Arsenal back from the brink to shock arch-rivals

 

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When this result reached Lombardy, even Milan may have paused for thought. Although it remains highly unlikely Arsenal will overturn the Italian side's 4-0 Champions League first-leg advantage, this match showed what Arsène Wenger's team are capable of. In that respect, it could prove one of the season's most significant games.

Arsenal's back four had barely re-introduced themselves to each other when Emmanuel Adebayor spotted a gaping hole between the central defence and Kieran Gibbs and invited Louis Saha to run into it. Saha has been reborn since leaving Merseyside, but still does not trust his right foot and, having paused to take the ball onto his left, was fortunate his belated shot looped off Thomas Vermaelen and over Wojciech Szczesny.

Arsenal responded positively, Robin van Persie, twice, and both going close to levelling. But then Luka Modric released Gareth Bale, who touched the ball past Szczesny before ensuring his trailing leg went into the prone goalkeeper's chest. Cesc Fabregas, watching in Madrid, angrily tweeted, "they say the Spanish players dive all the time". Mike Dean was clearly not entirely convinced as he did not even caution Szczesny but the fact Arsenal retained a full complement seemed not to matter as Adebayor calmly dispatched the spot-kick.

The identity of the scorer merely confirmed the nightmare for Arsenal supporters. While their team refused to surrender it seemed one of those days, Van Persie, turning on to Walcott's flick, striking the outside of the post in the 40th minute. However, Gibbs rescued the loose ball, Mikael Arteta delivered it and Bacary Sagna beat Bale to head in. Three minutes later, Van Persie took possession 20 yards out, turned, and curled a shot past Brad Friedel for his 29th goal of a season.

After the interval, Tomas Rosicky continued to orchestrate proceedings and popped up to put Arsenal ahead with a near-post flick off Sagna's cross.

As Tottenham sought to restore parity, Walcott found redemption. He ran the length of the pitch to be on the end of a flowing break conducted by Rosicky and Van Persie eight minutes later. His celebration revealed the strain he had been playing under and the release he felt was confirmed when Alex Song released him behind Ledley King three minutes later.

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