Tottenham saw their early lead disappear after Emmanuel Adebayor was sent off for a rash challenge after 17 minutes. In that time Spurs had a goal disallowed before Adebayor put them ahead and then an Aaron Lennon shot went just past the post. The dismissal changed the course of the match with Arsenal grabbing the advantage with three first half goals, the crucial two coming in the three minutes before the interval. In the second half, Andre Villas-Boas changed formation giving Spurs the option to get at the home defence but they were always vulnerable to a quick break being down to ten men.
Arsenal 5 Tottenham Hotspur 2
Scorers: Mertesacker, Podolski, Giroud, Cazorla, Walcott Adebayor, Bale
Team: Lloris; Walker (Dawson), Gallas, Vertonghen, Naughton (Dempsey); Lennon, Sandro, Huddlestone (Carroll), Bale; Defoe, Adebayor Subs: Friedel, Livermore, Sigurdsson, Townsend
Andre Villas-Boas took the brave decision to change to a 4 – 4 – 2 formation with Adebayor and Jermain Defoe as a striking partnership. Hugo Loris started in goal with Kyle Naughton at left back as Jan Vertonghen returned to central defence in place of the injured Steven Caulker. The opening stages saw Arsenal with early possession and control in midfield but without causing any alarms in the Tottenham defence. Gradually, Spurs started to get forward and the first attempt by Lennon to take on his man saw him brought down after seven minutes. From the Gareth Bale free-kick the ball was headed out to Tom Huddlestone whose shot was blocked but fell to William Gallas to put into the net but it was disallowed for off-side.
Tottenham took the lead three minutes later when Vertonghen lifted the ball over the Arsenal defence where Bale and Defoe were free. The strike took the ball into the area and shot but the goalkeeper got a hand to it and pushed it out for Adebayor to score. Arsenal were trying to press Spurs quickly but Adebayor was holding the ball up well. After twelve minutes, a quick break by Tottenham with good interplay from Defoe, Bale and Lennon enabled the right winger to get into the area and his shot across goal went just past the far post.
Arsenal had a quick break after 16 minutes but Spurs cleared the danger but almost immediately a defensive error almost presented Arsenal with another chance. A minute later the nature of the game and the course of the match altered dramatically when Adebayor was sent off for a rash tackle when he tried to get to a loose ball in the Spurs half. His dismissal handed the advantage to Arsenal and they never released it although in the second half Spurs did try to put them under pressure and managed to pull one goal back with ten minutes to go.
Arsenal were now causing the Spurs defence all sorts of problems from the right wing with Naughton struggling against Walcott. Vertonghen managed to clear a couple of dangerous crosses but after 23 minutes Arsenal levelled when Mertesacker rose unchallenged to head a cross powerfully past Lloris. After thirty minutes Lloris made a good save when a free-kick was headed towards goal but he pushed the ball over the bar at full stretch. A minute later Arsenal had a shot which went just over the bar.
Spurs managed to get forward and a Huddlestone free-kick went across the area without a Spurs player able to get a touch. All the Arsenal threat was coming from the right but Lloris dealt with the crosses and from one sent Bale off on a long run from which he won a corner. Lloris saved well with six minutes to go to the interval holding the ball on the line after a Giroud header from a cross. Spurs’ resistance finally broke with three minutes of the half remaining. Vertonghen cleared another dangerous situation but Arsenal picked up the ball and worked it through the middle but when Huddlestone got a foot to it, he deflected it onto Podolski whose shot ricochetted of Gallas and past a stranded Lloris.
Three minutes later, Arsenal added a third when Spurs hesitated after Naughton committed a foul but the referee waved play on giving the home side that extra that moment for Cazorla to break into the area and cross to Giroud who scored.
Positive Substitutions from AVB
Villas-Boas made positive changes at half-time with both full backs going off to be replaced by Michael Dawson and Clint Dempsey. Spurs played three at the back – Gallas, Dawson and Vertonghen with Dempsey supporting Defoe. This gave Spurs a greater threat allowing Bale and Lennon to get forward. Defoe had an early shot blocked on the edge of the area and then he played in a cross but Bale was unable to reach it. Lennon and Bale were showing the threat they could pose to the Arsenal defence but with a man short there was always lack of support. Spurs changes worked but on the hour an Arsenal goal kick was flicked on and Walcott played it into the area where it was crossed for Cazorla to make it 4 – 1.
Spurs defence then went to sleep as Arsenal spurned a couple of chances in quick succession to increase their advantage. Walcott got free but Lloris came out to block the shot. With twenty minutes to play, Bale stunned the Arsenal crowd with a goal after he collected a pass from Sandro and moved forward towards the area to shot right-footed from the edge of the box. Tom Carroll replaced Huddlestone and Bale had another dangerous run on the left but his shot went across goal with Defoe looking for a pass. Lloris had to be quickly off his line when Walcott broke clear.
In the final ten minutes, Arsenal were content with possession football as Spurs struggled to get the ball back. In added time Walcott scored number five when a mistake in midfield allowed Arsenal to break, giving Lloris no chance. In the final minute Dawson blocked a shot at the near post to prevent a sixth going in.
‘Hero to Villian‘
It always happens to Spurs is the overwhelming feeling after this result, they always find some way to mess it up. The sending off of Adebayor gave them a monumental task and the two goals before half-time sealed the result for Arsenal. Spurs put in the effort in the second half and did create some threat but it was never going to be enough with only ten men and they were always exposed to a quick break from Arsenal. Adebayor quickly changed from short-lived ‘hero to villain’.