Sports Mole brings you live coverage of the North London derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.
By Barney Corkhill, Assistant Editor Filed: Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 15:00 UK
Last Updated: Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 19:16 UK
Tottenham Hotspur hosted Arsenal in the North London derby this afternoon with both sides looking to enhance their chances of qualifying for next season's Champions League.
Spurs moved into the lead courtesy of two goals in as many minutes from Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon, but Per Mertesacker's header put Arsenal back into the match five minutes after the restart.
Both sides had chances to get the crucial fourth goal, but neither could find it as Spurs held out for a valuable win that takes them back into third place.
You can read how it all unfolded with Sports Mole's play-by-play coverage below.
3pmGood afternoon! Thank you for joining Sports Mole for what promises to be an entertaining North London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal!
3.02pmThese matches have gained a reputation for being amongst the most entertaining in the English football calender in recent years, so let's hope that this afternoon's game lives up to expectations!
3.04pmThe situation between these two great rivals could hardly be more finely poised. Both are battling away for a Champions League spot with Spurs currently in pole position to claim it. Indeed, a win today would put them back above Chelsea into third.
3.06pmSpurs come into the match in fine form. They are unbeaten in 11 league games, and you would have to go all the way back to December 9 to find the last time they were beaten in the Premier League.
3.08pmThey have only lost one of their last 15 games in all competitions - against Leeds United in the FA Cup - and have won four of their last five games.
3.10pmArsenal, meanwhile, have been in inconsistent form in all competitions recently, winning three, losing two and drawing one of their last six games.
3.12pmIn the league, however, they have been better, dropping just two points from their last five games - a run which has seen them move up to fifth in the Premier League table.
3.14pmBREAKING TEAM NEWS: We are just hearing that Spurs have made two changes to their starting lineup, bringing in Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Gylfi Sigurdsson in place of Steven Caulker and Lewis Holtby. Arsenal have also made one change, opting for Aaron Ramsey ahead of Abou Diaby. Full team news to follow.
3.18pmSo, what can we make of those teams? Well, neither side contains any huge shocks, but it is interesting to see Holtby dropped to the bench. He has looked impressive in his short Spurs career so far, but perhaps Andre Villas-Boas doesn't think that he is up to the frenetic pace of a North London derby just yet. Defoe was always a doubt but to see him on the bench is something of a surprise. It was thought that he would miss out altogether.
3.20pmIn terms of Arsenal's side, I'm quite surprised to see Lukas Podolski left on the bench. Aaron Ramsey hasn't blown me away this season and has been a liability at times. If he gets caught against compatriot Gareth Bale there will only be one winner. I expected to see Cazorla in the middle - which I think is his best position - and Podolski out wide. Arsene Wenger's selection is a bit more conservative than that, though, and that could be a wise move considering Tottenham's attacking prowess.
3.22pmThe dangerman for Tottenham will, of course, be Bale. He has been in scintillating form recently, scoring eight goals in his last six games. Most of these goals have been of the highest quality, culminating in his wonderstrike against West Ham to win all three points for his side on Monday night. He can play in a free role or down either wing, but whoever is marking him will have their hands full today.
3.24pmArsenal will be looking to their own Southampton youth product to do the most damage in the final third. Theo Walcott has the pace and ability to pose a real threat to the Spurs defence, although his scoring rate has decreased somewhat since being moved back onto the wing. Giroud will provide a significant aerial threat, while Cazorla has the ability to pick a pass through any defence.
3.26pmThe main man to watch for the Gunners will be Jack Wilshere, though. The young England international has been in superb form this season and his driving runs from midfield have set up countless chances for teammates.
3.28pmOne small sub-plot I think we're all hoping to see is a straight foot-race between Bale and Walcott. The duo are arguably the two fastest players in the league and it will be intriguing to see who wins that race!
3.30pmNeither manager will be worried about that, though. Their focus will be firmly on getting the three points today. A win for either side would be massive this afternoon.
3.32pmI've already noted that a Spurs win would see them move back above Chelsea into third, but it would also increase the gap between themselves and Arsenal to seven points. As well as those bragging rights, it would put them within just two points of reigning champions Manchester City, who don't play until Monday.
