Adebayor red card gives Arsenal impetus for derby rout
Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham Hotspur
It was a repeat of last season’s result at Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal came from behind to beat Tottenham Hotspur 5-2 in the Premier League.
Andre Villas-Boas’ side took an early lead, but were undone when Emmanuel Adebayor was shown a red card for a dangerous challenge on Santi Cazorla.
The Gunners didn’t look back and first half goals from Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud completed another comeback, before Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott finished things off.
Gareth Bale gave the away side some hope of a comeback, but it was to no avail as tired legs and a nigh-tempo display from their rivals took the game away from them.
Arsenal fans will have been relieved to see Wojciech Szczesny back in goal after passing a fitness test and Theo Walcott was returned to the starting line-up.
Andre Villas-Boas made bold selections for the game, dropping Brad Freidel for Hugo Lloris in goal and playing both Jermain Defoe and former Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor on attack.
It was working perfectly early on as Arsene Wenger’s side struggled to cope with Spurs’ high pressure game and Adebayor was linking well with Defoe and the two wingers, Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon.
Early Tottenham pressure was rewarded with a goal and it was well deserved. Per Mertesacker’s poor positioning allowed Defoe to run in behind onto Szczesny, who saved well from a weak low shot, but could do nothing about Adebayor following up to bundle home.
Arsenal looked shell-shocked in the following minutes, as their passes went astray and Spurs built more pressure, but they could not add to their lead while in the ascendancy.
Pressure was relieved, however, when Adebayor had his moment of madness; a high lunge on Cazorla’s shin gave referee Howard Webb no choice but to show a straight red.
The home side had been handed the initiative and they took advantage in the 35th minute when Walcott’s cross was met by a towering Mertesacker header into the top corner.
Arsenal could smell blood and it wasn’t long before they completed the comeback, taking the lead five minutes before half-time.
Keep-ball around the edge of the box found Podolski with his back to goal, but his turn and shot somehow bobbled past Lloris into the far corner.
Tottenham were a shadow of the team that started the game and Villas-Boas was made to rue Adebayor’s rashness further just three minutes later.
A Walcott free-kick was cleared to Cazorla and the Spaniard did well to stay on his feet, drive into the left of the area and square for Olivier Giroud to stretch and deflect inside the near post.
Wenger’s side had come roaring back and half-time found the Emirates Stadium in full voice.
Tottenham started the second half brightly and moved to a back three by replacing their full-backs Kyle Walker and Kyle Naughton with Michael Dawson and Clint Dempsey.
It made for a promising start as both Bale and Defoe found space in the channels behind the home defence, but support was scarce and Arsenal looked dangerous on the break.
It was a break that got them their fourth goal, as Walcott freed Podolski down the left and the German’s low centre was met by Cazorla to finish inside the near post.
Spurs looked beaten and Arsenal were breaking at will, but profligacy meant the lead was not increased and Spurs were given hope with 20 minutes to go.
Bale was allowed time and space to fire home from the edge of the area, which gave the home side a spell of uncertainty, but they could not carve out any more real chances.
Arsenal’s inability to further exploit the extra man was frustrating the home crowd and it took the introduction of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to make the difference.
The young winger teed up Walcott in the dying moments and the England international obliged by putting it past Lloris.
The Gunners has come from behind again to defeat their local rivals and will be hoping an identical scoreline to last season will be followed by the run of wins that propelled them to third in the Premier League.
Villas-Boas, however, will be disappointed with the result, but the sending off of Adebayor changed the game dramatically.
The Portuguese will take heart from the fact that his side were so dominant until the red card, but it is ultimately another poor result.
Adebayor was both villain and hero to both sides at Emirates Stadium, as his rash challenge completely transformed the fixture and the effects could be felt even further than the tree-games he will be suspended for.