Despair to dreamland, the Spurs way
Tottenham got the better of arch-rivals Arsenal on Wednesday night and TEAMtalk's Rob McCarthy gives his verdict on the north London derby. The life of a Tottenham fan can be summed up in four days, after the utter despair of Wembley was followed by an extremely rare north London derby triumph. Harry Redknapp said that it was just the game Spurs needed after their gut-wrenching Alan Wiley-inspired FA Cup semi-final defeat to Portsmouth last weekend, but I honestly didn't think the players would have the legs to get the better of bitter rivals Arsenal. A wonder strike, defensive discipline, sheer hard work and some world-class saves from a once-maligned goalkeeper all served Tottenham well in a belting advertisement for the Premier League at The Lane. An injury-hit Arsenal side needed the win to keep their title dreams alive while Spurs, who were also missing key players, craved the three points to keep pace with Manchester City in the race for fourth spot - and the two clubs duly turned in a cracker of a game to match the significance of the fixture. For all their slick passing and clever movement, Arsene Wenger's men lacked any real penetration, until the introduction of Robin van Persie with 22 minutes to go. But Spurs, who struggled to stay with the Gunners for much of the first half, took an early lead with a sensational strike from young winger Danny Rose. Handed his first Premier League start, the left-sided Rose, who was signed from Leeds for £1million in 2007, was picked for his energy and enthusiasm according to Redknapp - but playing him on the right was probably more of a defensive ploy to stop the dangerous forward forays of Arsenal left-back Gael Clichy. Manuel Almunia was a little slow in getting back to his feet after he punched clear of his goal, probably still admiring the distance he got, and he paid for it as Rose launched a missle straight through his hands from 30 yards to open the scoring. When Gareth Bale's rare strike made it 2-0 early in the second period, the home supporters were beginning to dream of a first league win over their rivals for 11 years - but all Spurs fans were fully aware that the arrival of van Persie would undoubtedly cause a few panicky moments and so it proved. Heurelho Gomes, more of a comedy figure in his early Spurs days, produced two magnificent stops to deny the Dutchman and then kept out a header from former White Hart Lane favourite Sol Campbell - and I mean former! But huge credit must go to Michael Dawson, who bounced back from his Wembley slip nightmare, to produce an outstanding performance alongside Ledley King - who continues to turn in top-notch displays whenever he is called upon, despite the dodgy knees that prevent him from training. The watching Fabio Capello would surely have been impressed with these two. Wenger was, understandably, very disappointed that his side failed to get the win they needed to keep the pressure on Chelsea, and Arsenal fans will probably point to familiar shortcomings - the lack of a truly world-class goalkeeper and striker, when van Persie isn't playing. But for Spurs, fourth spot is still a distinct possiblity. Just the small matter of the visit of Carlo Ancelotti's league-leading Blues this weekend, followed up by a trip to Old Trafford the week after. Still, confidence should be high after a wonderful Wednesday night at White Hart Lane so anything is possible.
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