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Arsenal 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
The mental torment of a short trip down the road continues to haunt Tottenham Hotspur.
With results largely going their way, the stars were in line for the Lilywhites to brush aside their bitter and largely inconsistent local rivals aside and make inroad towards a top-four finish.
But once again, the task proved beyond them. Make no mistake, Arsenal – in tenth place before, and indeed after the match – thoroughly deserved their victory.
They looked the more likely before Erik Lamela’s special ‘rabona’ finish to hand Spurs the lead, and despite hitting the woodwork twice through Emile Smith Rowe and Cedric Soares, the Gunners restored parity on the stroke of the interval when Martin Odegaard’s strike nicked off Toby Alderweireld to wrong-foot Hugo Lloris, this after the impressive Kieran Tierney had fashioned an opening from the right.
Lamela blotted his copybook – receiving a second yellow card after Tierney had received a forearm to the face. Davinson Sanchez also failed to cover himself in glory – going in clumsy on Alexandre Lacazette who dispatched the resulting spot-kick.
It simply wasn’t Tottenham’s day. Earlier, Heung-Min Son had departed with what appeared to be a hamstring injury, while Harry Kane saw a header ruled out for off-side, then clattered the foot of an upright as the visitors stepped up their attempts to salvage something from the contest.
Jose Mourinho offered a reasoned response: “Very, very poor first half,” the Portuguese chief explained.
The only two things that were positive in the first half were an amazing goal and the result. The result because 1-1 was not a fair reflection of that first half where they dominated us.
“We didn’t have the defensive intensity to press and to run, to be really aggressive and to win duels and second balls. We didn’t have any of that.”
Mourinho added: “We also didn’t have the intensity to play. Everybody was dropping back to have the ball at their feet and nobody was attacking the gap, apart from Lucas with some individual actions, we were not like that.
“For me, the first half is easy to analyse. I believe that it’s not just your opinion. It will be the opinion of every one of you and everyone that watched the game and for me, feeling the game on the touchline, it’s even easier to feel it in the first half. We were very poor.”
Tottenham Hotspur now heads to the Stadion Maksimir to face Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday, March 18, in the second-leg of their UEFA Europa League Round of Sixteen tie (5:55pm). The Lilywhites return to Premier League action on Sunday 21 when they travel to Villa Park to face Aston Villa (7:15pm).
Arsenal: Leno, Cedric, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney, Xhaka, Partey, Saka (Pepe 46’), Odegaard, Smith Rowe (Willian 78’), Lacazette (Capt) (Elneny 88’) Subs not used: Ryan, Bellerin, Chambers, Holding, Ceballos, Aubameyang.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris (Capt), Doherty, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Reguilon, Højbjerg, Ndombele (Dele 62’), Lucas, Bale (Sissoko 57’), Son (Lamela 19’), Kane Subs not used: Hart, Aurier, Dier, Davies, Winks, Vinicius.
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: Stuart Burt and Simon Bennett
Fourth Official: Kevin Friend
VAR: Paul Tierney
Assistant VAR: Lee Betts