Tottenham edged a frenetic north London derby 2-1 on Sunday, with two goals in as many first-half minutes ensuring victory for the home side over Arsenal. Despite a few nervy moments for the White Hart Lane faithful, Spurs showed the required determination and resolve to see out a game that moves them back into pole position for a Champions League qualification berth.
Tottenham’s attacking prowess and technical improvement under Andre Villas-Boas has been well publicised this season, with Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon typifying the team’s ability to strike in a split second with their well-worked goals against Arsenal. However, the most impressive thing to take from the Lilywhites’ victory over their rivals is the manner of their defensive rearguard, and mental toughness to avoid a capitulation that Spurs fans have been accustomed to in the past.
After an even first 30 minutes of the game Spurs took their chances well to go into the lead, and made the most of lax Arsenal defending. However, despite going into the break two goals to the good, the last two times these teams have faced up Spurs have found themselves in this position of power and somehow been thumped 5-2.
At the half-time break Villas-Boas will have implored his side not to concede an early goal in the second half, however when Per Mertesacker’s header found the back of the Spurs net after 51 minutes, admittedly via a deflection from Gareth Bale, the game was on a knife-edge. Over the next five minutes Spurs were under the cosh from a rejuvenated Arsenal, and in the past they may well have lost confidence and shipped at least another goal. However this time round dedicated defending and a mental toughness got them through a sticky period, and allowed them to go on to win the game.
Many a Spurs fan will have utter the words ‘here we go again’ when Mertesacker’s goal crept past Hugo Lloris, but it was actually Tottenham that created the best chances to score after this, with Bale, Jermain Defoe and in particular Gylfi Sigurdsson wasteful in front of goal.
The defensive performance of Tottenham’s rearguard was admirable, with captain Michael Dawson and man of the match Jan Vertonghen a rock for the side, but the whole team showed the necessary dedication and never-say-die attitude to win a game that in previous seasons they would have thrown away.
As Villas-Boas says a place in the top four is not yet secured, and there is not yet a shifting in the dominant force in north London. However, a gutsy and victorious performance puts Spurs one step closer to qualifying for Europe’s top competition whilst simultaneously damaging the momentum of their most bitter rivals.