Monday 29 May 2017

Rose blooms as Arsenal's hopes wilt in derby heat

TOTTENHAM 2
ARSENAL 1

Henry Winter

ARSENAL won the 1971 and 2004 titles in their neighbour's backyard but their dream for the 2010 trophy died here. A late fight-back inspired by the returning Robin van Persie, and bringing a goal for Nicklas Bendtner, was not enough to haul in a confident Spurs, who had raced into a two-goal lead through Danny Rose and Gareth Bale.

Arsenal were too toothless for too long. Only when Van Persie arrived midway through the second half did they really pose a threat. Before then, Spurs had shown by far the sharper cutting edge. With Luka Modric an elegant force in central midfield as Spurs intensified their chase for fourth place, the hosts scored two fine goals.

Rose's strike was as magical as it was improbable while Bale's clever finish simply highlighted the problems in Arsenal's defence, although some of Sol Campbell's interceptions revived memories of his best days.

What a game, 90 compelling minutes of football and another absorbing episode of derby drama. This fixture has lost nothing of its visceral intensity and the noise from the fans shook this old ground to its very foundations. Spurs' desire to retain such a special atmosphere in the magnificent new redevelopment will be one of the architect's greatest challenges.

The volume rose from the moment Campbell took the field, with the roof being raised when Rose's 30-yarder raised the roof of Arsenal's net.

EXPLOSION

It was as if all Spurs' FA Cup semi-final frustrations were poured into Rose's volley and the collective explosion of joy from the fans.

Spurs were stirred up for this; perhaps it was the sight of Campbell or the enduring anger from Sunday's Wembley defeat cheekily remembered by Arsenal fans with a raucous rendition of 'Play up Pompey'. Perhaps it was the presence of Roberto Mancini, whose Manchester City side have seized control of fourth. Perhaps it was the early wake-up call when Campbell almost scored in the opening minutes. Only Benoit Assou-Ekotto's positioning on the line rescued Spurs.

Arsenal were enjoying great chunks of possession, their full-backs, Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy, pushing on persistently, but Spurs had the goal.

And what a goal. Making his full league debut, and lasting only a half, Rose's stunning response to Manuel Almunia's weak punched clearance will linger long in the memory.

There are debuts; and then there are occasions that provide the enduring memory of your entire career. For the 19-year-old former graduate of the Leeds United academy, it is possible that last night ticked both those boxes.

To make your first senior start for a winning Tottenham team in a north London derby would be the stuff of dreams. To do that and score the sort of breathtaking goal that will be talked about for decades to come would have been beyond the imagination of anyone inside White Hart Lane last night.

Except perhaps Rose. Most teenagers would not have even dared to shoot from such an outlandish position. He was at least 30 yards from goal as Almunia's punch appeared to be sailing clear of danger. The obvious response would have been an attempt to bring the ball under control and then hopefully loft it back into the penalty area.

Instead, Rose settled himself and unleashed an instinctive and dipping left-footed volley that flew in. For a second, there was open-mouthed silence. Uncontrolled ecstasy then broke out at White Hart Lane.

Goal of the month? Definitely. Goal of the season? Quite probably. Some Tottenham fans were offering the view that it was goal of the century.

So just who is Danny Rose? During the summer of 2006, he became embroiled in a transfer scandal when Leeds chairman Ken Bates rounded on Chelsea for the way they tried to sign his academy players. Rose's Leeds academy team-mates Tom Taiwo and Michael Woods left Leeds to join Chelsea, but Rose decided to remain at Leeds.

He stayed until the following summer and, after loan spells with Peterborough and Watford, he took his big chance in the Tottenham team following injuries to Aaron Lennon and Niko Kranjcar. But nobody had expected this.

Harry Redknapp had sought to use the pace of Jermain Defoe and Roman Pavlyuchenko to isolate Arsenal's centre-halves, Campbell and Thomas Vermaelen -- the Belgian limped off midway through the first half with a calf problem, replaced by Mikael Silvestre.

If the atmosphere remained febrile on the terraces, with the home supporters serenading Wenger in typically poisonous fashion, the temperature rose on the pitch with a sudden spate of cautions.

The outstanding Modric, whose venom in the tackle is usually more Norman Wisdom than Norman Hunter, was cautioned for a foul on Sagna. Denilson followed the Croatian into the book for catching Rose.

Then Younes Kaboul brought down Tomas Rosicky.

Arsenal were full of creativity but no cutting edge. They almost broke through from Campbell's clever nod-down but Rosicky's shot was blocked by Ledley King. The half finished with Spurs almost claiming a second but Almunia managed to save from Modric after good work by Pavlyuchenko.

As White Hart Lane dissolved into delight, Spurs added their second, moments after the re-start. Arsenal could have been distracted by assessing the positioning of Spurs' new arrival, David Bentley, who replaced Rose.

Detect

In truth, it was simply the rust-laden reactions of Silvestre that cost Arsenal. The Frenchman simply did not detect the movement of Bale, who ran on to Defoe's angled pass to clip the ball past Almunia.

Arsenal's title ambitions were already slim, but any hopes were disappearing completely here. So Wenger made his move, unleashing Theo Walcott, who was swiftly involved. Walcott kept running at Assou-Ekotto, kept showing for the ball, but Arsenal lacked an authoritative target man.

Wenger then sent on Van Persie for his first game since November and he was outstanding. Ten minutes from time, Van Persie reminded Arsenal fans what they had been missing: taking the ball on his chest, he whipped in a volley that Gomes saved well.

The Brazilian goalkeeper then made another magnificent save, clawing away Van Persie's powerful free-kick. Still Gomes impressed, somehow pushing Campbell's header onto the bar.

Arsenal still pressed, Van Persie helping create their goal with a clever pass to Walcott, whose low cross from the right was turned in by Bendtner.

"As long as it's not mathematically impossible it is not impossible," Wenger said afterwards. "Our job is to fight and we will do that."

But it won't be enough now.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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