LONDON: Arsenal patched up their battered pride by hitting back from two goals down to beat Tottenham 5-2 in yet another dramatic north London derby. The margin of victory was significant because Arsenal thus edged back up into fourth place ahead of Chelsea on goals scored.
Spurs remain third but the manner of their defeat – the points thrown away by sloppy covering and defending – will encourage all their remaining opponents to consider them as fragile.
This was Arsenal’s first league victory over Spurs in five meetings and avenged a number of recent duels in which Tottenham have staged remarkable recoveries.
Arsenal’s mood was helped ahead of game by captain and top scorer Robin Van Persie’s assurance that he had suspended talks on an extension to his contract which expires next year only to focus on his football – “on captaining this team, improving every day, doing extra work on the training pitch and preparing for the very busy schedule of fixtures we have . . . this is a time to play football and not speak about personal things.”
That ‘playing’ includes facing Liverpool next weekend before then hosting AC Milan in the second leg of their Champions League second round. Manager Arsene Wenger’s men will be attempting to overturn a four-goal deficit and none of the fans in north London today will now consider that totally beyond them.
Not that the match appeared to be heading that way. In only the fourth minute a shot from January signing Louis Saha clipped the heels of Laurent Koscielny and spun into the net. Then, when Gareth Bale was pushed down by Kieran Gibbs, Emmanuel Adebayor converted the penalty against his original English club.
The Togo striker, on loan from Manchester City, became only the second player to have scored for both clubs in the north London derby [The other, in the 1960s, was Scotland winger Jimmy Robertson]
Remarkably, however, Arsenal hit back superbly to lead 3-2 a mere five minutes into the second half.
In the last five before the interval Van Persie hit the post before Bacary Sagna headed home Gibbs’s left-wing cross then the Dutchman curled in his 23rd league goal of term. Five minutes after the restart and Sanga set up Tomas Rosicky for his first league goals in two years.
Now it was the turn of Spurs to chase the game and be caught on the counter-attack by Theo Walcott twice in three minutes. In the 65th minute Walcott – a target of derision for his own fans in the first half – struck his first home league goal since December 2010 and then he added another to give Arsenal a 5-2 lead and the advantage over Chelsea.
Even worse, Spurs’ England midfielder Scott Parker was sent off for a second yellow card in the closing minutes and will thus miss next Sunday’s home match against . . . Manchester United.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s remain within two points of leaders Manchester City after winning 2-1 at Norwich. Their hero – yet again – was Ryan Giggs who marked his remarkable 900th game for Manchester United with the late goal which was not only his 163rd for the club but the match-winner. Fellow veteran Paul Scholes had scored their early first, his second in six league appearances since he return from retirement in January. Norwich thought they had snatched a point when Grant Holt scored what proved only a brief equaliser in the 86th minute.
Stoke beat Swansea 2-0 with first-half goals from Matthew Upson (25) and Peter Crouch (39). Manager Tony Pulis had underlined his priorities by making 11 changes from the weakened side knocked out of the Europa League in midweek in Valencia.
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