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Spurs Stage Memorable Comeback to Give Gallas Happy Return to Emirates

In a match which will seal its place in Tottenham folk law, Harry Redknapp’s side staged a Lazarus-style comeback; fighting back from 2-0 down to win at the home of bitter rivals Arsenal for the first time in 17 years.

The Gunners started like the title contenders they hope to become, strolling into a two goal lead after goals from Samir Nasri and Marouane Chamakh saw them momentarily occupy top spot during the half time interval. But after a change in tactics and mentality, Gareth Bale brought the visitors back into the game, before a Rafael van der Vaart penalty and Younes Kaboul’s late header sealed a memorable win for Spurs.

Rafael Van der Vaart and Gareth Bale

Yet more goals from the left-footed pair sparked a superb comeback

The north London derby promised to turn into a fiercely contested spectacle ever since the pre-match presentations. William Gallas, made captain upon his return to the club he used to skipper, offered his hand, which former teammate Nasri duly snubbed. Over the course of the game, it was Gallas who had much the happier reunion, putting in a superb performance, endearing himself to the Tottenham faithful, amid jeers from the Arsenal fans.

But it was Nasri who had the first word, putting his side in front inside the first ten minutes. After poking the ball past the half-hearted dive from Gomes, the Frenchman continued his fine run of form by squeezing the ball into the net from an improbable angle. It was Cesc Fabregas’s perfectly weighted ball which unleashed Nasri, and the Spaniard continued to run the game, utilizing the seemingly endless amount of space the Spurs midfield were affording him.

And it was Fabregas again involved as the Gunners came close to earning a second. Song slipped the ball through to his captain, whose close control beat Kaboul, but he dragged his shot disappointingly wide of the post. After pegging them back with the early goal, Arsenal didn’t let their opponents back into the game, instead being forthright in their desire for a second. And that well-deserved breathing space came in the form of a typical Arsenal counter attack. Fabregas again found nothing but green grass and the ball at his feet, and after carrying it into their attacking third, spread the ball wide to Andrey Arshavin. The Russian then drilled it into the danger zone, where Chamakhh connected with the outside of his outstretched right boot.

At half time, Redknapp addressed the evident need for change, signalling the introduction of Jermain Defoe; taking the field for the first time since he was injured on England duty back in September. And it took just five minutes for the striker to make an impact, as he defied all odds to rise and head a hopeful long ball in the direction of van der Vaart. And the Dutchman, now playing from the right, managed to prod it through to Gareth Bale, who poked the ball past Fabianski with the outside of his left boot; a finish the on looking Thierry Henry would have been proud of.

Gareth Bale

Bale’s season just gets better as he sparks a San Siro-topping fightback

The goal gave Spurs a new-found belief, and they pushed in search of an equaliser. Luka Modric came close, when the ball dropped to his feet on the edge of the box after a lively run from Defoe. But the playmaker fired his shot inches from the top corner. In the end, as Tottenham pushed, it was Arsenal who surrendered to them the chance to equalise. A moment of madness from skipper Cesc Fabregas saw him concede a penalty, after he raised his arm to block a free-kick. Van der Vaart kept his cool from the spot to level the match.

The momentum, you would expect, was now with Tottenham. But it was the home side who came closest to regaining their lead as the game wore on. Sébastien Squillaci found the net from a free-kick, only to see the goal ruled out for offside. And the Frenchman will certainly be wondering how he didn’t score a legal goal later on, as he headed over the bar from close range. And sandwiched between those chances, Fabregas, the Gunners’ most influential player throughout the match, saw his curling effort spectacularly beaten away by the finger tips of Gomes.

Tottenham made their neighbours rue those missed chances, when with five minutes remaining, Younes Kaboul rose to nod van der Vaart’s free-kick into the bottom corner. Redknapp’s side had clinched an historic derby win, and the manager will accept a lot of the plaudits for his half time switch. But Kaboul and Gallas at the heart of the defence were superb, and Jermaine Jenas won over a lot of fans with a strong performance in midfield. And the scenes which followed the final whistle saw Gallas sink to the floor in a mixture of exhaustion and ecstasy; an act coupled with the performance which will win him the forgiveness of the Spurs faithful, who will now have forgotten his red and white roots.

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