Spurs right the wrongs of the past to finally bury their derby demons
By Ben Pearce at White Hart Lane IT WAS the biggest north London derby for four years, since Thierry Henry's late equaliser broke Tottenham hearts at Highbury in April 2006. With the arch-rivals both chasing fourth place, Spurs had been six minutes from a
By Ben Pearce at White Hart Lane
IT WAS the biggest north London derby for four years, since Thierry Henry's late equaliser broke Tottenham hearts at Highbury in April 2006.
With the arch-rivals both chasing fourth place, Spurs had been six minutes from a potentially season-defining victory as they closed in on Champions League qualification.
It was not to be and Arsene Wenger's side caught the Lilywhites over the final weeks of the season, finally pipping them to the line on the final day.
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Fast forward to April 2010 and the scene was set once again - all to play for on both sides. Defeat for Arsenal would kill their title dreams. Defeat for Spurs would be their third in a row, leaving them four points adrift of Manchester City. A draw would probably mean a slow lingering death for both sides.
Tottenham had to do something they had failed to do in over a decade, since 1999 - beat the Gunners in the league.
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And, when Nicklas Bendtner converted Theo Walcott's cross in the 85th minute to halve the deficit at 2-1, it was hard to escape the flashbacks of 2006.
Was this to be yet another case of so near yet so far for Tottenham - against Arsenal, in the wider context of their season, and in their long-term quest for Champions League qualification? Were they really going to blow it again?
Not this time. Heroes emerged everywhere. Young Danny Rose has etched his name into Tottenham legend, scoring the goal of his life 10 minutes into his Premier League debut.
Gareth Bale, whose promising career had seemingly stalled just four months ago, capped a miraculous second half to the season with the second goal.
Returning captain Ledley King was magnificent in his first game for nearly two months and Tom Huddlestone seemed possessed by the spirit of the suspended Wilson Palacios, hustling and harrying the entire Gunners midfield for the full 90 minutes.
And then we come to the most important man of all - Heurelho Gomes, who made four breathtaking saves in the final 10 minutes as the Gunners battered down the door in a desperate bid to save their season.
With 10 minutes to go, the Brazilian keeper somehow reacted to stop a Robin van Persie volley from 12 yards and, four minutes later, he flung himself to his right to tip the Dutchman's inch-perfect free kick over the bar.
From the resulting corner Gomes dived to deflect Sol Campbell's header onto the bar and, after Bendtner had finally broken, Gomes denied Van Persie the equaliser, palming away a rasping drive from 25 yards.
How Arsenal fans ridiculed Gomes when he arrived in England. How they jeered when he dropped the ball into his own net at his lowest ebb at Fulham's Craven Cottage in November 2008.
This was another typical 'Tottenham signing' - a laughable and expensive waste of money.
This man has now put the final nail in the coffin of Arsenal's season, leaving them to contemplate their fifth successive season without a trophy.
Spurs, meanwhile, have everything to play for in their final five games, a race that promises to be every bit as close as 2006.
The importance of this historic victory cannot be underestimated. After defeat at Sunderland and the cup KO against Portsmouth on Sunday, a third straight loss - against Arsenal, at home - would have left Spurs hanging onto the ropes, with Chelsea and Manchester United queuing up to land the killer punch.
Instead, Harry Redknapp's side will host Carlo Ancelotti's Blues on Saturday evening with the ecstasy of Wednesday night still ringing in their ears, having finally laid Tottenham's derby demons to rest, and in the knowledge that they have now beaten Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal in front of their own fans this season.