Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday September 16 2007
The second half began at a frantic pace, with Arsenal searching for an equlaiser, and Tottenham bucking a trend and looking for a second. Abou 'Demolition' Diaby, playing on the left, was surrendered early in the second half for Tomas Rosicky. Diaby had a bit of a shocker out on the left, surprisingly finding hiself second best to Malbranque and Chimbonda. When Wenger replaces you before the 75th minute and you're not injured, you know you've had a shocker. Tottenham had a glorious chance to put the game beyond Arsenal. Another ball over the top saw Berbatov spring the offside trap and round Almunia, but with an open goal gaping, Kolo Toure outfoxed the Bulgarian with an uncomprimising challenge. It was a contribution as sizeable as Fabregas's rangefinder, or Adebayor's wonder strike. I have openly questioned the value of Toure as a skipper, but I must say that yesterday the armband looked good on him. He was a domineering and commanding presence all day long, cajoling his team and charging out of defence at every possible opportunity. I must also publically swallow a large slab of humble pie with regards to the performance of Mathieu Flamini in midfield. His work rate would not be questioned by anybody with a degree of sanity, but his quality I have doubted quite vocally. He was my man of the match yesterday, unfortunately none of the highlight reels will do his performance justice, and whilst we drool over the quality of Adebayor's volley, it is worth paying tribute to Flamini's kinetic display, breaking up Spurs attacks and thundering into tackles all day long in what I like to call, 'the admin role' in midfield. Keep it up lads, I'm quite happy to eat my words, because this morning they taste like onion bhajis soaked in madrass sauce!
Minutes after Berbatov's profligacy, Adebayor went one better. Sagna bombed down the right flank, marauding to the touchline, before pulling back for the waiting Adebayor, the Togolese striker ballooned it over the bar from close range. Chimbonda would perform a passable Sagna impression, charging down the right and clipping in a precise cross which Huddlestone ran onto but screwed his volley wide. It would prove costly, Flamini was tripped by Huddlestone and Arsenal attempted a quick free kick which ultimately came to nothing. But an idiotic Spurs fan attempted to invade the pitch, causing the kick to be retaken. Fabregas clipped in beautifully and Adebayor atoned for his earlier sitter by rising above Bale and Fat Boy to head home the equaliser. Cue pandemonium in the away end, the riotous celebrations cauing Greg's brand new Blackberry to tumble downwards a few rows, at the mercy of the trampling feet of baying Gooners.
Tottenham could have reassumed the lead very quickly, Flamini unwittingly played in Robbie Keane, the referee over ruled the linesman's incorrect flag, but Almunia came out quickly to smother Keane one on one. The Spurs defence made the mistake of allowing Adebayor two volleys before finding his range, they would also permit Cesc Fabregas a twenty five yard rangefinder which would fly narrowly wide. The chances continued to rain down when Berbatov side footed a Malbranque corner goalwards, only for Gael Clichy's great body popping impression to keep it out with his shoulder. Berbatov headed the rebound over from close range. The Spuds faithful were rejoicing in premature celebration, much to the mocking delight of the away fans at the other end of the ground. Then with ten minutes remaining, the muted van Persie set Arsenal away on a counter attack, finding Rosicky on the left. Fabregas ate up the ground from his defensive position to join in, collecting Rosicky's pass before blasting home a scorcher from twenty five yards. Fabregas's delight was plain for all to see and believe me when I say we reciprocated fully in the South Stand! With Greg's Blackberry secure, it was another one of those stranger hugging, lung busting moments.
Spurs responded by bringing on Darren 'I cost as much as Henry' Bent, who would soon learn a valuable lesson in humility. If you're going to spout off in the press in the build up to a North London derby, it's best not to miss an absolute sitter. Another Spurs long ball split the defence in half, leaving Bent all on his own in the penalty area with only Almunia to beat. Hilariously, he justified his enormous price tag by producing a finish reminiscent of Bambi on crack. I might have risen to my feet to chide our poor defending had I not been laughing so heartily. Arsenal fans hardly needed another reason to mock the brow beaten Spuddies, 'it's so quiet, it's so quiet, it's so quiet, at the Lane' and 'you're getting sacked in the morning' rang out gleefully from the away enclosures upper and lower.
With Tottenham searching in vain for an equaliser, Arsenal once again used the counter attack to carve open their lesser rivals. Rosicky finding a lonely Denilson on the right, but Robinson used his ample carriage to block the Brazilian's shot. Fabregas collected the rebound, whizzed it in to Adebayor, who took one touch to flick the ball up, before delivering an emphatic volley on the turn which whistled into the top corner from twenty five yards. Ade took a bow after an incongruous display. About 90% of his passes drifted astray, he missed an absolute sitter, but then produced a moment of absolute genius. The already threadbare home support drifted towards the exit as the Arsenal fans serenaded their troops with a chorus of 'we are top of the league, I say we are top of the league.' As we prepared to head for the exits to run the gauntlet back to Northumberland Park. Remarkably, I did not see any trouble whatsoever, with the police doing a decent job. Though it's worth mentioning that Spurs fans at that point were rather thin on the ground, I would wager most of them were a good chunk into their journey home. Nevertheless, it was very difficult to conceal my smirk and temper my swagger. Sat on the train back to Tottenham Hale I had to dilute a look of utter delight on my face, so I began the process of searching out every Arsenal and Spurs fan in my phonebook!
It was a strange match in that nobody seemed to have an average game. Everybody on both sides towed the line between the brilliant and the abject. On our side, both fullbacks were remarkable as was Toure, Flamini was awesome, whilst Gilberto, Diaby, Hleb, Adebayor and van Persie put in indifferent displays. For Spurs Berbatov agve us trouble all day, Dawson looked solid and Chimbonda bombed forward with impunity. For my money, Tom Huddlestone gave Fabregas a real test, imposing himself on the midfield to the point that Cesc was quite muted. Yet he finished the game with a goal and two assists, it's a nack Cesc is picking up very nicely at the moment and one I've spoken about before, about controlling the key moments of the game. Jermaine Jenas's performance was wonderfully summed up by Daryll on the way home, 'what's happened to Jenas, is he injured?' To which I laughingly replied, 'no, he played the whole ninety minutes!' Going top of the league by beating Tottenham at the Lane, does it get better than that? Well, possibly winning the league there but that's just pie in the sky isn't it?LD.
Date:Sunday September 16 2007
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