Arsenal came from a goal down to beat local rivals Tottenham 5-2 for the second time in 2012. Last season Spurs blew a 2 goal lead against the Gunners and lost 5-2, in a game that changed the way that both sides seasons went and helped Arsenal finish above Tottenham in the league.
Spurs started well and former Arsenal captain William Gallas, who was Tottenham captain on the day, saw a goal ruled out for offside. It was some finish for a defender too!. Moments later, Tottenham were in the lead and one of Tottenham’s goalscorers that day in February was on the scoresheet once again in the derby. The visitors other former Arsenal player on the pitch, Emmanuel Adebayor, put Spurs 1-0 up with just 10 minutes played after Mertesacker and Sagna’s mix-up sent Jermain Defoe into the clear. Wojciech Szczesny saved Defoe’s effort, but could only palm it out into the path of Adebayor. Nobody could argue that Spurs were worthy of their lead as Arsenal hadn’t really got into the game and Spurs were in control early on.
Aaron Lennon saw his effort go just wide moments later as Spurs looked to add to their lead. Tottenham were looking comfortable and likely to add to it, it was only a matter of time, surely?.
The game changed in the 17th minute. Adebayor, who always has a say on derby day, whether in a red or white shirt, changed this derby completely. Whilst he had put his side in front, he arguably cost his side the game. Adebayor raised his foot and caught Santi Cazorla in a nasty challenge, leaving Howard Webb no choice but to send him off.
Adebayor and Gallas had been booed by the home fans having once played for Arsenal and the red card for Adebayor was a very sweet moment for Arsenal fans who seemed tense after Spurs took the lead. I don’t know if Arsenal would have come back into it without it or not, but the sending off lifted both the fans and players and it also made Tottenham more cautious in their approach.
It took just six minutes for the Gunners to find the net with a man advantage. Theo Walcott’s cross found the head of German giant Per Mertesacker, who scored his first goal for the club after beating his marker William Gallas.
Arsenal began to take control and you sensed that with the man advantage, it was only a matter of time until Arsenal took the lead. Hugo Lloris, chosen in favour of Brad Friedel in goal, denied Olivier Giroud’s header from a Jack Wilshere free-kick.
Santi Cazorla’s powerful strike went just over the bar before Lloris denied Giroud once again. Arsenal finally took the lead with three minutes to go until the break. Wilshere and Mikel Arteta combined to set up Lukas Podolski, who saw his shot creep into the net off of Gallas.
If Spurs were going to have any chance in the game, they needed to keep the score at 2-1 before half time. Howard Webb gave Arsenal an advantage which allowed Cazorla to supply a cross for Giroud who fired in Arsenal’s third in first half stoppage time.
Clint Dempsey and Michael Dawson came on at the break as Villas-Boas tried to shake things up for Spurs. A change of formation to 3-5-1 helped give Spurs start the second half with attacking intent.
Arsenal were more patient in their approach. They let Spurs bring the pressure and knew that they could catch them on the break and make the most of the man advantage. An hour in and Giroud fed Podolski who sent in the perfect cross for Cazorla to score the goal that surely killed Spurs off.
Gareth Bale sent a message to Arsenal that Spurs weren’t out of it just yet by firing past Szczesny in the 71st minute. 4-2. Suddenly I had a horrible flashback to Spurs’ comeback in 2008 from 4-2 down to 4-4 in a matter of minutes. However, Arsenal didn’t have a man advantage in 2008 like they did in this derby.
Arsenal then killed the clock as much as possible and in the final minutes they could have added to their lead as the Tottenham fans gave up (left their seats) like their players seemingly had in the closing stages. Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain set up the final goal for Theo Walcott in the last minute as the Gunners repeated the 5-2 scoreline of last year’s derby.
All I will say is, regardless of form and where each side is in the table, winning the North London Derby is always a very sweet feeling!.