By Nik Brumsack at White Hart Lane
Mathieu Flamini scored a brace as Arsenal beat Tottenham Hotspur to advance to the fourth round of the Capital One Cup on Wednesday evening.
The French midfielder, making his first appearance of the season, gave the Gunners a first-half lead when tapping home after Michel Vorm had spilled Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s fierce shot.
Calum Chambers’ own goal shortly after the restart levelled things up before Flamini had the final say 13 minutes from time, volleying home an unstoppable 20-yard winner.
Arsenal have scored some superb goals at White Hart Lane over the years - just ask Liam Brady or Tomas Rosicky. Flamini's was every bit as emphatic, a spectacular, tie-winning strike that will be remembered and savoured for years to come.
This was the perfect response from the disappointments of Zagreb and Chelsea. Arsène Wenger’s side stood up to the task of a typically-tenacious north London derby and were rewarded thanks to Flamini's moment of inspiration.
For a prolonged spell at the start of the second half, the Gunners had to deal with wave after wave of Tottenham pressure. They did just that, restoring north London bragging rights in the process.
Arsenal's reward for this victory is a fourth-round tie away at Championship side Sheffield Wednesday. Before then though, a trip to Leicester on Saturday concludes a hectic spell of four away matches in 10 days.
They would have struggled to find a better way to prepare for that tough-looking trip to King Power Stadium than with this morale-boosting victory.
SETTING THE SCENE
Wenger had made it clear pre-match that he would name an experienced team for the first north London derby of the season.
He kept his word, making 10 changes from the side that had travelled to Chelsea at the weekend, with Aaron Ramsey the only survivor. David Ospina was selected in goal, with Mathieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs at full back. Elsewhere, Per Mertesacker made his first appearance since August 16 after recovering from a chest infection. He partnered Chambers.
Mikel Arteta and Flamini provided the midfield base, with Ramsey ahead of them. Olivier Giroud led the line with support from Joel Campbell and Oxlade-Chamberlain, who started on the wings.
Tottenham's team included Harry Kane, who had scored a matchwinning brace when these sides last met in March.
The Gunners had only won once on their previous five trips here, but did hold fond memories of League Cup matches at White Hart Lane. Five years ago this week, Henri Lansbury was among the scorers as Arsenal won 4-1 after extra time.
The game started at the frenetic pace usually associated with this famous fixture. Both sides moved the ball quickly and confidently across the slick playing turf, though it took 13 minutes for the first sight at goal to arrive.
When it did, Gibbs raced down the left before crossing for Giroud who, under pressure from Federico Fazio, couldn’t make sufficient contact with his sliding effort. The ball looped up to the far post, where Campbell headed off target.
In general though, the opening stages were even. Both sides manoeuvred the ball confidently without creating an opportunity of note.
That changed after 26 minutes when Arsenal took the lead courtesy of an unlikely source. After Ramsey won possession back, the ball was worked to Giroud, who found Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The winger charged into a central position before unleashing a fierce drive that Michel Vorm couldn’t hold. The rebound fell to the onrushing Flamini, who lifted the ball into the roof of the net from close range.
The goal brought the game to life. Campbell typified Arsenal’s committed approach, winning two fierce duels inside his own half in quick succession.
Tottenham had become more of a threat after falling behind but almost gifted Wenger’s side a second goal just before the break. Fazio's pass in the direction of Kieran Trippier was loose and allowed Oxlade-Chamberlain to intercept on the halfway line. The England international raced forward, outpacing Fazio but curling his effort wide from inside the area.
The play quickly switched to the other end and Kane could have brought the hosts level on the stroke of half-time dragging his shot off target after finding space on the left-hand side of the Arsenal box.
The hosts began the second half with purpose and would have levelled within five minutes were it not for Ospina, who brilliantly got a vital touch on Christian Eriksen’s 20-yarder to deflect the ball against the post. Kane knocked home the rebound but was correctly flagged offside.
Soon after though, Tottenham had their equaliser. Nacer Chadli was the provider, getting to the byline before sending in a low cross that Chambers deflected past Ospina.
Having been comfortable before the break, Arsenal were now battling just to stay level. Chambers’ own goal had given Mauricio Pochettino’s team a sizeable fillip and the capacity White Hart Lane crowd responded in turn.
Tottenham would have taken the lead midway through the half but for the quick thinking of Gibbs, who retreated to the goalline to nod away Kane’s spectacular scissors kick. It would have been a goal of top quality.
That escape, combined with the introduction of Alexis, seemed to galvanise Arsenal.
Giroud got on the end of a slick move and drew a good save from Vorm before the striker was inches away from meeting Ramsey’s inviting centre soon after.
Then, out of nowhere, the Gunners took the lead - and in some style. Alexis received possession midway inside the Tottenham half and looked to send Oxlade-Chamberlain clear. Fazio read the pass but scooped his attempted clearance into the air. The ball seemed to be in the north London sky for an age but when it came back down, Flamini met it with a 20-yard volley so well hit it gave Vorm no chance before nestling in the bottom corner.
It was a simply stunning strike and one that sent the travelling contingent in the corner of the South and West stands into a loud, long celebration.
Tottenham still had time to draw level but, despite sending men forward and bringing on striker Clinton N'Jie, Pochettino’s team were met with a red brick wall that stood firm. In truth, the visitors looked the more dangerous as the game became increasingly stretched, with substitute Theo Walcott going close to adding a third in stoppage time.
The final whistle sounded soon after and was met with more cheers from the Arsenal supporters. It was fitting that a goal as memorable as Flamini’s second had decided this derby.
Referee: Andre Marriner
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