Tottenham 1 Arsenal 2: Crisis — what crisis? Arsenal got back to winning ways in the best manner imaginable, with a cup victory on the turf of their deadly rivals Tottenham, to end a run of two successive defeats and lift the air of pessimism that had taken hold in the red part of north London.
This Capital One Cup victory over Spurs was more remarkable for the fact that the scorer of both Arsenal goals was Mathiu Flamini, the holding midfielder who was considered surplus to requirements in the summer. But the former AC Milan midfielder refused to budge, turning down a move to Galtasaray in order to stay in London, and was drafted in for his first game of the season, Both sides made significant changes from the weekend, although the teams Mauricio Pochettino and Arsene Wenger sent out had plenty of top-flight experience.
Wenger has a history of using this competition to blood his youngsters, but with north London bragging rights at stake, took no chances with his side.
Pochettino’s gambled more on youth, and his changes proved more costly as Spurs conceded the first goal. Michel Vorm, in for Hugo Lloris, was horribly at fault for Flamini’s first goal. The Dutch keeper has played only a handful of games since moving from Swansea the summer before last, and it was perhaps a combination of inexperience and ring-rust that allowed Flamini to open the scoring in the 27th minute.
Spurs appeared to have plenty of cover when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cut in from the left, and his shot from outside the penalty area was strong enough but straight at Vorm. The keeper failed to hold the ball, however, and made the cardinal mistake of pushing it straight out in front of him instead of around the post, and Flamini was first to react by driving the loose ball into the roof of the net.
The Frenchman decided to be provocative by celebrating ostentatiously in front of the Paxton Road end, packed with home supporters, who reacted with predictable anger. The temperature rose a notch, as Arsenal’s noisy band of fans started taunting their rivals about their lack of success, and tempers became frayed. Three Arsenal players went into Andre Marriner’s notebook in quick succession, including Flamini, for clattering Danny Rose. Mikel Arteta was lucky not to get more than a yellow card for raking his studs on the thigh of Andros Townsend, and Mathieu Debuchy was also booked for sending Rose flying.
Having had plenty of possession without seriously threatening David Ospina’s goal, Spurs emerged after half-time with more purpose.
They thought they had equalised within five minutes of the restart, when Harry Kane drilled the ball home after Christian Eriksen’s snapshot thudded off the base of the post. But the England striker was offside.
It was only a matter of time, however, before Spurs were back on level terms. A long crossfield ball found Nacer Chadli on the left, and the Belgian winger fired in a low cross that was turned into his own net by Calum Chambers at the near post.
White Hart Lane burst into a crescendo of noise, and the intensity increased again. Kane started menacing Arsenal’s defenders, and saw a spectacular scissor-kick headed off the goal line by Kieran Gibbs.
Wenger decided to try to regain the initiative and sent on Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean soon tested Vorm with a shot that was straight at him, and the keeper then made a better stop by flying off his line to turn Olivier Giroud’s effort away for a corner.
Kane then ran in form the left and suffered a worrying blow when he was bundled head-first into an advertising hoarding. The striker resumed after a moment, and was soon joined in attack by Son Heung-min, the speedy Korean striker who had scored three goals in his first three games.
But the collective headache for Tottenham soon increased when Flamni restored Arsenal’s lead with his second goal, in the 78th minute. Again it was a mistake from one of Tottenham’s reserves, Federico Fazio, whose clumsy touch diverted a Sanchez pass high into the air. While defenders stood off, Flamini strode forward with purpose to strike a textbook volley past Vorm from 18 yards. This time the midfielder celebrated in front of his own supporters, who found their voices again with the realisation that not only had they beaten their neighbours and rivals, but ended a losing streak that was starting to sap collective confidence.
4-2-3-1 Vorm; Trippier, Fazio, Wimmer, Rose: Dier, Carroll; Townsend, Eriksen, Chadli; Kane.
Ospina; Debuchy, Mertesacker, Chambers, Gibbs; Arteta, Flamini, Ramsey; Campbell, Giroud, Oxlade-Chamberlain.
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