Arsenal 2 Tottenham 1
When Erik Lamela wound back the clock to score with a quite outrageous piece of skill and impudence, Arsenal had a familiar sinking feeling. They had dominated this derby and yet, with 33 minutes gone, they were behind. Mikel Arteta has argued, with some justification, that his team have not had the results their football has merited, at times, this season. Was this to be a hard luck story?
The answer was no. On a day when Arteta dropped his captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, for disciplinary reasons, believed to be related to the captain's match-day time keeping, his players dug deep to find the needed response. They were much the better team for 70 minutes of the contest and, by then, they had the lead through Martin Ødegaard and a hotly contested Alexandre Lacazette penalty. And yet there would be late drama. There normally is with this Arsenal team.
Lamela’s goal came when he addressed a breaking ball inside the area and swung his left foot around the back of his standing right one to send a shot through Thomas Partey’s legs and into the far corner. The power in the execution was breathtaking and it recalled his famous Europa League goal against Asteras from 2014.
Lamela would complete a descent to villain status when he collected a cheap second yellow card on 76 minutes for throwing an arm across Kieran Tierney but with 10 men and everything seemingly against them, Spurs rallied.
The substitute, Dele Alli, could not reach a Harry Kane cross and then Kane himself had a header correctly ruled out for offside. Arsenal were wobbling and a point seemed there for Spurs to take. They were so close to getting it. Kane's 90th minute free-kick was superbly struck only to come back off the base of the post and, on the rebound, Davinson Sánchez saw his goalbound effort superbly cleared by Gabriel. Arsenal staggered over the finish line.
Arteta had provided the pre-match bombshell and he wanted it to be known beforehand that the reason why Aubameyang was on the bench was because he had broken the club’s code of conduct. To the manager, that code applies equally to the captain and it would, say, an 18-year-old. Aubameyang had been set to start; the preparations were conducted with that in mind. This was Arteta flexing his muscles.
Arsenal did the same for much of the game, pressing high and snapping into tackles. The lack of supporters made this an unusual derby but it was still a derby. In the early exchanges, it felt as though Arsenal were the one team to recognise this fact and only the crossbar prevented them from taking a 16th minute lead.
Sergio Reguilón tried to step out from the back with the ball but, under pressure, he gave it away and, in the blink of an eye, Arsenal had worked it to Emile Smith Rowe on the edge of the area. His drive for the top corner had Hugo Lloris beaten but the woodwork came to the Spurs captain's rescue.
There was plenty to like about Arsenal's approach before the interval. Tierney and Smith Rowe were a threat up the left flank while Bukayo Saka darted into dangerous positions off the right. Saka, though, took a couple of tough challenges and did not reappear for the second-half. José Mourinho's big selection decision had been to prefer Matt Doherty to Serge Aurier at right-back. Time and again, Doherty was found wanting.
Smith Rowe was excellent. He beat Pierre-Emile Højbjerg for pace before cutting back for Lacazette, who could not make a clean contact, while it was Smith Rowe, again, who pulled back from the left in the 38th minute. Lacazette dummied when he might have shot and Cedric Soares, arriving at the edge of the area ahead of Lucas Moura, rattled a shot against the post.
By then, Lamela had produced his moment of magic. On for Son Heung-min, who had felt his hamstring after a sprint forward, Lamela knew in a heartbeat what he had to do after Gareth Bale’s crossfield ball had been volleyed into the area by Reguilón and broken off Lucas. Reguilón held his head in his hands in disbelief. Viva la rabona.
Lamela's goal had come from Spurs's only first-half flicker and Arsenal were deservedly level at the break. Tierney beat Doherty to cross and, although Ødegaard did not really get hold of his shot, it deflected off Toby Alderweireld to beat Lloris.
Mourinho watched key attacking players misfire. Neither Bale nor Tanguy Ndombele could get anything going – both were substituted early in the second-half.
Arsenal continued to make the game in the second-half. The high tempo and the attacking intent belonged to them. Lacazette rode his luck slightly in winning the penalty. After a fizzed pass by the substitute, Nicolas Pépé, he failed to kill the ball with his touch before completely slicing his attempted shot. Sánchez, though, had already committed to the slide challenge and, with the ball heading away from Lacazette, he went into him. Technically, it added up to a foul. Lacazette picked out the bottom corner.
The game looked over at that point. Spurs, though, would be agonisingly close to the salvage operation. - Guardian