MATCH REPORT: SPURS 1, ARSENAL 3
A second goal in two games from Gareth Bale proved not enough as Arsenal hit back in the second half to clinch the three points.
A second goal in two games from Gareth Bale proved not enough as Arsenal hit back in the second half to clinch the three points.Bale's precision free-kick in the first half threatened to provide a springboard to further goals and eventual success, but subsequent chances were not converted and punishment for this was cruel and clinical.
Michael Dawson returned to the starting fold in the only change to the team that began so brightly against Fulham last time out, while there was a place in the 16 for Aaron Lennon following his recovery after knee surgery.
The atmosphere was sizzling in the early afternoon sun at the beginning of a fixture that requires nothing in the way of hype or build-up. It took a smart early save from Paul Robinson to prevent the contest taking an early turn for the worse, with the England goalkeeper diving right to parry away a dipping smash from Emmanuel Adebayor.
Tom Huddlestone was an elegant, yet still imposing, figure in the middle of the park early on, but it was Bale who once again produced a show-stopping moment on 14 minutes.
Dimitar Berbatov was bought down by Gilberto and Huddlestone, Bale and Younes Kaboul stood there on the prowl waiting for referee Mr Clattenburg to sound his whistle with the signal to proceed. Bale strode forward and executed a devilish free-kick that zipped around the wall before taking a perfectly measured bounce in front of Manuel Almunia to deceive the goalkeeper, rattle the netting and send the Lane into raptures.
There was a period of alert at our end when Arsenal broke at speed through Cesc Fabregas and, via Adebayor, Alexander Hleb drilled in a shot that Robinson did particularly well to palm away.
A high speed break then took place heading in the other direction involving Jermaine Jenas and Robbie Keane, but the decisive ball fell just behind, rather than in front of the intended marksman.
Hleb carved open our defences just after the half hour mark when he deftly played in Abou Diaby to the left of our area and, with the midfielder seemingly poised to level, he smashed the ball goalwards and instead of rattling netting, he tested the stability of the crossbar.
It was a high speed meeting of a high quality and, apart from the scoreline, a pretty even one true to the nature of these fixtures at the Lane in recent seasons.
The second period carried on at a similar lung-busting pace with the clearest opening coming when Steed Malbranque set Berbatov free and the striker rounded Almunia before Kolo Toure made a block that could well have been crucial come the final reckoning.
The point was nearly illustrated when Bacary Sagna squared for Adebayor to have a free potshot on goal, but thankfully the striker blazed over the bar.
Huddlestone pretty much remained the conductor, keeping the team ticking along in tune from midfield. The Arsenal reaction was to send on Tomas Rosicky for Diaby in order to probably add a more diminutive but creative element to the visitors.
Approaching the hour though, it was the team in all white doing all the pressing in a bid to extend the advantage, with Berbatov asking questions that only last-second lunges, or lack of immediate support, provided solutions to from an Arsenal perspective.
There was always that threat on the break lurking, but it was one of our own lead by Chimbonda that presented Huddlestone with a chance on the volley. Unfortunately his effort went askew.
The team weren't getting a single decision going their way and from a set piece on 65 minutes taken by Fabregas, the head of Adebayor rose highest and the ball landed in the back of our net.
Keane was through on Almunia a couple of minutes later with the keeper standing firm before the introduction of Lennon in place of a struggling Bale. Robinson was next in the thick of it, however, with a good low stop to deny Robin Van Persie.
Moments after a Berbatov effort was cleared off the line Arsenal stole forward and Fabregas unleashed a shot that flew beyond Robinson and into the top corner on 79 minutes. Cue the entry of Darren Bent.
A huge deflated feeling was hanging in the air as once again a couple of moments wiped out nearly a whole game of hard work. Bent had a big chance to restore parity after being put clean through by Jenas, but lost his nerve in front of goal and ended up not testing Almunia.
No such problems for Adebayor, who cashed in on the open spaces left by chasing the game in injury time by smashing a dipping volley high past the despairing dive of Robinson, who had earlier blocked well a shot from the substitute Denilson.
It was another afternoon where the team did not get the reward their performance deserved, but also one that outlined the consequences of not taking your chances.