming Son came in for Mousa Dembele
At kick off Spurs were unbeaten in five league encounters with Arsenal – won one, drawn four – but they had never achieved six without defeat against the Gunners in the Premier League era.
Pochettino’s team started the game unbeaten at home in their last 15 matches, as well as winning eight on the trot home and away prior to today. But with Chelsea winning emphatically against Everton to extend their lead to seven points the pressure was on the home side to keep their faint title hopes alive.
That would have been reason enough for the incredible noise inside this soon to be lost ground – but the fact it was the last-ever North London derby at the current White Hart Lane only added to the maelstrom.
For White Hart Lane is a stadium that can be as raucous as any in European football on its day – and it’s had a few of those in its grand old history.
With home fans - and for that matter anyone who cares for traditional atmospheric English football grounds at their best – preparing to say goodbye to one of the grand old sporting amphitheatres in the land it was fever pitch between these two bitter rivals at the start.
Arsenal fans in their own way have enjoyed some great days out at the Lane too, with their club winning two league titles here, in, as the song goes, ‘71 and 2004.”
Even if there have been far too many violent incidents over the years outside the away end in those fractious minutes before kick off – and after the game – for any Gooners to show sympathy at Spurs fans loss of this evocative ground. .
There have been too many cracking games between these two North London giants to mention over the years. Wenger himself half-joked on Friday he could write a book just about his matches with Spurs.
Would this be another to add to the annals? We were to find out as the atmosphere simply crackled at kick off. ,
Dele Alli – fresh from having been named the PFAs Young Player of the Year for the second successive season – joined such Spurs luminaries as Glenn Hoddle, Gareth Bale and Harry Kane in picking up the well-respected trophy.
It was easy to see why in the opening stages.
Kane had a low shot in the opening seconds that Petr Cech blocked then gathered as noise levels reached a frenzy roar.
Toby Alderweireld headed wide on seven minutes from a Christian Eriksen corner as the home side pressured Arsenal in the early stages.
Arsenal rode the early storm both on and off the pitch as they tried to gain a foothold into the game. It was instructive to watch left-wing back Gibbs pressure right back Trippier high up the pitch - as he linked well with the always-lively Alexis Sanchez.
On 22 minutes Alli gave the visitors a huge let off as his header from inches out went wide, following a deep cross from Kane. What was impressive was Kane’s persistence in crossing the ball after a poor first touch took him too wide for a viable shot himself - after being sent through by the ever-impressive Eriksen pulling the strings in the centre.
Moments later Eriksen clipped the bar after a good demonstration of Spurs pressing game after they won the ball back from an Arsenal attack deep in the home team’s half.
Son worked the ball forward and crossed to the 25-year-old Dane who was mightily unlucky with his effort – even if his superb technique in arrowing the ball towards Cech’s woodwork as top notch.
The momentum was all Spurs as Arsenal had to dig deep and show bravery and character – not to mention organisational skills in keeping their shape against a rampant Spurs team.
After a series of niggling challenges the game settled down and Arsenal looked to push forward.
It was instructive to see Wenger leap out of his seat in and berate Monreal after he was forced into playing the ball back to Cech from near the halfway line. ‘Get it forward’ was the gist of the Frenchman’s fury.
With seven minutes to half time Aaron Ramsey fired off a low right footed curler that Spurs captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris tipped past the post. When in attack the wing-back system Wenger employs certainly allows space for an extra man to supplement any offensive plays.
Of course it only works when faced with a team of Spurs calibre if both wing-backs work like dervishes defensively. Which is why it was good to see Oxlade-Chamberlain putting in such a shift along his flank in breaking up Spurs forays.
Right on half time Cech showed strong hands in pushing the ball to safety after a low right footed curler from Vertonghen as referee Michael Oliver – who managed the game in a sensible low key fashion - blew for 0-0 at the break in a captivating, passionate and absorbing match.
Three minutes into the second half Cech showed good reactions by tipping over a right-footed curler from Victor Wanyama from the edge of the area that was heading for his top left hand corner. Cech showed doubters he is still a keeper to be reckoned with as he comfortably stopped a thudding Kane efforts 180 seconds later.
Yet the game was transformed by two goals in a matter of minutes as Spurs took control.
First Alli slotted home by following up an Eriksen shot that Cech could only parry into his path to make it 1-0 on 53 minutes – sending the home crowd and players into raptures.
Before the delirium had time to die down Pochettino’s men were 2-0 up.
As Kane drove into the box Gabriel felled him leaving Oliver with no choice but to award a penalty.
Kane stepped up to the spot and slotted home with aplomb, sending the ball nestling into the far right of Cech’s goal – with the keeper rooted to the spot.
As three quarters of the ground pleaded with Arsene Wenger to stay banners were raised among the home support that simply read: ‘St Totteringham’s Day – cancelled.’
The left hand of Cech was the only thing between Arsenal and a rout as he tipped over a Vertonghen shot heading for the top corner. Ref Oliver then chose not to award a cast-iron penalty after the ball hit Sanchez’s raised arm after pressure from Son.
The match petered even if the atmosphere remained fervent through to the final whistle after that earthquake, as Spurs deservedly won the game.
But the aftershocks – for both clubs – will surely continue for the rest of the season, and beyond.
Lloris, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Son (Dembele), Kane, Wanyama, Dier, Trippier (Walker), Alli (Sissoko), Eriksen, Davies.
Cech, Gibbs, Gabriel (Bellerin), Koscielny, Sanchez, Ramsey, Ozil, Giroud (Walcott), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Monreal, Xhaka (Welbeck)
Referee: Michael Oliver