Arsenal lost 2-1 at fierce local rival Tottenham on Wednesday with a performance that manager Arsene Wenger said cost his team the chance to win the Premier League title.
Debut-making teenager Danny Rose and Gareth Bale scored to give Tottenham its first league win over Arsenal in 11 years and stopped the Gunners from moving ahead of defending champion Manchester United into second place. Nicklas Bendtner scored for Arsenal with five minutes remaining but Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes made a string of world-class saves to help his team move to within a point of fourth-place Manchester City, which occupies the last of the Champions League qualifying positions.
The Gunners are third with four games remaining, six points behind leader Chelsea and two behind United, and likely to go a fifth straight season without a trophy.
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"We lost a game we couldn’t afford to lose in the title race and that showed we are not mature enough," Wenger said. "There’s too much to do. We’re very unlikely now to win the championship.
"Even a point was not enough tonight."
Tottenham’s recovery from Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal loss to Portsmouth left it five points ahead of sixth-place Liverpool and six clear of Aston Villa, which drew 2-2 with visiting Everton.
"I’ve seen the table and it’s a big, big result for us," Tottenham captain Ledley King said.
Rose, an attacking midfielder, only played 45 minutes before he was replaced by the more experienced David Bentley at halftime. But he made his time on the field count as he started Tottenham on the way to only a second Premier League win over Arsenal since Wenger became manager in 1996.
Goalkeeper Manuel Almunia punched the ball clear but the 19-year-old Rose, whose only previous start for Spurs was in the fourth round of this season’s FA Cup, met the ball about 30 meters (yards) out on the left and smashed it back over the flailing Almunia into goal.
"That can happen in a football game," Wenger said. "Where we are guilty is giving away the second goal."
Bendtner, Tomas Rosicky and Gael Clichy all had chances for Arsenal before halftime but the Gunners fell further behind from almost the first attack of the second half.
Jermain Defoe held off Sol Campbell and Emmanuel Eboue to spin 30 meters (yards) from goal and slip a diagonal pass through the defense to Bale, who had drifted out of position and into the area behind substitute Mikael Silvestre.
The unmarked Bale let the perfectly weighted pass run across Silvestre and tapped it in at the far post from close range. Arsenal introduced Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie in attacking substitutions, giving Van Persie his first action after five months out injured.
The Netherlands striker immediately improved his team, drawing three one-handed saves from Gomes.
"We were not good enough with the ball in the final third and that was the story of our game today," Wenger said. "When he came on you could see he gave us something different, something special."
Former Spurs captain Campbell was jeered raucously every time he touched the ball, but his assured performance at the heart of Arsenal’s defense meant the Gunners were largely unaffected by the substitution of Thomas Vermaelen in the 18th minute with a calf strain.
He too drew a save from Gomes before Bendtner slid in to touch in Walcott’s right-wing cross.
But Tottenham held on for a first league win over Arsenal since a 2-1 at White Hart Lane in November 1999. Spurs’ only win over Arsenal in that time was a 5-1 victory at the same venue in the 2008 League Cup semifinals.
Tottenham may yet have a further effect on the outcome of the title. It hosts Chelsea on Saturday and then plays United.
"If Tottenham wants to fight for the Champions League, they have to show they can do it," Wenger said.
Australia midfielder Tim Cahill scored both Everton’s goals at Villa Park and his team looked to be on course for a victory that would have taken it to within a point of Villa, but Everton defender Phil Jagielka scored an injury-time own-goal.
Cahill had put Everton back in front after Gabriel Agbonlahor’s 72nd-minute equalizer when Jagielka, who missed the first seven months of the season because of injury, deflected Ashley Young’s left-wing cross past goalkeeper Tim Howard.
Last-place Portsmouth, which is already relegated, drew 0-0 at Wigan in Wednesday’s other match.