MATCH REPORT: ARSENAL 1, SPURS 1
A goal 12 minutes from time denied the team a deserved Carling Cup advantage after the 1st leg of this semi-final encounter.
A goal 12 minutes from time denied the team a deserved Carling Cup advantage after the 1st leg of this semi-final encounter.Jermaine Jenas' first half goal could, and probably should, have been added to in the second half, but a swift counter-attack and Theo Walcott strike saw to it that the teams go again at level pegging at the Lane in just under two weeks time.
It was a game that enjoyed a pulsating beginning, with Ledley King providing the first meaningful burst into opposition territory with a lung-busting run that was only steered off-course when he entered the penalty area. It was a promising sign.
A Justin Hoyte cross 14 minutes in led to Radek Cerny being worked for the first time and he was up to the task, reacting superbly to foil a powerful header from Nicklas Bentner. Arsenal were establishing territory, dictating the momentum at this stage and looking the greater threat.
An Aaron Lennon dart into the box disrupted that rhythm and came close to causing home alarm, before Berbatov was illegally stopped in his tracks after rounding Abou Diaby and Jamie O'Hara bent a low free-kick about a foot wide of Lukasz Fabianski's right hand post.
The lead was so nearly snared on 32 minutes when Jenas snatched the ball back in midfield, which enabled Dimitar Berbatov to flight forward in the direction of Robbie Keane. Keane was bundled out of capitalising himself, but the ball fell to Steed Malbranque and his side-footed effort rolled just the wrong side of the upright. The same player was then off target with header from a Keane cross after Fabianski came racing out of his goal.
Moments later Berbatov stung the hands of Fabianski from distance and you could sense increased belief creeping into the side.
This was confirmed with 37 minutes on the clock when a King floated ball from the back was helped on by Berbatov and Keane was on the dash again. This time he squared the ball into the path of Jenas and the midfielder, cool as you like, slotted past Fabianski.
The Spurs thousands erupted like a blue and white volcano behind the goal. You had to witness it to really appreciate the explosion of sound.
Two minutes before the break Jenas drilled in a low effort that Fabianski did well to foil and Arsenal were well and truly rattled as half-time neared.
The second half started in much the same fashion, the early promptings coming from the team in white shirts, with both Malbranque and Keane afforded shooting chances.
A performance of considerable composure and great ambition continued past the hour mark.
The home territory of the stadium was silent, the Spurs end was humming as the team pressed and pressed but without final execution.
Michael Dawson contributed a stunning block at the other end to deny Diaby during a brief spell of Arsenal pressure and Juande Ramos made his move and replaced Malbranque with Kevin Prince Boateng with 13 minutes left.
Just moments later Arsenal were level when second half sub Eduardo set Theo Walcott on the run and, after being closed down by Young-Pyo Lee, the ball cannoned back of the arm/chest of the young striker and past Cerny into the net.
Jermain Defoe was bought on for the final six minutes in place of Keane and he should have won it when Lennon teed him up in front of goal after Berbatov sent the wide man clear.
It could perhaps have gone either way in the closing exchanges, but this two-parter will continue to be an edge-of-seat episode when played out to a conclusion at the Lane.