Tottenham Hotspur 1 Arsenal 4 (aet): Samir Nasri at the double as Gunners rip sloppy Spurs to shreds in extra-time rout

September 21st, 2010

Had Arsene Wenger actually been on the bench on Tuesday night, he might have been tempted to hug the fourth official before whispering sweet nothings in his ear.

Because after seeing Lee Probert allow a Robbie Keane equaliser that should have been disallowed for offside, the referee had the courage to quite rightly award two extra-time penalties that enabled Samir Nasri to secure a memorable win for Arsenal at White Hart Lane.

Wenger must have gone through the full spectrum of emotions at he watched from the directors’ box, having earlier in the day accepted his one-match ban for his furious response to Darren Bent’s late goal at Sunderland on Saturday.

If there was elation at the sight of Henri Lansbury marking his first start for the club with his first goal, he would have felt anger towards the officials and his error-prone goalkeeper, Lukasz Fabianski, in equal measure when Keane struck shortly after the break.

Add to that the fact that communication with his bench was severely disrupted by a poor mobile phone signal and it must have been a frustrating first 90 minutes for the Arsenal manager.

But then came those two penalties, after little more than 30 seconds and then four minutes into the first period – before a super goal from Andrey Arshavin in the 105th minute underlined their dominance.

The penalties were richly deserved, Sebastien Bassong pulling on substitute Marouane Chamakh’s shirt before young Steven Caulker tugged over the rapidly Moroccan.

The first Arsenal goal had come from a young Englishman making his first start after being schooled at Watford and Scunthorpe on loan, as well as Arsenal’s brilliant academy.

Wenger has said Henri Lansbury ‘will be a big player’ and the 19- year-old attacking midfielder from Enfield certainly made a big impact, demonstrating exactly why he has already appeared for the England Under-21 side, having captained his country at U-19 and U-16 levels.

For a young Arsenal player it does not get any better than this, his first goal not only coming against Tottenham but at White Hart Lane.

For Wenger it must have been wonderful too. His team were playing some super football, with the English talent of Lansbury, Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs combining beautifully with the continental flair of players like Nasri and Tomas Rosicky.

Much was made of just how strong an Arsenal team this was for a game this early in the competition but it was more of a measure of the strength in Wenger’s squad than anything else.

There were still nine changes to the side held at Sunderland, and only two or three could be confident of regular first-team football.

Like Wenger, Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp also opted for a mixture of youth and experience. But it did nothing to lessen the sense of occasion.

The atmosphere at White Hart Lane was terrific. So, for that matter, was some of the football, both teams playing with real purpose and fluency on a night that started with a minute’s applause for the late, great Bobby Smith.

But Arsenal showed greater poise and, to the delight of Wenger, secured the lead with what amounted to their first attack after 15 minutes. It was a delightfully executed goal.

A lovely touch from Rosicky was followed by a super ball across the face of goal and Lansbury sprinted off the right flank, arriving at the far post to convert.

Tottenham had created chances of their own, in the form of two efforts from David Bentley. He threatened with a free-kick as well as a shot from distance, but to no avail.

Although Roman Pavlyuchenko went closer still for Spurs with a shot that flew into the side-netting, players like Wilshere and Lansbury were continuing to impress alongside Nasri and Rosicky.

Arsenal were dominating possession, with Wilshere proving himself a fierce competitor in the heart of midfield against relative giants like Sandro and Jake Livermore, the latter picking up the first caution.

Frustration was beginning to creep into Tottenham’s football, the sight of Pavlyuchenko collecting the second booking of the night for a reckless challenge on Johan Djourou evidence of that.

A third Spurs yellow card soon followed for Kyle Naughton for a foul on Rosicky, although he was a little unlucky given how close he got to winning the challenge.

But this was becoming a tough contest for this weakened Spurs team, not least because of the difficulty they were experiencing in getting time on the ball.

The Arsenal supporters were delighting in the silence among the Spurs fans. Such are the rather relaxed rules in this country for a touchline ban, Wenger left the directors’ box shortly before the half-time whistle so he could spend the interval with his players.

But there was not much he needed to say. Not when they were playing as well as they were.

Redknapp would have been less amused, even if much of his anger would have been towards the Spurs fans for booing their team after just 45 minutes.

A little harsh, in fairness, particularly when Sandro and goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa were making their debuts. Not exactly a welcome to north London.

Redknapp responded by making two changes and the arrival of Keane and Aaron Lennon quickly made a difference.

Within three minutes Keane had scored, albeit from an offside position and thanks in no small part to Fabianski. While the Irishman was offside when Naughton released his pass, Fabianski really should have saved what was a fairly weak shot.

As it was, he succeeded only in diverting the ball against his left-hand post before seeing it cross the line. A goal that propelled the match towards extra-time and penalties, but that was just one-way traffic.


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