Football: Bergkamp and Adams break spirited Spurs
Monday 25 November 1996
Wright pen 28 Lukic og 57
Bergkamp 90 Attendance: 38,264
The rain emptied down on Highbury yesterday and there was a vicious bite to the wind, but for the red half of north London Highbury was a wonderful, warming place to be. This particular local argument is not meant to finish in such a decisive, remarkable fashion.
Only in the final three minutes did the goals arrive to enable Arsenal to rewrite the recent history of a fixture which had seen Tottenham as the dominant force. When the visitors had gained a fortuitous equaliser off the shoulder of Arsenal's stand-in goalkeeper John Lukic, it seemed that the story to be told would be an old, familiar one.
Not so. Tony Adams and Dennis Bergkamp's late sense of drama changed all that and ensured that the game at St James' Park on Saturday will bring together the two leading sides in the Premiership. A victory there against Newcastle and Arsenal will return to the top of the table.
Not since December 1991 have the Tottenham colours been lowered here. One thing that never changes, however, is Arsenal's refusal to give up on any cause, and they were not about to start yesterday. While Tottenham were holding on to a 1-1 scoreline, which in their supporters' eyes would have been an acceptable result, the Gunners decided there was a victory still to be pulled out of the fire.
Standing head and shoulders above the maelstrom was Bergkamp, whose immaculate touch and admirable awareness helped him supply a masterly performance. It was appropriate that the Dutchman should have the final say with a quite exquisite turn inside his defender and a lacerating shot into the far corner of the net for Arsenal's third.
It came just two minutes after Adams had made excellent use of the licence now afforded him under this new, Continental regime, to push forward. Paul Merson's throw was cushioned by Bergkamp, who then delicately lifted the ball in the air for the Arsenal captain to smote his first goal of the season, a left-footed volley that diverted off Steve Carr.
It was Bergkamp, using all his wiles and experience, who had helped give Arsenal the lead via the penalty spot midway through the first half. Both he and Clive Wilson found themselves in a heap on the floor, and the Tottenham man appeared to impede his rival as Bergkamp attempted to be first to the loose ball.
The initial feeling was that David Elleray was correct in his decision, though television replays indicated that Bergkamp had considerably enhanced the contact that had been made with the manner of his fall. Ian Wright took three steps back before stroking the penalty head- high to Ian Walker's left for his 160th Arsenal goal.
Before then Spurs had missed the chance to go in front when Allan Nielsen moved in swiftly to challenge Lee Dixon, his diversion putting Teddy Sheringham in the clear. Such opportunities are rarely wasted by the England man but this time he dragged his shot wide.
While Spurs forced a number of corners in the first half, they were finding it hard to penetrate an orderly defence in which Martin Keown gave little change to Chris Armstrong.
After Wright's penalty the controlled nature of Arsenal's one-touch football promised to give them an uncatchable advantage. The easy understanding between Merson and Dixon down the right won them bags of space, and from one such move Bergkamp laid the ball square to Wright, only for Sol Campbell to come in and rescue the situation.
When Colin Calderwood failed to clear Dixon's whipped-in centre, the ball dropped on Wright's left foot but the chance went astray. So did another early in the second half when this irrepressible finisher had stole in ahead of Wilson to gather Merson's subtle chip. Again his left boot was to blame.
Next it was Arsenal's turn to suffer defensive unease and give Lukic the chance to prove that David Seaman's injury absence need not be a critical factor after all.
The replacement saved first from Darren Anderton and then, at the second attempt, from Chris Armstrong. The temperature was rising, Tottenham were glimpsing an equaliser which David Howells' challenge on Adams had appeared to set up. For the second time, however, Armstrong made it easy for Lukic to pull off the save.
Tottenham needed to seize their chances in this period of growing pressure, and, 12 minutes into the second half, they at last found the net even though there was a considerable element of luck about it. Neilsen's long throw found its way to the far side of the goalmouth, where Andy Sinton spun and sent in a shot which hit the post and then slipped over the line off Lukic's shoulder.
Arsenal (5-3-1-1): Lukic; Dixon, Keown, Bould, Adams, Winterburn; Merson, Vieira, Platt (Hartson, 80); Bergkamp (Parlour, 90); Wright. Substitutes not used: Bartram (gk), Morrow, Linighan.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Carr, Calderwood, Campbell, Wilson; Anderton, Nielsen, Howells, Sinton; Sheringham, Armstrong. Substitutes not used: Bardsen (gk), Edinburgh, Nethercott, Fox, Allen.
Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).
Bookings: Arsenal: Vieira, Dixon. Tottenham: Armstrong.
Man of the match: Bergkamp.
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