Gunners withstand Spurs fightback to remain top

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal – Premier League – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – Report

Tottenham Hotspur 2-3 Arsenal

Arsenal withstood a second-half Spurs fightback to keep their Premier League title challenge alive at a raucous Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Despite topping the table, victory for the Gunners was imperative if they were to keep the pressure on champions Manchester City, who with games in hand remained man people’s favourites.

Meanwhile, Tottenham’s quest for the top four had faltered of late. Seeing their bitter rival at the summit would always stick in the throats of the Lilywhites’ support. 

Boss, Ange Postecoglou, Understood the fan’s anxiety: “Yeah, it’s fair enough. And again I’m not going to dictate to fans what they feel and how they should feel,” he explained.

“We understand the importance of the game and we understand the importance particularly at home in these kind of games against our biggest rival and in the biggest derby for us not letting our opponent get on top of us. 

“So we understand the consequences of that but ultimately it’s still about us measuring ourselves against the teams we want to be challenging on a more consistent basis. And it’s a great opportunity to do that on Sunday.”

Postecoglou made three changes to the side thrashed by four unanswered goals at Newcastle, with

Ange has made three changes with Ben Davies, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Dejan Kulusevski coming in for Destiny Udogie, Yves Bissouma and Brennan Johnson.

As ever, a white-hot atmosphere evolved and erupted. Those of a Spurs persuasion keen to see a damaging blow landed upon the Gunners title challenge. Early half-chances for Timo Werner and James Maddison came to nothing as the hosts started slightly brighter.

But Mikel Arteta’s side held their nerve through the open moments, then forged ahead just before the quarter of an hour mark. The unfortunate Hojbjerg headed firmly into his own goal following Bukayo Saka’s flag-kick.

Romero glanced wide, then nodded against an upright as Spurs responded strongly, while a lengthy VAR check resulted in Micky van de Ven’s celebrations being cut short following an off-side call.

Again, Arsenal countered with a devestating effect. Saka cut inside and doubled the Gunners’ advantage after Kai Havertz had played him in. It was slick and ruthless stuff. The home crowd were left shellshocked.

Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka celebrates scoring his side’s second goal in the North London Derby (Rob Newell CameraSport)

Incredibly, Arsenal added to their lead seven minutes before the break. Havertz exposed woeful marking to head home a Declan Rice flag-kick, sending their supporters into delirium and a sizable number of Spurs fans towards the High Road. 

Heung-min Son’s wayward effort rather summed up Tottenham’s opening half. The N17 audience let them know, in no uncertain terms, their feelings at the interval.

Takehiro Tomiyasu headed over immediately after the restart. Meanwhile, Romero did likewise for the hosts. But Tottenham’s football was now ponderous and lacked spark. Guglielmo Vicario superbly denied Saka with his feet. Nevertheless, they were handed something of a lifeline when Romero returned David Raya’s awful clearance with interest. 

With a spring in their step and the crowd back on their side, Tottenham offered a little more intent. With three minutes remaining, they were allowed to reduce the arrears further.VAR ruled Rice had kicked out at Davies. Son rifled home the resulting spot-kick. Game On!

However, Arsenal held firm under heavy late pressure to secure a victory that was somewhat more uncomfortable than perhaps it should have been.

Tottenham Hotspur return to Premier League action on Thursday, May 2, when they face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (7:30pm).

Tottenham Hotspur: Vicario, Pedro Porro, Romero, van de Ven, Davies, Hojbjerg (Bissouma 63′), Bentancur (Sarr 46′), Maddison (Richarlison 63′), Kulusevski, Son (Capt), Werner (Johnson 32′) Subs not used: Austin, Royal, Dragusin, Lo Celso, Bryan

Booked: Kulusevski (foul), David (foul)

Goals: Romero 64′, Son (penalty) 87′

Arsenal: Raya, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Tomiyasu, Rice, Partey, Odegaard (Capt) (Kiwior 89′), Saka, Trossard (Martinelli 63′), Havertz Subs not used: Ramsdale, Zinchenko, Jorginho, Vieira, Smith Rowe, Jesus, Nketiah

Booked: Partey (foul)

Goals: Hojbjerg (own-goal) 14′, Saka 27′, Havertz 38′

Referee: Michael Oliver

Assistants: Stuart Burt and Dan Cook

Fourth Official: Andy Madley

VAR: Jarred Gillett

Assistant VAR: Darren Cann

Attendance: 61,554

Brian Jeeves