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26 Feb 2012 20:27
Arsenal staged a magnificent fightback to thrash Tottenham 5-2 in the north London derby on Sunday as Manchester United scrambled a last-gasp 2-1 win over Norwich.
Arsenal appeared to be hurtling towards a disastrous home defeat after an early Louis Saha strike and an Emmanuel Adebayor penalty fired Spurs into a 2-0 lead at the Emirates.
But two goals in three minutes from Bacary Sagna and captain Robin van Persie made it 2-2 before Arsenal cut loose in the second half with Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott (2) completing a remarkable transformation.
At Carrow Road, Ryan Giggs—playing in his 900th game for United—struck in the 90th minute to clinch a precious victory for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side which saw them reduce Manchester City’s lead at the top to two points.
“I have to say we were lucky today, in the sense Norwich had more promise about them. I thought we were lethargic, too casual on the ball,” said Ferguson.
“Then when we lost the goal, we played brilliantly.
That tells you something about the temperament, they do not get nervous and started to up their game, so that augers well for us.”
Arsenal’s win eased the pressure on beleaguered Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, whose side were still reeling from a heavy Champions League defeat to AC Milan and a FA Cup exit at Sunderland.
The Gunners’ victory also denied Tottenham their first season double over Arsenal for 19 years, and moved Arsenal back into the Champions League qualification places ahead of Chelsea.
“It was a performance full of everything you want from your team,” said Wenger.
“When you’re 2-0 down against a team in front of you with the quality they have, you need something exceptional. We refused to lose today, we kept going and in the end I think we had too much quality and drive.”
Arsenal got off to the worst possible start when Saha fired Tottenham ahead after only four minutes.
Adebayor picked out Saha in acres of space near the Arsenal area, and as the home defence dithered the Frenchman was given time to get his shot off and it looped into the net after a deflection.
Arsenal regrouped well after that disastrous setback but instead it was Spurs who struck next as Gareth Bale’s pace tormented the home defence.
Luka Modric found the Welshman flying into the box and the midfielder was brought down by the combined efforts of goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and Kieran Gibbs for a penalty.
Former Arsenal striker Adebayor stepped up to place his kick beyond Szczesny and Spurs were suddenly eyeing a crushing victory.
Yet the game was transformed in three remarkable minutes shortly before half-time which saw Arsenal claw their way back to 2-2.
Sagna pulled the first goal back with a well directed looping header from Mikel Arteta’s cross on 40 minutes.
Sublime individual effort
Three minutes later captain van Persie equalised with a sublime individual effort, carving out space for himself on the edge of the Tottenham area before curling beyond Brad Friedel for 2-2.
Tottenham boss Redknapp moved to stiffen his midfield at half-time, replacing Saha with Sandro and introducing Rafael van der Vaart in place of Niko Kranjcar.
But the changes were unable to halt Arsenal’s momentum, and a sweeping move ended with Rosicky making it 3-2 with a dinked finish on 51 minutes.
With Tottenham reeling, Arsenal maintained the onslaught and Walcott—barracked mercilessly by the home supporters earlier in the game—made it 4-2 on the counter-attack in the 65th minute.
The England midfielder then bagged his second on 68 minutes as the rout continued.
Tottenham’s misery was complete when Scott Parker was sent off in the closing stages for a second yellow card.
In Sunday’s other Premier League game, Stoke defeated Swansea 2-0 at the Britannia Stadium.—AFP
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