TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 vs ARSENAL 1
BELEAGUERED Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger conceded Tottenham will be difficult to overhaul in the fight for Champions League qualification this season after Andre Villas-Boas’s side edged an entertaining north London derby at White Hart Lane.
First half goals from midfielders Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon helped Spurs move seven Premier League points and two places clear of the Gunners, who netted through defender Per Mertesacker.
And, with 10 games to go, Wenger admitted his side have it all to do now to earn a top four finish and secure a 16th successive season in Europe’s premier cup competition.
“It will be a massive challenge, massive,” he said.
“I said before the game we couldn’t drop these points and I maintain that after the game.
“Especially the way the game went – it is difficult to understand how we can lose games like that.
“It’s very frustrating, but we have to continue to put the energy in and keep going.
“You never know, I still think it is possible [to finish in the top four] and we will fight for it, that is for sure.
“It would be absolutely terrible not to continue to fight like mad because there were a lot of positives in the game.”
The visitors controlled possession in the opening 20 minutes, without having enough penetration or purpose in the final third to find a way through Spurs’ imperious central defensive partnership of Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen.
Arsenal looked in control, yet it was Spurs who moved in front on 38 minutes when Welsh wizard Bale latched onto Gylfi Sigurdsson’s defence splitting pass and placed a neat left-foot shot into the bottom corner.
The goal was Bale’s 20th of a superb individual season in Tottenham colours and his ninth strike in seven games in all competitions.
The Spurs supporters had barely ceased celebrating when they were on their feet again to toast Lennon’s goal.
This time Parker turned provider with a pass equally as measured as Sigurdsson’s for Bale two minutes beforehand and Lennon timed his run to perfection to breach the flat-footed Arsenal defence, before rounding goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and finishing into an unguarded net from six yards.
The second half was just six minutes old when towering German defender Mertesacker headed in Theo Walcott’s free-kick at the near post to give the Gunners renewed hope.
Spurs striker Jermain Defoe, on as a substitute for the injured Emmanuel Adebayor, went closest to scoring the game’s fourth goal, but dragged a low shot wide across goal from the edge of the box.
Eight anxious minutes of stoppage time followed, but Spurs held firm to extend their unbeaten run to a club record 12 Premier League matches.
Despite recording a satisfying victory, triumphant manager Villas-Boas insisted his side are not about to rest on their laurels.
“Seven points is not big enough in the Premier League, because by this time last year Arsenal came back from a seven point distance to Tottenham,” he said. “The suffering that the fans went through last year was tremendous, so everybody is on alert and understands that it’s not over until the last day of the season.
“We are on an upward spiral in terms of confidence and they [Arsenal] are on a negative spiral in terms of results. To get out of that negative spiral is extremely difficult.”