Football: Spurs Frustrated By 10-Man Arsenal
Posted February 8, 2009on:
LONDON: Robbie Keane’s return to Tottenham Hotspur was not enough to prevent Sunday’s North London derby ending in a frustrating scoreless draw despite Arsenal being reduced to ten men following Emmanuel Eboue’s first half dismissal.
Ultimately Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was relieved his under-manned side managed to escape with a point but they now lie four points off fourth-placed Chelsea with growing doubts surrounding their hopes of Champions League qualification.
Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, meanwhile was left to contemplate a wasted opportunity for his team to drag themselves four points clear of the relegation zone.
Redknapp claims Keane’s arrival back at White Hart Lane from Liverpool has given his beleaguered squad an instant lift.
But that feel-good factor was almost immediately wiped out when Robin van Persie carved open Spurs’ suspect defence with a neat flick that allowed Eboue to race into the home box and deliver a teasing ball across the face of goal.
Had Emmanuel Adebayor been a yard further forward, Keane’s homecoming party would have been brought to an abrupt halt after just five minutes.
The Irishman’s enthusiasm was clearly having a galvanising effect on his team-mates and his powerful runs into the left hand channel threatened to create an opening for new strike-partner Roman Pavlyuchenko.
But it was Arsenal who managed to find the net first when Eboue finished from close range only to see the 13th minute effort disallowed for an innocuous foul on Jonathan Woodgate.
That was the first of a series of frustrations for the headstrong midfielder and four minutes later he was needlessly booked for failing to retreat at a free-kick.
And from that point Arsenal’s early dominance quickly began to fade as Spurs – and Luka Modric in particular – began to take control of the central areas of the pitch, forcing the visitors onto the back-foot.
Modric’s slight frame proved far too elusive for the Arsenal midfield and a combination of the Croatian’s vision together with a perfectly weighted pass freed Aaron Lennon inside the box only for the right winger to skew his left foot shot horribly wide.
Modric produced a much more effective effort when he went it alone moments later, forcing Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia into a hurried save with a skidding 20-yard drive.
Arsenal were looking increasingly ragged and the growing sense that this would not be their afternoon increased when Adebayor pulled up abruptly in the 34th minute with a hamstring injury that could keep him out for weeks.
But worse was to come three minutes later when Eboue became tangled with Modric and kicked out at the Spurs player to earn a second yellow card and with it a foolish dismissal.
The advantage had been handed emphatically to Tottenham but they showed few signs of possessing the composure needed to translate that into goals.
Chances went begging, with the guiltiest culprit being Pavlyuchenko who demonstrated a shocking lack of composure after easily cutting inside Kolo Toure, choosing to blast the ball over when three of his team-mates were better placed in front of goal.
And Keane came close to claiming the goal that would have capped his week when he connected with Aaron Lennon’s right wing cross, sending a header beyond Almunia and narrowly over the crossbar.
The striker came close again with a 71st minute shot but in between those efforts, the numerically disasdvantaged Gunners had the best chance of the afternoon to claim all three point when Alex Song evaded his marker and volleyed Van Persie’s corner wide from just six yards out.
Wenger’s hot new signing, Russian Andrei Arshavin, had his first taste of life in the Premier League but only as an unused substitute. – AFP/de
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