Arsenal drops more points with 3-3 draw at Spurs
Arsenal surrendered a two-goal lead Wednesday to draw 3-3 at local rival Tottenham and drop more points in what looks to be a fading attempt to win the Premier League title.
The Gunners led 3-1 after 40 minutes through goals by Theo Walcott, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie before Tom Huddlestone volleyed Tottenham back into the game just before halftime.
Both teams had chances and Van Persie had a goal ruled out because of offside before Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny brought down substitute Aaron Lennon in the area in the 70th minute. Rafael van der Vaart smashed in the resulting penalty for his second goal of the game to make it 3-3.
Szczesny tried to atone for his mistake with saves that denied Peter Crouch, Younes Kaboul, Van der Vaart and Sandro a winning goal but Arsenal dropped to third place behind Chelsea and is now six points behind leader Manchester United with five games remaining.
''You couldn't really see them doing it now,'' Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said.
Tottenham is unbeaten in three league meetings against its fiercest rival and still in contention for Champions League qualification, two points behind Manchester City, which occupies the fourth and last Champions League berth.
But for much of the first half, Arsenal looked set to bounce back convincingly from Sunday's 1-1 draw against Liverpool - a result that manager Arsene Wenger said felt like a defeat because his side conceded a penalty equalizer 12 minutes into injury time.
''I feel we dropped physically,'' Wenger said. ''In the second half, you could see the Liverpool game had a bearing.''
Wenger praised his players, nine of whom started Sunday's match, for their performance and insisted his team could still win the title for the first time since 2004 - despite being ruled out by many commentators.
''Not many teams would have survived what happened to us lately,'' Wenger said. ''The team does not get enough credit after the way we have been hammered lately.
''You read the newspapers; you see the televisions.''
With Tottenham playing two strikers and Van der Vaart drifting in from the right to support them, Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas found plenty of space to prompt and probe in midfield.
Tottenham looked dangerous when attacking and created several openings, but the Gunners' composure and greater numbers in midfield meant they picked their way through the home side with relative ease whenever they won back possession.
Fabregas set up Walcott for the opening goal after Huddlestone had given the ball away, playing a perfectly paced pass to the winger's feet. Walcott advanced into the area and curled a low shot past goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes for his eighth league goal of the season.
But the lead lasted only 82 seconds as Vedran Corluka curled in a cross from the right channel, which Van der Vaart met to steer a shot past Szczesny for his first club goal since Feb. 5 - and second against Arsenal this season.
Gomes saved one-handed at his near post from Van Persie before Nasri took a short pass by Abou Diaby on the edge of the area and restored Arsenal's advantage with a quickly taken shot past Gomes, whose view was blocked by a defender.
Seemingly wary of giving away a corner, Tottenham defender William Gallas, roundly jeered for every touch by the Arsenal fans who cheered him in his four years with their club, tried to block a cross with his chest but was robbed of possession inside the area.
The ball came back across goal and Gomes made a stunning close-range save to block a header by Van Persie but the Netherlands striker put the ball in the net from the rebound.
Szczesny beat Gareth Bale to a long ball just outside the area but the Wales winger, who this week was given the Professional Footballers' Association's player of the year award, was hurt in the collision.
With Bale off the field for treatment and Tottenham down to 10 men, Fabregas only half cleared the resulting free kick and Huddlestone volleyed in low from 30 meters (yards) to reduce the deficit.
Bale had to be replaced by Lennon for the second half and the winger's introduction proved crucial as he won the penalty.
''People paid to see a great game of football so I go home happy,'' Redknapp said.