Sunday, February 8, 2009

Match of The Day: Spurs Frustrated by a Resilliant Arsenal in Derby Draw.

Tottenham Hotspur and 10-man Arsenal played out a draw at White Hart Lane today as both sides claimed equal points in a game that neither could afford to lose.

Spurs dominated possession throughout the match, but a resilient Arsenal were more than equal in a second half that saw both teams go close to nicking a winner.

The game started at a frantic pace with Spurs forcing a corner right from the off, which Arsenal dealt with easily. The clearance was picked up by Luka Modric who played in Robbie Keane—making his second debut for Spurs—but in trying to clear the ball William Gallas clumsily kicked Keane. It would have been a harsh decision to have awarded a foul but the warning signs were there.

Spurs settled the quicker and Aaron Lennon carved out the first real chance of the game, cutting inside Clichy a sudden burst of pace took him away from the Frenchman and into the box, but his shot was easily dealt with by Manuel Almunia in the Arsenal goal.

With Jermaine Jenas back in the starting line up for the first time since December Arsenal found it difficult to find space in central midfield, and Emmanuel Eboue provided most of their early threats. He found the net on 13 minutes, but his effort was overruled correctly as referee Mike Dean judged that Adebayor had impeded Jonathan Woodgate.

Arsenal were looking fragile at the back and every one of Spurs' set pieces looked like they were causing havoc in the penalty area. Sagna gave away a silly free kick on the right and instead of just accepting the decision and moving away Eboue chose to argue it out with Mike Dean, who sent the Arsenal man away three times, the end result being a needless yellow card for the Arsenal man.

The ball was eventually cleared out to Vedran Corluka and after a persistent run his through ball found an on rushing Luka Modric, but Gael Clichy's full stretch slide tackle nicked the ball off the toe of the Spurs playmaker as he was clear on goal.

Modric, who was relishing his role on the left hand side of midfield, produced the first half's best moment when he turned on a six pence leaving Adebayor stranded and then fired a low shot from the edge of the box that Almunia did well to tip behind.

Although the game was being dominated by Spurs Vedran Corluka's lack of concentration almost gifted Arsenal the opening goal. Looking to run the ball out for a kick out Samir Nasri nipped in to flick the ball to Clichy whose low cross had the Spurs defence scrambling in all directions, Jonathan Woodgate eventually showing a cool head to clear.

And as the half wore on Arsenal's physio room took another prisoner as Emmanuel Adebayor pulled up with a torn hamstring. As Arsenal played with 10 men Eboue and Modric clashed in a somewhat innocuous tackle. Eboue reacted angrily and tripped Modric off the ball and both sets of players called for the referee to award yellow cards to the opposition player.

And in a confusing decision he did just that, Modric receiving yellow and Eboue taking his second yellow and with it his marching orders, his earlier indiscretion coming back to haunt him.

As a result, Eboue become the 76th player to be sent off during Arsene Wenger's reign as Arsenal manager.

Wilson Palacios was outstanding for Spurs in the first half, his tracking, tackling, passing, and shooting set a high level for the rest of his team-mates to follow—and on this display he looked every inch a £14m player.

A nightmare first half for Arsenal where they lost Adebayor and had Eboue sent off ended with the scores level and Arsene Wenger would have to be at his mercurial best to stem the tide of Tottenham's constant attacks and he would have to do some serious re-shuffling.

Harry Redknapp on the other hand would have been very happy, the first half performance was easily Spurs' best of the season and he would be keen to make sure that Spurs did not allow their performance to drop.

Spurs have conceded five goals in the last five minutes of their last four games and Harry Redknapp would have drilled the need for concentration into his team as they took to the pitch for the second half. Wenger made no changes, perhaps being a little hamstrung by the fact that Bendtner only took to the pitch a minute before Eboue was sent off.

The second half started in the same vein as the first, with Spurs on the attack. And they really should have taken the lead when Roman Pavlyuchenko wrong footed Kolo Toure to find himself with only Almunia to beat, but his shot went high and wide as Arsenal fans breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Spurs continued to dominate with Aaron Lennon creating all their best chances—he played in Corluka who shot at Almunia from the edge of the box and then picked out Robbie Keane with a superb cross that the new Spurs captain narrowly headed over with Almunia well beaten.

Even though they were on the back foot for most of the game Arsenal still attacked when they could and it was only a brilliant intervention by Woodgate, intercepting Bendtner's superb lofted pass, that denied van Persie a certain goal. Then moments later Alex Song saw his header glide past the post after he was left unmarked from a corner.

At the other end a Robbie Keane pass split the Arsenal defence in two and the alert Manuel Almunia dived at Luka Modric's feet to keep Arsenal in the game. Modric then turned provider for Keane, whose 20-yard volley went inches wide with Almunia well beaten yet again.

The game moved into the final 10 minutes on a knife edge. Both sides looked like they could nick a victory as the extra man began to take it's toll on Arsenal's tired legs. With Spurs in the ascendancy Clichy and Bent clashed heads after a cross, the Arsenal man coming off worst with a nasty concussion and a large cut.

In injury time Bendtner was played in by van Persie but Cudicini was equal to the Dane's powerful effort. Cudicini collected from the corner and quickly set up a Spurs attack that saw them outnumber Arsenal four to three. Taarabt played in Modric who only had Almunia to beat, but the Spaniard pulled off another brave save to deny the Spurs man.

It was the last clear chance of the game and Spurs would look back on three points lost, they have not beaten Arsenal since 1999 and they might never get a better chance to do so.

Both managers would have been extremely happy with their teams performances and even though Harry Redknapp may be disappointed with not taking full points against Spurs' fiercest rivals his side have taken a massive step in terms of performance and his new look side should easily pull away from the relegation zone.

Wenger will be happy with his teams work rate and the much maligned Nicklas Bendtner put in his best performance of the season. He always provided an out ball for his under pressure defence and his hold up play was the main reason for the second half being so equal.

All in all a draw was a fair result.


Cudicini (7), Corluka (6), Dawson (7), Woodgate (7), Assou-Ekotto (7), Lennon (7), Jenas (6), Palacios (8), Modric (7), Pavlyuchenko (6), Keane (7).

Subs: Gomes, Bale, Zokora, Huddlestone, Bent (5), Taarabt (6), Chimbonda (4).

Arsenal: Almunia (8), Sagna (6), Toure (6), Gallas (7), Clichy (6), Eboue (s/o), Song Billong (6), Denilson (6), Nasri (7), Adebayor (5), Van Persie (6).

Subs: Fabianski, Eduardo, Ramsey, Djourou, Arshavin, Bendtner (7), Gibbs (5).

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