Arsenal hold advantage for Europe

Arsenal 0 Tottenham Hotspur 0
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The Independent Online
Arsenal maintained their lead in north London's version of the Premiership race as an eventful but uneven encounter kept them in fifth place - two points clear of their rivals - and still in line for the third Uefa Cup place on offer to British clubs next season.

Tottenham drew comfort from the late appearance of Darren Anderton in his first match after seven months out injured. Anderton, who must still be hoping to regain his England place for this summer's European Championship finals, was greeted by a handshake from his England colleague David Platt, and promptly bundled over by Platt's Arsenal colleague Martin Keown. Welcome back.

Recent history at least favoured the visitors, whose last three visits to Highbury had produced a win and two draws.

There was further reason for Tottenham cheer before the match, as Anderton gambolled out to join the warm-up - back on the bench for his first involvement with the first team since the recurrence of his hernia problems in the game against QPR on 25 September.

In the intervening months, Anderton has admitted he has occasionally despaired of ever returning to full fitness, and the warm acclaim of the Spurs fans was gratefully acknowledged.

The home side, with Nigel Winterburn and Ray Parlour restored after injury, began urgently, with Dennis Bergkamp testing Ian Walker after just two minutes and Paul Merson opening the visitors' defence up a minute later.

Spurs steadied themselves, and Chris Armstrong began to create consternation with his direct running at Scott Marshall.

Arsenal regained the initiative after a quarter of an hour as Ian Wright burst on to a through ball from Bergkamp. Edinburgh appeared to have won the ball cleanly in a last-ditch tackle, but Wright made the most of the challenge as he fell. Edinburgh was booked - an odd decision, as his challenge appeared to have halted a direct run on goal, and thus should have merited a sending-off if the referee felt it had been illegal.

Spurs breathed again as Bergkamp drove the free-kick over, but their anxiety levels soared soon after as Parlour caught Ronny Rosenthal in possession and crossed for Merson to drive over.

Five minutes from the break, Arsenal had the ball in the net when Platt, running in on the blind side, headed in Bergkamp's cross but was ruled offside.

Spurs were living dangerously and, two minutes from half-time, Ruel Fox's disastrous attempt at a clearance in his own box allowed Nigel Winterburn a clear shot - luckily for the visitors, on his weak right foot. Fortune favoured them a minute later, too, when a corner fell to Andy Linighan, who reacted leadenly to the fleeting chance.

The atmosphere remained as frenetic after the break, but the play became scrappy, and Bergkamp and Parlour's names joined those of Edinburgh and Dozzell in the referee's book.

Teddy Sheringham, playing in a bandana to protect stitches in a head wound he received on Easter Monday, was unusually subdued and wasted an opportunity in the opening minutes of the second half.

After 65 minutes, following a monumental tackle by Sol Campbell which halted Wright in his tracks, Sheringham sent Armstrong clean through. His forward partner shot wide with a casualness which suggested he thought he was offside but Keown was playing him on.

Arsenal (3-5-2): Seaman; Keown, Linighan, Marshall; Dixon, Parlour, Platt, Bergkamp, Winterburn; Merson (Helder, 72), Wright. Substitutes not used: Hartson, Rose.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Wilson, Campbell (Nethercott, 72), Mabbutt, Edinburgh; Fox, Dozzell (Anderton, 79), Howells, Rosenthal; Sheringham, Armstrong. Substitute not used: Day.

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).

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