Arsenal salvage derby draw despite Francis Coquelin red card
Published 05/03/2016 | 14:56
Ten-man Arsenal came from behind to take a point at Tottenham as the two north London clubs handed the Barclays Premier League title impetus to Leicester.
The two sides could not be separated in what was billed as one of the biggest derbies in the history of the fierce rivals and had to settle for a 2-2 draw.
Aaron Ramsey opened the scoring for the visitors with a cute flick but, after Francis Coquelin saw red for the Gunners, Toby Alderweireld and Harry Kane turned the game around inside two minutes.
Arsenal, who lost from a winning position against Swansea on Wednesday, kept plugging away and levelled through Alexis Sanchez's first league goal since October - meaning Leicester have the chance to further extend their lead at the top on Saturday evening.
Tottenham were dominating the early stages without creating the chances - the first of which came on 25 minutes as Kyle Walker drilled in a cross which Erik Lamela turned towards goal and David Ospina made a superb save.
Coquelin was cautioned for handling the ball while on the ground as the Gunners struggled to get a foothold in the game, only for them to go ahead shortly afterwards.
Danny Welbeck squared the ball across the box to Hector Bellerin, who laid it into Ramsey to deftly flick home past Hugo Lloris.
Spurs were again in the ascendency after the break, Walker stinging the palms of Ospina with a drive from the edge of the box.
Arsenal then suffered the blow of seeing Coquelin sent off for a second bookable offence as he upended Kane on the touchline to receive his marching orders from Michael Oliver - leaving the visitors down to 10 for the last 35 minutes.
Tottenham nearly made their new-found advantage count immediately but Kane's close-range effort was somehow kept out by Ospina, with goal-line technology showing only around an inch of the ball not over the line.
But the Colombian could do nothing to prevent Alderweireld drilling home from a similar position moments later after Christian Eriksen's corner was diverted into his path by Lamela.
Kane then showed that he can make the difference in the title race, turning the game on its head with a memorable curling effort from an acute angle.
The England international had only managed one goal in his last six games going into the derby but came close to adding to Tottenham's lead as he flashed a shot wide, as torrential rain began fall on White Hart Lane.
And Spurs made heavy weather of their task against 10 men as Sanchez levelled with a smart finish from Bellerin's pass, with Lloris only able to get fingertips on the ball as it flashed past him.
Eric Dier was lucky not to go the same way as Coquelin as he avoided picking up a second booking for pulling back substitute Olivier Giroud on the halfway line.
Ospina was on hand to tip a late Eriksen effort behind for a corner before Gabriel came close to gifting Spurs the win, slicing just wide of his own goal.
Ramsey was denied by Kevin Wimmer's last-ditch challenge at the other end as the points were shared.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Now explain yourself Coquelin.....? We got lucky to grab a point.... You owe the lads an explanation on where your head was" - g olfer and big Arsenal fan Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter).
Hugo Lloris: 6
Kyle Walker: 7
Toby Alderweireld: 6
Kevin Wimmer: 6
Danny Rose: 7
Mousa Dembele: 7
Eric Dier: 6
Dele Alli: 7
Christian Eriksen: 6
Erik Lamela: 7
Harry Kane: 8
Ryan Mason (on for Lamela, 66): 6
Ben Davies (on for Rose, 77): 6
Son Heung-min (on for Dembele, 82): 5
David Ospina: 7
Hector Bellerin: 8
Per Mertesacker: 7
Kieran Gibbs: 7
Mohamed Elneny: 7
Francis Coquelin: 5
Aaron Ramsey: 7
Mesut Ozil: 6
Alexis Sanchez: 7
Danny Welbeck: 7
Olivier Giroud (on for Elneny, 75): 6
Mathieu Flamini (on for Welbeck, 85): 5
Joel Campbell (on for Ozil, 89): 5
Harry Kane: He may have been out of form heading into the game but Kane has proven he is the man for the big games, especially in London derbies. He has a formidable record against any local rivals and added to his goals tally with a superbly taken finish that had Tottenham dreaming of topping the table until Sanchez equalised.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Francis Coquelin: Arsenal may have been second best for large periods before Coquelin's sending-off, but they led when the Frenchman picked up his second yellow for bringing down Kane. And the fact Spurs were the ahead within seven minutes tells you just how crucial his dismissal was.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Arsene Wenger had many more choices to make than counterpart Mauricio Pochettino - he had said Ospina would debutise for the injured Petr Cech but he also opted to select Welbeck as his main striker, with Mohamed Elneny handed his full Premier League debut and Ramsey deployed higher up the pitch. All his decisions worked to an extent but his side are still on a run of form that could ultimately cost them the title. Pochettino again rotated his full-backs and welcomed back Dele Alli and Mousa Dembele.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Eric Dier: Referee Michael Oliver should have levelled up the red-card count when Dier pulled down Giroud on the halfway line having already been cautioned - it was another case of inconsistency from officials in one of the biggest games of the campaign.
WHO'S UP NEXT
Borussia Dortmund v Tottenham, Europa League (Thursday, March 10)
Hull v Arsenal, FA Cup (Tuesday, March 8)
Wenger had no complaints about Coquelin's red card, but felt Dier should have suffered the same fate.
"We told (Coquelin) at half-time, because he had a yellow already," the Gunners boss said on BT Sport.
"But I think Dier deserves a second yellow as well. That could have changed the game."
He added: "We have shown great spirit all the game. I am proud of the spirit the players have shown, and the response to going 2-1 down with 10 men away from home.
"But we have big regrets because it looked like we were completely in control. Then we went down to 10 men. That's the regret of the day. It's difficult to take."
Pochettino was disappointed Spurs failed to hold onto the lead, but felt his team "played much better than them" and took heart from the fact his side maintained their three-point cushion over their fierce rivals.
"In the first half we conceded a goal when we fully deserved to score, and because we managed the game from the beginning, but sometimes it's difficult," the Argentinian said.
"At 2-1 for us, I'm disappointed at the final whistle.
"But the last action, (the chance) for Ramsey at the end, we need to be pleased and happy because we keep the three-point (gap) to Arsenal and I think if you analyse the game we played much better than them."