By Oliver Holmes
Arsenal fought their way back from two goals down to convincingly beat Tottenham in a pulsating encounter at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners were still reeling from their Champion’s League defeat away to AC Milan and knew that a loss against their neighbours could signal the end of any meaningful challenge for the coveted fourth place in the Premier League.
In contrast to Arsene Wenger’s men, Spurs were in a rich vein of form and with Emanuel Adebayor returning to his former club the scene was perfectly poised for a scintilating football match.
Referee Mike Dean had barely started the game before Adebayor found Louis Saha who appeared to have the freedom of North London. The Frenchman held up the ball, turned inside and slotted a deflected effort past Szczesny despite the recovering attempts of the stunned Vermaelen.
Arsenal almost replied instantly with a Robin Van Persie effort going close from inside the area while a Rosicky header drew a spectacular save from the veteran Friedel. Despite the promising football, Arsenal looked fragile at the back. Bale raced in to the Arsenal penalty area and appeared to be brought down by Szczesny with Dean pointing to the spot. Replays suggested that Bale dived but up stepped Adebayor to despatch the penalty.
Seemingly cruising, the momentum was with Harry Redknapp’s side while Wenger cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines. However, Arsenal gave themselves hope when a Van Persie effort struck the left post only to fall to Arteta who curled in a cross at pace for the arriving Sagna who planted a header past the despairing Friedel.
With two minutes left until the break, Arsenal drew level. The ball dropped to Van Persie at the edge of the area. With his back to goal, the Dutchman turned two men, twisted inside and placed an unstoppable curled finish into the Tottenham net.
Sensing his side’s loss of momentum, Redknapp sent on Sandro and Van Der Vaart for Saha and Kranjcar. The Gunners were still bouyed by their come back and took the lead when the impressive Rosicky slid in between King and Friedel to poke home from close range.
With Tottenham struggling in the final third Arsenal took advantage on the counter attack. A long ball was held up by Van Persie who laid it off to the advancing Walcott who after a poor first touch slotted the ball over the goalkeeper and into the net. Two minutes later Walcott doubled his tally for the day with a low shot from the edge of the box to send the Arsenal fans in to jubilation.
With Spurs beaten, the miserable afternoon was compounded when Scott Parker received a second yellow card for a foul on Vermaelen. Parker was greeted by a sea of Arsenal fans flaunting their red season ticket cases at him on a day that blew open the race for fourth place again meaning that both Arsenal and Barclays Premier League football were winners on the day.