Match ReportPicturesReactionWallpaperGalleryFirst 11PLUS ClassicsPLUS Post-matchPLUS HighlightsTottenham Hotspur 2-2 Arsenal
FA Premiership, White Hart Lane
Sunday, April 25, 2004. Kick-off: 4.05pm MORE PICTURES  REFEREEMark Halsey
(Lancashire)ATTENDANCE36,097ARSENAL Jens Lehmann Lauren Kolo Toure Sol Campbell Ashley Cole Ray Parlour Edu 66 Patrick Vieira Gilberto Robert Pires Dennis Bergkamp Jose Antonio Reyes 80 Thierry HenrySUBS NOT USED Graham Stack Martin Keown Gael ClichyTOTTENHAM HOTSPUR Kasey Keller Stephen Kelly Gustavo Poyet Anthony Gardner Ledley King Mauricio Taricco Goran Bunjevcevic 95 Simon Davies Michael Brown Jamie Redknapp Johnnie Jackson Jermain Defoe 46 Fredi Kanoute Robbie KeaneSUBS NOT USED Rob Burch Rohan RickettsTOTTENHAM HOTSPUR2Redknapp 62
Keane 94 penARSENAL2Vieira 3
Pires 35

By Richard Clarke

An injury-time penalty from Robbie Keane denied Arsenal victory in the North London derby at White Hart Lane on Sunday afternoon but the draw was good enough for Arsène Wenger's side to win the Premiership title.

Chelsea's defeat at Newcastle just before kick-off meant the visitors began this game nine points ahead of the Stamford Bridge side and needed only a draw to secure the Club's 13th League title.

After Patrick Vieira slid Arsenal ahead after only three minutes the result was never in doubt. Ten minutes before the break, Robert Pires steered home a second.

However Tottenham got back into the game with Jamie Redknapp's shot in the 61st minute and in the dying seconds referee Mark Halsey awarded a penalty from which Keane struck home the equaliser.

It was a disappointing end for Arsenal who had been in charge for much of the game. But the players lifted themselves quickly and did a jig of victory at the final whistle.

Before the game the manager had said that he'd have virtually his entire squad available. In the end, he omitted Freddie Ljungberg who was still suffering from some pain after breaking two bones in his hand against Manchester United in the FA Cup Semi-Final.

However Ashley Cole was fit again after missing the 5-0 victory over Leeds with an ankle injury. That victory had been nine days earlier and, in that time, second-place Chelsea had picked up just one point from two games. The first had been a 0-0 draw with Everton at Stamford Bridge last Saturday, the other a 2-1 defeat at Newcastle in a game that ended just minutes before this one began.

That result was celebrated long and loud by those Arsenal fans who had got into White Hart Lane early. They knew Wenger's men now needed only to avoid defeat to claim the title and, going into this fixture, they had gone 33 Premiership games without suffering such a reverse. The cards were stacked in Arsenal's favour.

They were in a pile Everest-tall three minutes in. A Tottenham corner went astray and Thierry Henry collected the ball just outside the area. The Frenchman took it in his stride and fed a clever pass inside the backtracking Stephen Kelly perfectly into the path of the galloping Bergkamp. With typical technique, the Dutchman looked up and spotted Vieira racing into the area. The captain slid in his only his second goal of the season.

The perfect start.

With the comfort of that early lead, Arsenal started to turn on the style. Bergkamp escaped on the left and just failed to turn back a cross for the waiting Henry. The 34-year-old then nearly did it himself, running through and forcing Kasey Keller into a low save.

Tottenham, who had surprisingly left Jermain Defoe on the bench, were playing like a team low on confidence. They were organised and committed but could neither go through the defence nor get around the side of it. Their best opportunities in the opening half hour were Jamie Redknapp's low, skimming free-kick and Mauricio Taricco's speculative effort that ended up on the top of the net.

However you sensed Arsenal were still in control and merely waiting for their next opportunity. It arrived 10 minutes before the break.

Bergkamp's clever ball sent Vieira into space on the left of the penalty area. He hooked the ball back for Pires to sidefoot home his 19th goal of the season. It was his 14th Premiership strike.

Tottenham replied with Simon Davies sending a dipping shot over the bar and Johnnie Jackson's cross-cum-shot forcing Jens Lehmann into a tip over the bar.

But, two minutes before the break, Henry - who had been quiet in front of goal - raced clear on the right of the area and thumped a low that Keller did well to hang onto.

Tottenham brought on Defoe after the interval - they had little choice. The change helped them push back Arsenal straight after restart.

But that gave the visitors space in which to break. Henry nearly put in Pires and Cole then forced Keller into a fine save at the near post.

So it seemed that Arsenal had drawn Tottenham's sting when the home got back into the game in the 61st minute.

Defoe advanced down the left and touched the ball inside for Michael Brown. In turn, he slipped a short pass to Redknapp who thumped a 25-yard into the corner of Lehmann's net.

It was game on again.

However Henry should have slammed the door shut once again soon afterwards. Put through by Pires in the 72nd minute he was one-on-one with Keller, he lifted his shot over the keeper but wide of the post.

In response, Redknapp cracked a free-kick just over but then, in the 78th minute, Pires smacked a shot against the bar when he too should have scored.

It seemed the Arsenal were going to draw out the tension until the very end. Jose Antonio Reyes even blocked Henry's goal-bound shot just minutes after replacing Bergkamp.

Defoe nearly grabbed an equaliser in the final minute of normal time but Lehmann punched over his dipping free-kick from just under the bar.

From the corner, Lehmann tangled with Keane. Both players were booked and, eventually, referee Halsey awarded a penalty. Keane took it and sent it high to the left of the German keeper.

So a slight downside to the victory but, make no mistake, this was still an historic day.

When the Arsenal players go into training at London Colney every morning, they always pass an honours board. It is a large stone plaque to the left of the entrance.

Cut into the hard, black stone are the words "League Championship" followed by the years 1931, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1938, 1948, 1953, 1971, 1989, 1991, 1998 and 2002.

They will be chiselling in the number "2004" in a few weeks.

Arsenal did not beat Tottenham this afternoon but the draw was good enough to set in stone another League title.



   MATCH PICTURES 


Patrick Vieira slides in our openerOur captain roars with delightPatrick celebrates his strike1-0 to the ArsenalRobert Pires slides home our secondRobert wheels away in triumphThe team congratulate our scorerChampions...Champions!

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source Richard Clarke 20 May 2004