By Chris Harris
Arsenal ran riot in extra time to win a breathless North London derby and storm into the Fourth Round of the Carling Cup.
Henri Lansbury marked his first start for the Club with a first-half opener and the visitors were well worth their lead after controlling large chunks of a pulsating tie.
Robbie Keane struck just after the break to force extra time but Samir Nasri held his nerve to convert two penalties inside four minutes and Andrey Arshavin fired in a low drive to end Tottenham’s resistance and send the home fans home in their droves.
Arsène Wenger will have been impressed with what he saw from his prime view in the directors’ box where he served a one-match touchline ban after admitting an FA charge of improper conduct at Sunderland on Saturday.
And this was therapeutic for the Arsenal fans too. After years of supremacy over their local rivals they have had to stomach two defeats in three visits to White Hart Lane – including a numbing 5-1 loss in this competition two years ago.
This result will finally heal those wounds.
The teamsheets for this tie had been eagerly awaited following an afternoon of speculation and guesswork. Would Wenger rely on youth as he has done so often in the Carling Cup? Would Harry Redknapp rest his stars with the Champions League now among Spurs’ considerations?
In the end the hosts were more youthful than their visitors. Lansbury started for Arsenal while Craig Eastmond and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas were among the substitutes. But although Wenger made eight changes, his team boasted plenty of experience. Maybe he felt his team needed more knowhow for a fixture that is hotly contested at any stage of any competition.
Tonight was no exception.
From the first whistle tackles were snapped into and space was sparse in front of a Spurs crowd that has been living off two recent wins over their rivals and were greedy for more.
But the away fans had much more to shout about in the first half.
Carlos Vela and David Bentley managed varying degrees of waywardness with early sighters but neither keeper had been tested when Lansbury swept Arsenal in front after 14 minutes.
It was a move to admire. Emmanuel Eboue picked out Kieran Gibbs with a crossfield pass and he cut inside before shifting the ball outside to Nasri. The Frenchman helped it on into Wilshere’s path and he zoomed to the byline before crossing low for Lansbury to convert from close range.
Arsenal played keep-ball for a while and the ‘Oles’ rang out from the away end. It seemed a bit early for all that – Spurs would surely awake from their slumber at some point.
Sure enough, one slip from Johan Djourou allowed Bentley through after 20 minutes. The former Gunner had ample time to line himself up but fired wide of Fabianski’s left-hand post.
Roman Pavlyuchenko convinced half the ground he had scored with a flashing drive which found the side-netting but Spurs could do no more than play on the break. For the most part they were in thrall to an Arsenal side that popped the ball around quickly and slickly.
Further inroads were made in the 24th minute. Gibbs found Nasri and he picked out Rosicky for a cross that almost produced a carbon-copy of the goal. This time a defender just beat Lansbury to the ball.
Rosicky himself saw a shot deflect wide and then Gibbs went through only for an offside flag to – wrongly – halt his progress as he jinked past Stipe Pletikosa in the Spurs goal.
Gibbs was staking a convincing claim for a regular place. But even he could not match Wilshere for influence. The 18-year-old was dominating his first derby as if he’s played in these games for years.
At times Wilshere dropped even deeper than Denilson to conduct the Arsenal orchestra. And when Spurs gave him the rough stuff, he bounced back up and punished them with his passing.
Arsenal were well on top. All the same, you sensed they needed a second goal to give themselves breathing space. So far they had passed Spurs off the pitch but not out of the match.
Redknapp had seen enough and brought Keane and Aaron Lennon on at half-time. The double-change paid instant dividends.
Kyle Naughton stabbed a pass through to Keane three minutes after the restart and the Irishman got the benefit of a marginal offside decision before advancing to tuck a shot past Fabianski.
This was now a totally different game. But Arsenal regrouped and redoubled their efforts.
Vela spurned a golden chance on the hour mark, heading Rosicky’s cross over the bar. Wilshere was next to threaten with a low shot but Spurs were dangerous on the break and only a wonderful sliding challenge from the impressive Laurent Koscielny denied Lennon.
Now it was Arsenal’s turn to bring on the cavalry, Marouane Chamakh and Arshavin replacing Vela and Rosicky. Within seconds the Moroccan striker had nodded a Gibbs cross off target.
The pattern of the match endured: Arsenal bossing possession, Spurs countering at pace. And the chances came and went.
Keane smashed a close-range effort against a post from Bentley’s teasing free-kick. Lansbury fizzed in a shot that Pletikosa spilled and then recovered. Then the Spurs keeper pushed aside Denilson’s drive and held onto Eboue’s deflected strike.
That was it for normal time but Arsenal caught their rivals cold in the first minute of extra time.
Arshavin lifted the ball into the box, Bassong tugged Nasri’s shirt and the Frenchman picked himself up to convert the spot-kick to Pletikosa’s right.
Four minutes later he was at it again. This time Steven Caulker pulled back Chamakh and Nasri rolled his second penalty to the keeper’s left.
Bentley could have made a game of it but somehow placed a free header wide. And Arshavin extinguished any sniff of a comeback with a rasping drive as the first period of extra time drew to a close.
‘Shall we make a DVD?’ sang the away fans – a reference to Tottenham’s habit of releasing collector’s editions of wins (or even draws) against their local rivals.
There’s no need of course. Arsenal fans can watch the whole game whenever they want on Arsenal TV Online.
- Gibbs 102
- Koscielny Yellow Card
- Nasri Goal! Goal!
- Lansbury Goal! Yellow Card
- Rosicky 72
- Vela 72
- Clichy 102
- Arshavin 72 Goal!
- Chamakh 72
- Naughton Yellow Card
- Sandro 96
- Livermore 46 Yellow Card
- Giovani 46
- Pavlyuchenko Yellow Card
- Kranjcar 96
- Lennon 46
- Keane 46 Goal!