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Rafa's derby delights

Rafa van der Vaart knew immediately what the north London derby was all about – and certainly made his mark!

Rafa van der Vaart knew immediately what the north London derby was all about on joining us on transfer deadline day last summer - and he certainly made his mark!

The Dutch maestro’s first meeting with the Gunners came in November where he inspired our comeback from 2-0 down to win for the first time at the Emirates.

Trailing 2-0 at the break, Rafa set-up Gareth Bale for 2-1, saw his free-kick handled and scored from the penalty spot to equaliser and then delivered the free-kick for Younes Kaboul to head home his famous winner five minutes from time.

The return match at the Lane in April was no less thrilling with Rafa to the fore again.

Arsenal opened the scoring, Rafa lashed home a quickfire equaliser but the Gunners then raced into a 3-1 lead before Tom Huddlestone’s thunderbolt pulled it back to 3-2 just before the break.

Rafa was on the spot again 20 minutes from time to secure a deserved point after Aaron Lennon was sent crashing in the penalty area.

So two derbies, three goals and two assists – not bad for starters!

“When I came here everyone talked about the biggest game of the year against Arsenal,” reflected Rafa.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s league or cup, it’s always big and you have to win that one.

“Tottenham hadn’t won at the Emirates and it was great feeling to go there and win in my first derby, and especially to score.

“We played a bad first half, went 2-0 down but in the second half we were a totally different team and that showed a lot of spirit.”

Rafa hailed the team’s spirit again after coming from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 at the Lane.

“That felt a bit like a victory,” he smiled. “It was a great game, an open game and both teams wanted to win.

“Like at the Emirates, we fought to the end and you could see with our fans that it was a fantastic night.”