Spurs hit back to deny Gunners

The Gunners had stormed into a 3-1 north-London derby after Theo

Walcott, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie all struck in the first

half, with Rafael van der Vaart notching for the home side. But a

20-yard rocket from Tom Huddlestone before the break and a

70th-minute penalty from Van der Vaart ensured that Spurs picked up

a point, meaning Arsenal dropped to third, six points behind league

leaders Manchester United. Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas had

criticised his team-mates before the match, claiming that the

Gunners lacked a killer instinct and that was certainly evident in

the second period as they failed to finish their bitter rivals off

despite dominating for large parts of the opening half. Manchester

United’s draw at Newcastle on Tuesday night meant this encounter

was the perfect opportunity for Arsenal to put the pressure back on

the leaders and regain some momentum after Sunday’s disappointing

draw with Liverpool. Spurs needed little motivation for the match

though, as they knew a win would give the club their first league

double over their bitter local rivals for 18 years and see them

draw them level with fourth-placed Manchester City. The game

started well for Arsene Wenger’s men as the game lived up to it’s

pre-match billing with three goals within the first 12 minutes amid

a white-hot atmosphere. Fabregas took advantage of Huddlestone’s

carelessness in the centre of the park to release Walcott, who

calmly slotted past Spurs goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes from inside the

box. Just two more minutes had passed before Van der Vaart

equalised. Vedran Corluka threaded the Dutchman through before he

beat Wojciech Szczesny at his near post to claim his first Spurs

goal in over two months. Arsenal were back in the lead five minutes

later though as Tottenham’s defence were made to pay for backing

off as Nasri fired a deflected shot past Gomes from 25 yards. The

match was being fought with genuine steel as Abou Diaby proved when

he clattered into Luka Modric, but referee Martin Atkinson waved

play on, much to the anger of the home bench. The Spurs defence

seemed to have no answer to Walcott’s pace as he raced through

their stationary defence on the half-hour only to see his shot

trickle wide. The home fans were given a scare when Gareth Bale was

left needing treatment after coming off second-best in an aerial

tussle with Szczesny, but he returned to action a couple of minutes

later as Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp urged his side to look for

an equaliser. It was Arsenal who got themselves on the scoresheet

next though thanks to William Gallas’ mistake. The former Arsenal

man failed to clear the ball inside the Tottenham box and Walcott

crossed to find Van Persie, who beat Gomes at the second attempt

after the Brazilian had palmed away the striker’s first header.

Bale was carried off on a stretcher after being clattered over by

Szczesny and limped throughout the remainder of the half. Two

minutes before the break Huddlestone put Spurs back in the game

with a wonderfully-hit half-volley from 20 yards after Arsenal had

cleared a corner. Bale did not emerge for the second half and was

replaced by Aaron Lennon. Peter Crouch gave Bacary Sagna a bloody

nose as they went up for a header before Wenger brought on Jack

Wilshere for Diaby, who hobbled off the pitch through injury. Spurs

started the second half quietly but they suddenly sprang into life

in the 54th minute when Modric played in Van der Vaart, who hit a

fierce shot that drew a top-class diving save from Szczesny. Van

Persie had the ball in the net soon after but the goal was ruled

out for offside, with replays suggesting the Dutchman was half a

yard onside. Walcott broke through for Arsenal again, but this time

Benoit Assou-Ekotto tracked back, forcing the England winger to

shoot wide. Spurs were handed a golden chance to get back into the

game when Szczesny tripped Lennon in the box in the 70th minute and

Van der Vaart duly obliged, slotting home from 12 yards to make it

3-3. Modric should have put Spurs ahead from six yards but he shot

straight at Szczesny, who cleared with his feet on the line.

Wenger, sensing his chances of winning the game, and indeed the

title, were slipping away from him, brought on Andrey Arshavin and

Nicklas Bendtner for Walcott and Nasri. Substitute Sandro then

danced past two Arsenal defenders before seeing his shot saved by

Arsenal’s Polish goalkeeper. Tottenham desperately sought a fourth

and Laurent Koscielny almost gifted it to them when his header

almost flew into his own net in injury time as a breathless match

drew to a close.