Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 Arsenal: Alexis Sanchez equalises for 10-man Gunners in thrilling derby at White Hart Lane
Ten-man Arsenal came from behind to take a point at Tottenham as the two north London clubs handed the Barclays Premier League title impetus to Leicester.
The two sides could not be separated in what was billed as one of the biggest derbies in the history of the fierce rivals and had to settle for a 2-2 draw.
Aaron Ramsey opened the scoring for the visitors with a cute flick but, after Francis Coquelin saw red for the Gunners, Toby Alderweireld and Harry Kane turned the game around inside two minutes.
Arsenal, who lost from a winning position against Swansea on Wednesday, kept plugging away and levelled through Alexis Sanchez's first league goal since October - meaning Leicester have the chance to further extend their lead at the top on Saturday evening.
Tottenham were dominating the early stages without creating the chances - the first of which came on 25 minutes as Kyle Walker drilled in a cross which Erik Lamela turned towards goal and David Ospina made a superb save.
Coquelin was cautioned for handling the ball while on the ground as the Gunners struggled to get a foothold in the game, only for them to go ahead shortly afterwards.
Danny Welbeck squared the ball across the box to Hector Bellerin, who laid it into Ramsey to deftly flick home past Hugo Lloris.
Spurs were again in the ascendency after the break, Walker stinging the palms of Ospina with a drive from the edge of the box.
Arsenal then suffered the blow of seeing Coquelin sent off for a second bookable offence as he upended Kane on the touchline to receive his marching orders from Michael Oliver - leaving the visitors down to 10 for the last 35 minutes.
Tottenham nearly made their new-found advantage count immediately but Kane's close-range effort was somehow kept out by Ospina, with goal-line technology showing only around an inch of the ball not over the line.
But the Colombian could do nothing to prevent Alderweireld drilling home from a similar position moments later after Christian Eriksen's corner was diverted into his path by Lamela.
Kane then showed that he can make the difference in the title race, turning the game on its head with a memorable curling effort from an acute angle.
The England international had only managed one goal in his last six games going into the derby but came close to adding to Tottenham's lead as he flashed a shot wide, as torrential rain began fall on White Hart Lane.
And Spurs made heavy weather of their task against 10 men as Sanchez levelled with a smart finish from Bellerin's pass, with Lloris only able to get fingertips on the ball as it flashed past him.
Eric Dier was lucky not to go the same way as Coquelin as he avoided picking up a second booking for pulling back substitute Olivier Giroud on the halfway line.
Ospina was on hand to tip a late Eriksen effort behind for a corner before Gabriel came close to gifting Spurs the win, slicing just wide of his own goal.
Ramsey was denied by Kevin Wimmer's last-ditch challenge at the other end as the points were shared.
- Hugo Lloris
- Toby Alderweireld
- Danny Rose
- Kyle Walker
- Kevin Wimmer
- Dele Alli
- Mousa Dembélé
- Eric Dier
- Christian Eriksen
- Erik Lamela
- Harry Kane
Substitutes: Michel Vorm, Ben Davies, Kieran Trippier, Tom Carroll, Nacer Chadli, Ryan Mason, Son Heung-Min.
- David Ospina
- Héctor Bellerín
- Gabriel Paulista
- Kieran Gibbs
- Per Mertesacker
- Francis Coquelin
- Mohamed Elneny
- Aaron Ramsey
- Mesut Özil
- Alexis Sánchez
- Danny Welbeck
Substitutes: Matt Macey, Calum Chambers, Nacho Monreal, Mathieu Flamini, Joel Campbell, Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott.
Five talking points ahead of the crunch clash
1. WHO DOES WENGER TRUST TO SCORE?
Olivier Giroud has started Arsenal's last three consecutive defeats but the Frenchman now has no goals in 10 games and Arsene Wenger must surely be considering alternatives. The problem is none of Giroud's rivals are inspiring much faith. Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez have each scored just once this year while Danny Welbeck has only recently returned from injury and is preferred by Wenger out wide. It leaves the Frenchman with a dilemma ahead of his side's biggest game of the season.
2. WILL OSPINA RISE TO THE CHALLENGE?
David Ospina enjoyed an extended run in the Arsenal first team last season but doubts remained about his consistency at the highest level. Now, with Petr Cech facing up to a month on the sidelines, the Colombian stopper will be thrown back into the spotlight again and Arsenal will need the 27-year-old to hit the ground running this weekend. Mauricio Pochettino said targeting individual players would not be part of his plan but how Ospina, and his defence, react in the coming weeks could be crucial to the Gunners' title hopes.
3. CAN KANE REDISCOVER HIS GROOVE?
Kane long ago dispelled suspicions he could be a one-season wonder at White Hart Lane but the striker has been noticeably less perky of late, scored only once from open play in his last eight appearances. Perhaps the face mask he is wearing to protect a broken nose is causing discomfort or fatigue may be taking its toll after 45 matches for club and country since August. Either way, he has three goals in his last three north London derbies and Spurs could do with their top goalscorer extending that record on Saturday.
4. IS ALLI FIT AND ABLE TO KEEP CALM?
Dele Alli's sore ankle meant he was deemed fit enough only for the bench against West Ham but he came on for the last 30 minutes at Upton Park and is expected to start this weekend. It would be a big boost for Tottenham, who have missed the midfielder's drive, speed and guile when he has been away. One note of caution is Alli's temperament. The 19-year-old's desire and competitiveness can occasionally spill over to frustration and he will need to stay cool as the action inevitably heats up.
5. HOW BAD WILL IT BE FOR THE LOSER?
Predictions that a loss for Arsenal would end their title challenge seem exaggerated given, on paper at least, they have a kinder run-in than both Leicester and Tottenham. Gunners fans might also draw upon the 2012-13 season when Spurs won the north London derby in March to go seven points clear of their rivals but then faded as Arsenal stormed through to clinch fourth. Defeat for Spurs would represent a second consecutive loss for the first time this season and would certainly set nerves jangling among the Tottenham faithful. A draw would be celebrated by Leicester.
Belfast Telegraph Digital