Arsenal claimed derby glory at Tottenham for the first time in six Premier League attempts with a 1-0 win to reignite their title bid.
Returning to Premier League action on the back of contrasting cup fortunes versus Everton and Bayern Munich, Arsenal enjoyed the perfect start against their north London rivals when Tomas Rosicky blasted a spectacular opener at White Hart Lane after only 72 seconds on Sunday.
It represented a worst-case scenario for a Spurs team who came into the game on the back of morale-sapping defeats to Chelsea and Benfica, along with a pre-match fan protest against chairman Daniel Levy.
The superb Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski passed up chances to increase Tottenham’s misery and, although the hosts enjoyed the better of a frantic second period, they could find no way through.
Mesut Ozil’s midweek hamstring injury cleared the way for Rosicky to start and he emphatically capitalised with just over a minute played.
Oxlade-Chamberlain – operating in central midfield as he did so impressively against Bayern – broke up play to feed Rosicky to his right. In trying to collect a return pass, he miscontrolled but the ball fell perfectly into the Czech playmaker’s path and a blistering half-volley whistled into the top corner.
In the 15th minute, Oxlade-Chamberlain skipped around Nabil Bentaleb and was granted a clear path to goal by Tottenham’s perilously high line, but dragged an attempted chip wastefully wide.
Andros Townsend, making only his second league start for Tottenham since November, drove to the byline to clip across the face of goal before Oxlade-Chamberlain was once again off target in the 27th minute after Podolski found the hosts’ makeshift back four to his liking.
Emmanuel Adebayor, who scored twice the last time that Arsenal won at White Hart Lane in the league in September 2007, got in front of Per Mertesacker to prod Kyle Naughton’s cross past the post for his current employers.
But Arsenal retained the greater attacking threat, a fact underlined when Podolski outmuscled Younes Kaboul to lash into the side netting.
A smouldering Tim Sherwood, who threw his jacket to the floor in a rage when Oxlade-Chamberlain earlier broke free, sent Tottenham out with renewed vigour for the second period and some haphazard goalkeeping from Wojciech Szczesny almost brought them level.
Back in the Arsenal line-up following his European ban, Szczesny dropped two crosses in quick succession – the latter dropping to Nacer Chadli, whose shot blocked on the line by Laurent Koscielny.
The Belgium international came close again in the 53rd minute, missing out on the decisive touch when Adebayor allowed Townsend to again flash a dangerous ball across the Arsenal goalmouth.
Tottenham were now in the ascendancy and looking to bombard the Arsenal box from wide areas. Koscielny had to be on his mettle once more, harrying Adebayor into heading wide.
Koscielny’s centre-back colleague Mertesacker was fantastically denied by Hugo Lloris at the other end in the 78th minute before their defensive alliance ensured Arsene Wenger’s side closed to within four points of leaders Chelsea with a game in hand.
Seven points behind Manchester City having played three games more, Tottenham’s once realistic top-four ambitions now appear slim.
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