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Spurs skewer Arsenal's Champions League aims

ESPN staff
March 3, 2013
Gareth Bale - who else? - got the first goal of the game as Spurs claimed an important win © Getty Images
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Arsenal's hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League took a huge blow, after they were beaten 2-1 by Tottenham in the North London derby on Sunday.

The Gunners dropped seven points behind their arch-rivals in the Premier League table - and remain five points behind Chelsea in fourth - following the defeat, as first half goals from Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon secured the victory for Andre Villas-Boas.

Per Mertesacker - who had previously failed to cover himself in glory for both of Spurs' strikes - saw his header from a free-kick fly in off the unaware Bale shortly after the interval, but Arsenal were unable to find an equaliser as a 17th consecutive season in Europe's top club competition became an increasingly unlikely proposition.

For Spurs, meanwhile, the opposite is true - with qualification for the showpiece tournament firmly in their own hands with just 10 league games remaining.

Villas-Boas, sacked by Chelsea exactly one year ago on Monday, will sleep much easier than the beleaguered Wenger tonight knowing that his team are in a very strong position in the hunt for Champions League qualification, but he will perhaps remember that Tottenham surrendered a 10-point lead to their rivals last year - although this Spurs team is made of stronger stuff and Wenger's side appear to lack the same heart, particularly in defence.

Arsenal controlled the opening stages of the game, which was played out amid a white-hot atmosphere. Santi Cazorla cut out the Tottenham back four with a jaw-dropping 40-yard pass to play Olivier Giroud through, but Vertonghen did just enough to put the Frenchman off.

Hugo Lloris saved well from a Carl Jenkinson cross-cum shot and Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen were kept busy clearing bombardments from both flanks.

Eighteen minutes passed before Mark Clattenburg had to reach for his book and almost inevitably, it was Adebayor who received the caution - for a late sliding tackle on Aaron Ramsey. Bale then mis-controlled when he latched on to Gylfi Sigurdsson's pass, but otherwise Spurs had a quiet opening half hour.

Giroud threatened to break through, but Vertonghen cut him down to size with a brutal tackle which earned him a booking. Ramsey then went in to the book for pushing Lennon over as he raced down the right.

Spurs were on the back foot, but they managed to take the lead through man of the moment Bale. The Welshman latched on a clever pass from Sigurdsson and stabbed the ball past the on-rushing Szczesny.

Per Mertesacker's goal was not enough for Arsenal © Getty Images
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Just 140 seconds later it was 2-0. Parker picked the ball up on the half-way line, Arsenal backed off, and he threaded a wonderful ball through to Lennon, who rounded Szczesny and tapped the ball in to the empty net.

The Spurs bench went wild and the home fans sarcastically sang: "Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay.''

Whatever Wenger said at half-time to his players, it worked. The away side came flying out of the blocks in the second half and they pulled one back six minutes in. Mertesacker, so often criticised for his failings at the back, leapt in front of Bale and glanced home Theo Walcott's corner from the near post - although the ball may have been heading wide before it hit the Welshman.

Arsenal continued to press. Walcott, now playing centrally, headed over, Jack Wilshere danced around the edge of the Spurs box and Nacho Monreal fired a powerful shot just wide of Lloris' goal.

Tottenham rallied briefly, Assou-Ekotto firing a wicked cross in to the box, but Bale spooned his shot high and wide. Adebayor was carried off on a stretcher after suffering an injury and he was replaced by Jermain Defoe.

A portion of the Arsenal support responded by taunting Adebayor about the 2010 gun attack on the Togo team bus at the African Nations Cup. "Shot in Angola, it should have been you.''

Arsenal continued to control the game, but with 20 minutes to go Spurs hit them on the break through Sigurdsson, who got in behind the Gunners back four, but decided to square the ball when he should have shot at goal.

Wenger threw on Lukas Podolski and Tomas Rosicky as Arsenal laid siege to the Spurs goal. Ramsey and Walcott fired powerful drives just wide of Tottenham's goal, but even after six minutes of added time, Arsenal's hunt for an equaliser failed to materialise.

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