Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Arsenal
It was another Mourinho masterclass. Arsenal had enough of the ball to have dribbled and passed their way to the Emirates and back, via Finsbury Park and the Blackstock, but ultimately it was ruthless Spurs who recorded their seventh league success of the campaign, carrying them back to the Premier League’s summit much to the delight of the lucky 2,000 fans admitted following the lifting of lockdown restrictions.
Many Arsenal followers will question how they have come away from N17 empty-handed, but despite enjoying two-thirds of possession, they barely laid a glove on Mourinho’s charges.
Indeed, it was all over before the interval. Heung-Min Son beating Bernd Leno with a delightful, curling effort from 25-yards after Harry Kane had sent him scurrying away.
Then the exciting South Korean returned the compliment. The 28-year-old’s reverse pass allowing Kane to ram high beyond Leno in first-half stoppage-time – there was no way back for the Lillywhites floundering rivals as the England skipper became the leading goalscorer in the history of the North London derby with his 250th strike for club and country.
Arsenal remained neat and tidy after the restart, but the Lilywhites – resiliently marshalled by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – never looked troubled. “Pierre is very intelligent, he reads the game very well, he understands the game very well,” Mourinho enthused.
“He is going to be a coach one day, for sure. He is a pain, always asking questions why we do this and that.
“On the pitch, he reads the situation very, very well and the people that surround him they are really compact and they read the game. Physically he is very strong and technically he is much better than people think”
The Spurs chief was clearly happy with his lot: “For me, the performance was very good against a team that is probably going to be criticised because their points and their position in the table are not good, but I have to say a very good team,” he added.
“A very good coach and a team with different ways to play. A team that is able to change during the game – a team that is able to build with four or five, with a centre-back or a midfield player dropping, a team with a lot of work.
“So it was a very complex game for us. In the first half, of course, we put ourselves in a position of good advantage. In the second half, we accept what they did to us.
“When they dropped Xhaka to build with a third man we could press, but to go and press with one more man we would open spaces in other areas. Why should we do that?
“So have the ball, try to hurt us but it’s going to be difficult for you because we defended very well. Great performances individually and great mentality, great effort and so happy with the players.”
On Thursday, December 10, Spurs play their final UEFA Europa League Group J fixture when face Royal Antwerp visit N17 (8pm). The Llywhites then head across the capital to Selhurst Park on Sunday, December 13 to face Crystal Palace in the Premier League (2:15pm).
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris (Capt), Aurier, Alderweireld, Dier, Reguilon, Hojbjerg, Sissoko, Lo Celso (Davies 71’), Bergwijn (Rodon 90+1’), Son (Lucas 88’), Kane Subs not used: Hart, Winks, Bale, Vinicius.
Arsenal: Leno, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney, Bellerin (Nketiah 75’), Partey (Ceballos 45+2’), Xhaka, Saka, Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang (Capt) Subs not used: Runarsson, Mustafi, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Willock.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistants: Adam Nunn and Constantine Hatzidakis
Fourth Official: Andre Marriner
VAR: Kevin Friend
Assistant VAR: Mark Scholes