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Honours even in classic derby

Another memorable North London derby ended with the spoils shared in a thrilling 3-3 draw at the Lane.

Another memorable North London derby ended with the spoils shared in a thrilling 3-3 draw at the Lane.

A frantic start saw Arsenal take the lead through Theo Walcott after four minutes before we replied almost immediately thanks to Rafael van der Vaart.

But the visitors took control and were soon two goals up with Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie on the scoresheet before a key goal on the stroke of half-time from Tom Huddlestone.

That set up a dramatic second half in which we eventually found the equaliser through man of the match Van der Vaart, who slotted home a 71st minute penalty.

The match saw Harry Redknapp revert back to the system that proved successful in our win over Stoke last time out in the league, with a front two of Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko and Van der Vaart playing off the right instead of Aaron Lennon.

It was a bright start from the hosts with Vedran Corluka’s cross just out of Gareth Bale’s reach and Luka Modric shooting wide in the first minute.

But the home support was soon silenced when Cesc Fabregas slid Walcott through to beat the offside trap and run in on goal to finish low past Gomes after just four minutes.

What a response, however, as Corluka’s cross two minutes later was controlled by Van der Vaart just inside the box and slammed home past Wojciech Szczesny to equalise.

Cue an impassioned celebration from both the player and the fans alike, showing just how much this fixture means.

Crouch then shot wide before Van Persie forced Heurelho Gomes into a fantastic save from a tight angle.

And then, on 12 minutes, Arsenal found themselves back in front. Almost out of nothing as Nasri exchanged passes with Abou Diaby before firing home from the edge of the box, the shot taking a slight deflection off of Michael Dawson.

Although we pressed looking for an equaliser, Arsenal looked less likely to relinquish this lead, and they nearly doubled it when Walcott again got behind our defence to fire just inches wide before the half-hour mark.

Modric did force a save out of Szczesny soon after, but it was a brief respite as the Gunners did indeed take a two-goal lead three minutes before the break.

William Gallas miscontrolled Bacary Sagna’s cross, Walcott centred, Gomes pulled off a stunning save to keep out Van Persie’s header, but the Dutchman slammed home the rebound.

We looked in trouble – even more so when Szczesny went clattering into Bale to leave the Welshman stricken with an injury that would force him off.

But Arsenal, perhaps more than anyone, should know that we never lay down, and we found ourselves back in it on the stroke of half-time.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto crossed, Crouch nodded down, and Fabregas only half-cleared to Huddlestone 25-yards out, who showed great technique to fire straight back past Szczesny for a perfectly-timed strike.

Half-time saw Aaron Lennon replace the injured Bale and Younes Kaboul, scorer of that famous winner at the Emirates in November, replace Corluka at right-back.

But it seemed like it was Van der Vaart who was the man willing to take this game by the scruff of the neck, firing a free-kick just over before forcing a fine save out of Szczesny from a tight angle having beat the offside trap in the opening stages of the half.

Arsenal did have large spells of pressure midway through the period, with Van Persie seeing a goal chalked out for offside on 57 minutes. He and Walcott had further chances before we found the equaliser.

Lennon’s blistering pace got him to Assou-Ekotto’s ball just before Szczesny, who conceded the foul and the penalty on 70 minutes.

Van der Vaart was the man to step up and slot home the equaliser from the spot just as he did at the Emirates – cue a frantic finish.

Szczesny was to come into his own in the latter stages. Moments after the goal, his legs denied Modric after the Croatian got on the end of Kaboul’s cross.

Ten minutes from time, the Polish stopper showed great reflexes to tip over Peter Crouch’s header before his legs were once again in the way, this time of a low effort from sub Sandro.

At the other end, Gomes was on equally fine form to pull off one of his trademark wonder saves from Fabregas after Gallas had only half-cleared.

Arsene Wenger through on both Andrey Arshavin and Nicklas Bendtner as the Gunners went in search of a much-needed winner.

But it wasn’t to be, and another classic North London derby ended with the spoils shared. Arsenal now six points off the top of the table, us now just two points behind fourth-placed Manchester City.

All still to play for!

Spurs (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka (Kaboul, 46), Gallas, Dawson, Assou-Ekotto; Van der Vaart, Huddlestone, Modric, Bale (Lennon, 46); Crouch, Pavlyuchenko (Sandro, 78)
Subs not used: Cudicini, Bassong, Pienaar, Defoe

Goals: Van der Vaart (7, pen 71), Huddlestone (44)

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy; Diaby (Wilshere, 52), Song; Walcott (Arshavin, 82), Fabregas, Nasri (Bendtner, 82); Van Persie
Subs not used: Lehmann, Gibbs, Squillaci, Ramsey

Goals: Walcott (5), Nasri (12), Van Persie (42)

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Attendance: 36,138