By Mo Khan
Arsenal beat Tottenham at Stevenage Borough on Monday night as
the Gunners' prolific strikeforce settled a tight, scrappy
north London derby.
Second-half strikes from Nicklas Bendtner and Arturo Lupoli
ensured the latter's first-half penalty miss was consigned to
irrelevant history as Neil Banfield's men secured their second
away win of the season.
Manuel Almunia's inclusion in goal, at the expense of young
Italian Vito Mannone, was the only change from the team that drew
0-0 with Chelsea last week. Mannone dropped to the bench.
The highly-rated Matthew Connolly again partnered Sean Kelly in
central defence and Alexandre Song was in tandem with Fabrice
Muamba in the middle of the park.
Lupoli and Bendtner led the line but, with Arsenal lacking the
creative flair of Ryan Smith - on loan at Leicester City - and
Quincy, the impressive Republic of Ireland Under-21 international
Patrick Cregg assumed their mantle to provide two astute
The game got off to a slow start with both sides exchanging
misplaced passes but the Gunners were soon on the attack down
Tottenham's left-hand side with Bendtner. As the tall Dane
strode towards the Spurs penalty area he was crudely upended by
Charlie Lee. The resulting free-kick but it went straight into the
wall and Spurs cleared at the second attempt.
Arsenal were playing more like the home side with the relentless
running and closing down of Song and Muamba allowing the Tottenham
midfield little or no time on the ball to engineer a move.
With eight minutes gone it was Song who won back possession and
immediately released the quicksilver Lupoli on the left, but the
Brescia-born hitman's fierce shot from the angle was beaten
away by Radek Cerny in the Tottenham goal.
Moments later, Arsenal fashioned a wonderful move with Cregg the
architect. The 19-year-old played a superb ball forward from the
right flank into Bendtner. The Dane rose highest and headed the
ball into the onrushing Lupoli's path. For a split second it
looked as though the Italian was shaping up to hit it on the
volley, but he seemed to hestitate at the last moment and the ball
The home side did have the ball in the net after 17 minutes, but
Stephen Kelly's strike was disallowed for a push on
Connolly was again in inspired form, a towering presence both at
the back and when Arsenal swung in crosses from set pieces. Twice
the young defender went close with headers as Cregg continued to
produce quality deliveries into the box.
The match was drifting aimlessly towards half time when, three
minutes before the break, Anthony Stokes and Lupoli played a
one-two on the left of the Spurs penalty area and the Irishman was
brought down by Charlie Lee. The referee awarded the penalty and
Lupoli stepped up but his low drive was palmed away by Cerny for
the last noteworthy action of the half.
Tottenham squandered their best opening of the game 10 minutes
into the second half when Jamie O'Hara found himself clean
through with only Almunia to beat, but he scuffed his shot and the
Spaniard saved easily.
Spurs striker Lee Barnard finished second only to Lupoli in the
Reserve League South scoring charts last term, and he almost showed
just why on the hour mark, but his swivel and shot on the
half-volley flew over the bar.
Seconds later, Bendtner was sent tumbling by a Spurs defender
but the referee waved play on. As the Dane showed his frustration
at the decision, Arsenal won back possession and Cregg released
Bendtner with a perfectly weighted slide-rule pass. The Danish
Under-17 forward ran on to it in a flash and found the target from
a tight angle before wheeling off in celebration. He will feel
justice was served and he savoured the moment, notching his eighth
goal of the season.
The game was settled after 78 minutes as Lupoli made amends for
his earlier penalty miss. Cregg again was the supplier as his ball
into the box was aerially contested by Bendtner and Cerny in the
Spurs box. There was only going to be one winner and Lupoli latched
onto his strike partner's flick to tap into an empty net from
three yards out.
Arsenal almost increased their advantage with Stokes and Lupoli
both coming close with long-range efforts in the final 10
In the end, Banfield's men had secured the points with two
well-taken goals, despite a subdued performance. Winning even when
you're not playing well however, is a sure sign of a quality
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