Sheringham 30, Armstrong 55
IT IS NOT unusual for a north London team to be well- organised and direct, to show resilience in adversity. It is unusual for that team to be Tottenham Hotspur.
What a difference a year makes. Spurs marked the first anniversary of Gerry Francis's management with a deserved victory, coming from behind against their nearest if hardly dearest rivals, who, ironically, frequently passed the ball better as part of their own process of change under Bruce Rioch. They were, however, simply out-Arsenaled and undermined by defensive laxity not often associated with their play.
In a remarkable opening passage which saw them keep the ball from a frustrated Tottenham, they took the lead with a splendidly worked goal for Dennis Bergkamp. But an equally excellent goal by Teddy Sheringham gave Spurs half-time parity. After reorganising at the break to deny Arsenal such space again, closing down the influential Paul Merson and supplying their own right-sided player Ruel Fox more regularly, they dominated the second half and the fast improving Chris Armstrong purloined the points. Without the suspended Ian Wright, Arsenal did not have sufficient striking ability to convert their own belated retaliation.
Traditionally, north London derbies set out with intent, tackles flying, passes going astray, all stoked by a crowd with as antagonistic a relationship as there is in football. The latter was evident as usual, but thanks to an empathetic referee in Alan Wilkie and Arsenal's initial keep-ball, Spurs were unable to get near enough to tackle and so the game was without its usual excesses.
One Arsenal movement took in 17 passes and it came as no surprise when Bergkamp gave them the lead. Merson played the ball infield from the right to John Hartson and, after taking the return, curled in a cross to the far post where Bergkamp arrived unhindered to turn the ball cleverly home for his eight goal in nine matches. "Bergkamp from the six-yard line," chanted the Arsenal fans in response to Tottenham's gloating "Nayim from the halfway line".
The blow to Spurs' pride was clearly intense and their response was strong. After Sheringham had driven wide and Armstrong headed over, they fashioned an equaliser to match Arsenal's in quality, owing everything to Sheringham. From an Arsenal corner, Dozzell headed clear to Sheringham, who, instead of lashing it clear, knocked it back to Dozzell. His ball forward was swiftly met by Armstrong and flicked to Fox who made ground and centred. The ball glanced off Tony Adams into the path of the late-arriving Sheringham, profiting from the majority of the visitors' defence still being upfield for the corner, and his header ended in the back of the net despite David Seaman's best efforts to save.
Clearly, Sheringham learned a lot playing alongside Jurgen Klinsmann last season, but now he has assumed a new stature of his own, developing into Tottenham's touchstone. With Nicky Barmby also gone, he has become both an accomplished link man and consistent goalscorer. Yesterday's was his 14th goal of the season.
Early in the second half he also turned creator for what proved to be the winning goal, supplying Armstrong on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area. He then danced past Steve Bould's lunge and sent a well-struck shot past Seaman for his fourth goal in five games. Another irony of the day: the Arsenal manager Bruce Rioch had both of the Spurs goalscorers with him when he was at Millwall.
Thereafter, Spurs should have made their victory more comfortable. Fox, described by Francis as "chief supplier and tormentor", was their best outlet out of defence, and his performance ranked alongside that of Sheringham. Twice, early in the second half, Fox's crosses were met by Sheringham, but he glanced one header wide and forced Seaman into a good save with the other. Rosenthal also squandered a chance from a cross by David Howells by heading over the bar, leaving Spurs to endure a nervy last spell when Bergkamp and Tony Adams had attempts that went wide.
For Francis, it was his ninth unbeaten derby against Arsenal as a manager, six with Queen's Park Rangers. What had Bruce Rioch learned from his first? "Don't lose," he said.