Spurs end unwanted records with 3-2 win at Arsenal
Tottenham finally ended two remarkable and unwanted records on Saturday, scoring with five minutes left to beat Arsenal 3-2 to move to within six points of top spot in the Premier League.
The story looked a familiar one when Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh put Arsenal 2-0 ahead at halftime, but Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Younes Kaboul scored to give Tottenham a first away win over its fierce north London rival in 17 years.
The unlikely comeback at Emirates Stadium also ended Spurs' embarrassing 68-match run without an away win against the established powers of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.
''I wasn't here for 65 or 66 of those games, so I can't take the blame for those ones,'' Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said. ''But we can give anyone a game. To come here and turn the tide as we did today is a fantastic result.''
Arsenal would have gone top with victory but Redknapp ended up highlighting his own team's chances of ending its most notable unsuccessful run - the 50 seasons since it was last English league champions.
''It's wide open this year in this league,'' Redknapp said. ''The league hasn't been more open than this year. Why can't you win a championship? Who says you can't? Why can't we win it?''
The answer is most an unstable defense that - with Ledley King, Jonathan Woodgate and Michael Dawson all injured - has not stopped the opposition from scoring since the opening day of the Premier League season.
But in attack, things are much brighter.
Bale got Tottenham's first goal, and his ninth of the season, in the 50th minute. The winger raced from left to right to collect a pass by Van der Vaart and shoot low past Lukasz Fabianski.
Luka Modric then drew an unnecessary foul from Alex Song for a free kick by Van der Vaart that Cesc Fabregas needlessly blocked with his forearm to concede a penalty. Van der Vaart scored the 67th-minute kick for his eighth goal of the season and first away from White Hart Lane.
With five minutes left, Koscielny brought down the charging Bale on the right with a foul 40 meters (yards) from goal. The free kick sailed into the area and Kaboul leaped to head past Fabianski and hand Arsenal a third home defeat - one more than in the whole of last season.
''Three home defeats are three too many,'' Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. ''What is worrying for me is that we had an opportunity to go top of the league and when you have to deliver, we can't.
''That's worrying because that's part of our job.''
The Tottenham fans were still celebrating wildly 15 minutes after the final whistle in the corner of an otherwise empty Emirates Stadium, but Van der Vaart was already looking ahead to Wednesday's match against Werder Bremen - when victory could put Spurs into the second round of the Champions League in its debut season.
''Today's a great day, but it's just three points,'' Van der Vaart said. ''We want to win the next Champions League game.''
Redknapp's halftime introduction of striker Jermain Defoe for his first appearance in more than two months following an ankle injury changed the game, keeping Arsenal's defense busier and denying the Gunners time to build moves from the back.
The turnaround was epitomized by the performance of former Arsenal captain William Gallas, who wore the armband for Tottenham and was loudly jeered on his first match against his former club.
Aside from one extraordinary break when he intercepted and carried the ball alone to the edge of Arsenal's area, the Frenchman's first half was mostly notable for the poor positioning and inability to keep possession that suggested Wenger was correct not to renew his contract at the end of last season.
But after the interval, he made several key blocks and interceptions to keep Tottenham in the game.
''I thought William Gallas was outstanding today,'' Redknapp said. ''I thought he was man of the match.''
The comeback had looked impossible when Arsenal dominated the first half comprehensively, with Song, Nasri, Andrey Arshavin and Fabregas combining so fluidly in midfield that one of them always seemed free to collect a pass.
Nasri got the first goal in the ninth minute after racing onto a pass up the middle by Fabregas. A block by goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes seemed set to carry the ball past the left post but Nasri got there and, lifting his standing leg out of the way to give himself space, squeezed in a shot with his left that trickled over the line from the tightest of angles.
Chamakh then made it 2-0 with a close-range finish from a counterattack just 12 seconds after Arsenal won possession on its own goal line.
Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko kept the ball in play rather than allowing it to roll out for a corner. Arsenal swiftly moved the ball forward as Tottenham's defense retreated and Fabregas slipped it left to Arshavin, who crossed low for Chamakh to touch in from close range for a ninth goal of the season.
''If you look at the stats and the numbers, it's very difficult to understand how we lost this game,'' Wenger said. ''A drop in concentration, some basic errors, some back luck as well.
''You're a bit speechless to reanalyze the game. It's a mystery how you can lose a game like that.''