Ouchie! (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Nasri 91' (pk)
Nasri 95' (pk)
Arsenal defeated Tottenham Hotspur by a score of 4-1 at White Hart Lane yesterday in a Carling Cup third round match, a victory that has hopefully exorcised the ghosts of the 5-1 loss to Spurs of two years ago in the same competition.
The first half was almost all Arsenal. For stretches of fiteen, twenty passes, Spurs couldn't get a touch, and the opener came fifteen minutes in courtesy of lovely buildup play along the left. Emmanuel Eboué switched play with a pinpoint cross-field pass to Kieran Gibbs, who touched it inside to Samir Nasri. The
Czech (whoops!) Frenchman sent a pass towards the corner flag for Jack Wilshere to run onto, the English international slamming a low hard cross across the six-yard box where Henri Lansbury emerged from midfield to turn it home. It was Lansbury's first goal for the senior team, and he was duly stoked, as they say.
Arsenal continued to see most of the ball, a few perhaps premature "Olés" ringing out with each completed pass. Jack Wilshere in particular controlled much of the action (as Orbinho pointed out on twitter after the match, Wilsher made a Xavi-like 138 passes in the match, completing 110 of them). Spurs regained their composure as the half marched on, Roman Pavlyuchenko hitting the side netting after cutting in from the left following a good Spurs counter.
Spurs were starting to pressure the ball more, and Pavlyuchenko saw yellow for a tackle from behind on Djourou. A minute later, Gibbs was set free, but flagged incorrectly for offsides just as he was about to round the keeper. It was to prove to be an unfortunate error on the part of the linesman for Arsenal. Halftime arrived, Arsenal having had 2/3 of the possession and holding a 1-0 lead.
The second half started with two changes from Spurs; Robbie Keane and Aaron Lennon came on for Jake Livermore and Giovanni Dos Santos. Spurs switched to a 4-4-2 and immediately looked sharper in attack, and four minutes in, it paid off. Although he was almost certainly offsides, Keane collected a through ball and found himself completely free in on Lukasz Fabianski's goal. He fired a low shot that the Pole got a hand to, but the ball only slowed slightly as it nestled into the bottom corner. Off ran the Irishman to celebrate, as is his wont, as if he had just cured cancer and beaten the devil at chess at the same time, his arms spread wide for about ten seconds. The same linesman who had flagged Gibbs offside incorrectly had seemed to make an error the other direction.
Following Keane's goal, the match evened out, both sides having good spells. Spurs had a very good chance in the 70th minute, Aaron Lennon racing in on goal, but Laurent Koscielny executed a perfect tackle at the last moment, sliding in and putting the ball into the back row. It is one of the Frenchman's strengths, and it was on display again on the night.
Both sides continued to apply pressure, winning corners and free kicks. Arsenal had their best chance of the half in the 89th minute, a free kick from the right meeting the head of Johan Djourou who headed it back across the face of goal only to see it cleared from about a yard out by the Spurs defenders. Extra time loomed.
It did not take long, though, for the match to fly out of Spurs' sight. Two minutes into the extra period, Sebastien Bassong tugged Nasri back in the box, a clear penalty, converted by the Frenchman. 2-1 to the Arsenal. Four minutes later, Chamakh was pulled back by Steven Caulker in the box, penalty, up stepped Nasri again, 3-1 to the Arsenal.
If it looked rosy, David Bentley was on hand to remind everyone that it was not yet over, somehow contriving to miss from a free header. 3-2 would have been a far different story, but as it was, Andrei Arshavin popped up in the box five minutes later to power home a fourth for the Gunners.
4-1 seemed secure enough, and the legendary away support began chanting "Shall we make a DVD?" and "Is there a fire drill?" The few Spurs fans left in the ground looked sullen as the last fifteen minutes played out without much incident. It was a solid match from an atypically strong Arsenal Carling Cup side, but the psychological positivity gained from a victory over the club's chief rivals early in the year will be a boost.
Bring on West Brom, bring on the weekend.