Tottenham Hotspur (2) 3 Arsenal (0) 0
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, 782 High Road, London N17 0BX
Thursday, 12th May 2022. Kick-off time: 7.45pm
(4-2-3-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Cédric Soares, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Takehiro Tomiyasu; Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Gabriel Martinelli; Eddie Nketiah.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Ben White, Alexandre Lacazette, Emile Smith-Rowe, Nicolas Pépé, Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Zak Swanson, Charlie Patino.
Red Cards: Rob Holding
Yellow Cards: Rob Holding, Emile Smith-Rowe, Granit Xhaka
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 43%
Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistant Referees: Constantine Hatzidakis, Neil Davies
Fourth Official: Peter Bankes
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Mike Dean; AVAR Lee Betts
The day has finally arrived. This is the most eagerly anticipated North London derby for quite some considerable time. We all know what is at stake, and what needs to be done; the preparations have been made, the team decided. Everything else is now down to the boys, and whether they can deliver the necessary goods in order for us to progress to the Champions League next season.
We kicked off the match in a red-hot atmosphere, and we certainly had the best of the early stages of the game. Martin Ødegaard had the first shot of the match, after just three minutes, but Hugo Lloris in the Spurs goal gathered the ball easily. Ryan Sessegnon got stuck in to win the ball back for Spurs, then ran down the right wing, however Gabriel did very well to stop him and won a free-kick inside his own penalty area. Rob Holding and Son Heung-min come together near the touchline; the Spurs forward won a free-kick and he was not happy with the follow-through, and complained to referee Paul Tierney; a couple of minutes later they clashed again, which the Spurs man made a bit of a meal of, to be frank. On the quarter of the hour, Gabriel Martinelli had acres of space to run into down the left, he cut it back towards Martin Ødegaard but the move was intercepted by the Spurs defence. We had another free-kick awarded to us after Bukayo Saka was fouled on the right, but Martin Ødegaard’s free-kick was easily cleared by the home side’s defenders. After twenty minutes, we had a penalty awarded against us when Cédric Soares was adjudged to have shoved Son Heung-min to the gound; Harry Kane made no mistake with the penalty kick. Shortly afterwards, Rob Holding was booked for a tackle on Son Heung-min, and the penalty gave the home side inspiration with them mounting a couple of strong attacks on our goal, fortunately none of them came to anything. Just after the half hour, the inevitable happened; Rob Holding was sent off for another foul on Son Heung-min, and we were now down to ten men and in trouble, quite frankly. Harry Kane got their second goal eight minutes before the break, and we were now very firmly on the back foot. We were under intolerable pressure, and we needed to get to half-time in one piece somehow. However, just before the break, Eddie Nketiah fired in a superb shot which was tipped over the bar by Hugo Lloris, but unfortunately the resulting corner went nowhere. We managed to hold out well (somehow) until the break, thankfully.
The home side kicked off proceedings for the second half, and with us down to ten men, and two goals down, what can we get from the second half? Within two minutes, the answer became clear; some sloppy play in our penalty area led to Son Heung-min easily scoring their third goal of the game. Spurs are not only putting us under pressure, but they are actively hunting for more goals taking advantage of the extra man in their favour. However, Gabriel Martinelli carried the ball down the left and teed up Bukayo Saka; his shot was blocked by Ben Davies and deflected into the path of Eddie Nketiah but bounced away from goal, but the resulting corner went nowhere, sadly. We then had a period of trying to keep the ball patiently but Gabriel Martinelli’s cross eventually curled straight out and into nowhere for a goal kick. Aaron Ramsdale made a superb save from Emerson Royal to prevent a fourth goal, and the match started to drift somewhat with lots of passing in the midfield area, but not a great deal of anything else. Again, our goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale made a superb save from Harry Kane’s twenty-five yard shot, and then Gabriel Martinelli was replaced by Emile Smith-Rowe after sixty-three minutes. This could be a very long remaining twenty-seven minutes for us here tonight. At times, all of our players are behind the ball, and the mindset appears to be not to let them score anymore goals; damage limitation, basically. Eddie Nketiah carried it up to the other end and did well to win a foul off Dejan Kulusevski; the free-kick delivery was comfortably headed away and Martin Ødegaard sent one into the top tier from long range. Alexandre Lacazette replaced Eddie Nketiah with twenty minutes left of the match, and after Gabriel went down to the ground with what seemed to be a hamstring injury, Nuno Tavares replaced him. Granit Xhaka whipped it in teasingly from the left but it was well headed away by Ben Davies; Bukayo Saka came back at them but Eric Dier was there again, before Cédric Soares’ cross ends up in the hands of the Spurs’ goalkeeper. We then had a decent chance to score when Nuno Tavares got in behind on the left and pulled it back for Martin Ødegaard, who hit the ball first time and made a good connection with it but it went straight at Hugo Lloris, who saved it easily. Emile Smith-Rowe was booked for a silly tackle on Lucas Moura, as was Martin Ødegaard a couple of minutes later on the same player; and then Granit Xhaka in injury time. Ridiculous. The full-time whistle could not come soon enough, and when it did, it was a relief.
What a terrible, terrible night. A nightmare, quite frankly. The red card for Rob Holding wa a disappointment, as was the injury to Gabriel late in the game. But it is what it is, and we must get maximum points from our final two matches, against Newcastle United and Everton, as our destiny is in our own hands, now. All eyes on St. James’ Park on Monday evening.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Newcastle United at St. James’ Park on Monday, 16th May at 8.00pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon