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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at the TH Stadium

Arsenal survive late Spurs rally to keep title run in focus

Tottenham (0) 2 Romero 65, Son pen 87

Arsenal (3) 3 Hojbjerg og 15, Saka 27, Havertz 38

It was cake-walk for Arsenal. Until it wasn't.

Cruising at 3-0 and in seemingly total control, they almost blew it when a complacent pass from David Raya gifted Ange Postecoglou's men an unlikely route back into the game.

And when Declan Rice failed to see Ben Davies darting in front of him as he went to clear, it resulted in a foul inside the box and a well-struck penalty from Heung-Min Son to set up a frantic last 10 minutes.

Credit Spurs for almost making the most of the reprieve as they piled on the pressure, making it the nerviest of finales for the visitors, who had been expecting to play out the second half to a backdrop of ole's and early-departing fans.

The end really did resemble a derby, whereas the game had looked anything but at the end of the first half, which ended with home fans booing their team off the field.

Just like last season here, Arsenal went in front with the softest of goals. They got a helping hand from Hugo Lloris last time around, this season it was Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's turn to gift the Gunners a nerve-settling advantage early on.

Bukayo Saka's near post corner was met by the midfielder's head as he strained to get in front of Takehiro Tomiyasu and it flashed into the net.

Spurs rallied well and when James Maddison hoisted a free-kick to the back stick, Cristian Romero met it with a firm header that came back off the post - Raya nowhere near it.

They thought they had drawn level on 22 minutes when Pedro Porro's shot from outside the area was blocked, and it fell perfectly to an unmarked Micky van de Ven for the Dutchman to fire into the bottom corner. But VAR intervened with an offside call, and it proved to be one of the afternoon's defining moments.

Just a few minutes later and the disappointment of having the goal chalked off was compounded when Spurs were caught going a little too gung-ho, throwing bodies forward, and when an attack broke down, a lovely angled pass from Kai Havertz released Saka for a dash in from the right. After cutting inside, the Arsenal winger planted a decisive shot into the bottom corner.

If that wasn't amazing enough, there was more to come before the half was out as Havertz nodded in a Rice corner from close range to add to the catalogue of set piece goals they have plundered this term.

Cheap goals mean everything when you are looking to conserve energy and avoid stress in pursuit of trophies.

Spurs, who had started the game fairly brightly, were desperate to find a way back, but Son wafted miles over the bar after racing through on a direct ball just ahead of a retreating defence.

More damage looked likely when Havertz flicked a ball up from the dead ball line and Saka met it with a volley that would have found the net but for an outstretched leg from Guglielmo Vicario.

As it was, a blunder by Raya gifted Spurs some hope. The keeper was under no pressure when he attempted to play out from the back, and his feeble chip went straight to Romero, who fired back with interest.

From nowhere, we had a game again and although Arsenal stayed composed and in control, Spurs had a puncher's chance.

And with five minutes to go, Son buried a penalty after ref Michael Oliver had been alerted by VAR to a foul by Rice on Davies on the edge of the area - the defender getting in front of the Arsenal midfielder as he was clearing the ball from danger.

Cue the breathless ending, with arch-mixer Richarlison on to add ballast to the final knockings. Spurs couldn't quite get the fairytale they wanted - even though Vicario was joining the attack for the last corner of the match.

It all means Spurs are struggling in their fight to finish in fourth place (for a Champions League spot). For Arsenal, the dream goes on. Over to you Man City.

Spurs: (4-2-3-1) Vicario - Porro, Romero, van de Ven, Davies (Lo Celso 87) - Hojbjerg (Bissouma 64), Bentancur (Sarr h/t) - Kulusevski, Maddison (Richarlison 64), Werner (Johnson 31) - Son

Gunners: (4-3-3) Raya - White, Saliba, Gabriel, Tomiyasu - Odegaard (Kiwior 89), Partey, Rice - Saka, Havertz, Trossard (Martinelli 63)

Attendance: 61,554


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