Friday 24 November 2017

Alli and Kane end 22 years of pain to confirm North London power shift

Tottenham 2 Arsenal 0

Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the gameat White Hart Lane,. Photo: Adam Davy/PA
Tottenham Hotspur's Dele Alli celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the gameat White Hart Lane,. Photo: Adam Davy/PA

Jason Burt

Mind the gap. St Totteringham's Day is no more. Tottenham Hotspur have waited 22 years for this. Arsenal can take down the bunting and hand back the bragging rights.

Spurs will, finally, finish above Arsenal in the league for the first time in more than two decades, and it was confirmed with a victory as emphatic as they could have wished for. The scoreline was 2-0 but it seemed there was a gulf between the sides only kept in check by Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech.

Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey in action with Tottenham's Victor Wanyama. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters
Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey in action with Tottenham's Victor Wanyama. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters

A full 17 points now separates these two clubs in the Premier League table after what was the last north London derby to be played at White Hart Lane. It may be different next season, with Tottenham moving to Wembley, but on yesterday's evidence Spurs are heading in a different direction to Arsenal on the pitch and on the touchline.

This was Arsene Wenger's 50th north London derby as Arsenal manager and only the eighth he has lost. It was a game in which he was dominated and tactically out-thought by Mauricio Pochettino, while his players were unable to respond.

They appeared soft and lacking in a desire to accept responsibility when they could have taken a big step in their desperate fight for a top-four finish and Champions League football. Instead Wenger seems set to miss out for the first time since 1997.

Collectively, Spurs ran 10km further and that spoke of a willingness to go the extra mile - or six miles in fact - in their bid to keep the title race alive.

With Chelsea having won the trickiest fixture in their run-in, away to Everton, before Spurs kicked off, the lead at the top was stretched back to seven points. Now Tottenham can reduce it to one point, as they face West Ham away on Friday before Chelsea play again.

Of course, with just four games to go, a lead of four points and the lack of an apparently difficult opponent means Chelsea remain overwhelming favourites, but Spurs are gathering momentum, belief and are not going away.

Tottenham's Harry Kane is brought down by Arsenal's Gabriel Paulista for a penalty. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters
Tottenham's Harry Kane is brought down by Arsenal's Gabriel Paulista for a penalty. Photo: Paul Childs/Reuters

They have just one home game left, with Manchester United the final team they face before this grand old stadium is demolished, and are on a run of 16 straight victories - 13 in the league - here.

If they do not lose to United they will have gone the whole season undefeated at White Hart Lane for the first time since 1964-65.

Pochettino has spoken about how the club need to think "bigger" than just finishing ahead of Arsenal and of course he is right, but it was evident from the way he celebrated at the final whistle that this was a delicious, special victory.

There have been 11 different Spurs managers who have faced Wenger and Pochettino is the first to have bested him. In fact, he has not lost any of the six north London derbies he has contested in the league, winning two and drawing four.

There was never any real doubt that Spurs would win this one. For long periods Arsenal were hanging in there, with the three-at-the-back system not working and too many players - and, yes, Mesut Ozil was chief among them, again - going missing against opponents who looked stronger and more organised.

"Restricted," is how Wenger's described his team's play at times and that was being kind. He also - unusually - conceded that Spurs were the better team and deserved victory and while he called the penalty that led to the second goal "soft", he did not dispute its legitimacy.

Unlike his players. If only those such as Nacho Monreal, who tried to convince referee Michael Oliver that Harry Kane had dived, had been so animated during the rest of the game. Instead they were 'up for it' when disputing a penalty that was correctly given after Gabriel clearly tripped Kane inside the area.

Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen battle for the ball with Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters
Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen battle for the ball with Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters

Spurs may have waited 22 years for this but they secured it in precisely 146 seconds - the exact time between the second-half goals by Dele Alli and Kane, and how appropriate that the club's two poster boys were on the score-sheet.

Two clear chances were missed during the first period, Alli heading wide and Christian Eriksen volleying against the bar, but it was significant how Spurs upped the pace after the first 45 minutes.

Arsenal could not cope with that. The first goal came 10 minutes after half time when Eriksen jinked into space in the box and drew a smart save from Cech. Alli showed greater desire than the Gunners defence to stretch and turn the ball into the net.

Arsenal were reeling and soon found themselves 2-0 down, with Kane cleverly dispatching his penalty low to Cech's right.

After that it was - despite Wenger's protestations - all Spurs and they should have had another penalty when Alexis Sanchez hand-balled in the area, while Cech made save after save to deny Kane, Jan Vertonghen, Toby -Alderweireld and the outstanding Victor Wanyama.

"North London is ours," sang the gleeful Spurs supporters as they ran through their repertoire of songs long before the end. North London is theirs and it felt like a shift in power. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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