3.34pmA win is arguably even more important for Arsenal, though. They are still very much in the chase for the final Champions League spot, but this could be a crucial match in their quest to get it. A win would see them move just one point behind Spurs, as well as increasing the gap between themselves and Everton to five points. The win would also put the Gunners within two points of Chelsea, making a third place finish a very real possibility.
3.36pmPlenty to play for for both sides, then, but anything can happen in a North London derby - as recent meetings between the two sides suggest.
3.38pmThe last two meetings between the two have ended 5-2 to Arsenal, with Tottenham taking the lead on both occasions. The last times they played at White Hart Lane, however, Spurs won 2-1 courtesy of goals from Rafael van der Vaart and Kyle Walker. Aaron Ramsey got Arsenal's goal.
3.40pmOne thing you should expect from this fixture is goals. Only one of the last 11 matches between these two sides has thrown up less than three goals, and there have been some thrilling matches in that time. In recent years we've seen scorelines such as 5-2, 4-4, 4-1, 3-3, 5-1 and, if we go back as far as 2004, 5-4. More of the same today please!
3.42pmArsenal boss Arsene Wenger will be particularly keen for a win today. His job is coming under increasing scrutiny and missing out on Champions League football could be the final straw. With news regarding a potential takeover bid surfacing yesterday, Wenger will be more desperate than ever to impress.
3.44pmHis team do have history on their side. In the 156 meetings between the two sides, Arsenal have won 64 compared to Tottenham's 49. In those 156 matches, there have also been a staggering 468 goals.
3.46pmRecent history at White Hart Lane isn't as kind to the Gunners, however. They haven't won a league game there since 2007, when Cesc Fabregas joined Emmanuel Adebayor on the scoresheet. Adebayor is, of course, playing for Spurs today alongside the other goalscorer that day - Gareth Bale.
3.48pmTottenham's home form hasn't been the best so far this season. They have picked up 25 points in 13 games at White Hart Lane. That is the seventh best-record in the league, although a win today would give them the fourth-best record.
3.50pmArsenal's away form has been pretty solid throughout the season. They have won five and drawn five of their 13 games, giving them 20 points on their travels, which is the fifth best record in the league.
3.52pmPREDICTION: We're nearing kickoff at White Hart Lane so it's time for my prediction! These fixtures are always the hardest to call as anything can happen, but I think Spurs have enough about them to see off Arsenal today. I'm hoping it will be another goal-glut, so I'm going to go for Tottenham 3-2 Arsenal.
3.54pmThe tension is rising around White Hart Lane. This is an eagerly anticipated match among neutrals, but to many fans of either side it is by far the most important match of the season.
3.56pmIf I was to sum this match up in a cliche, it would have to be "six-pointer". Arsenal will have a massive uphill climb to qualify for Europe if they lose today, while a win would give them a real chance of finishing third.
3.58pmThe players come out of the tunnel to a cauldron of noise, there is a great atmosphere in North London for this one, and you wouldn't expect anything less!
0 minSpurs immediately go on the attack and Arsenal look pretty shaky in the early stages. Arteta puts a bad tackle in and the referee plays a long advantage before finally giving the hosts the free kick.
1 minBale floats the free kick in and Dawson is inches away from connecting with it while unmarked, but the linesman has his flag up.
2 minSigurdsson puts a heavy early challenge in on Jenkinson and Arsenal have their first chance to whip it into the box, but it's cleared away.
4 minArsenal have a good attacking platform as Cazorla plays it into Ramsey on the edge of the box, but he is quickly closed down by the Spurs defence. Tottenham try and launch a counter attack but Vertonghen gets the ball caught under his feet and the chance goes.
5 minJenkinson whips a cross into the box and Dawson heads it against Walcott and out for what should be a goalkick, but the ref gives a corner, from which Giroud gets a header in on goal, but it's easy for Lloris.
7 minWalker makes a marauding run into the Arsenal box but his eventual shot is blocked. The right-back has to work back to stop the counter-attack and does exactly that.
8 minArsenal have started very brightly here. Wilshere slips Giroud in down the left side of the penalty area, but his attempted pull back is put behind for a corner.
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9 minCHANCE! A fantastic pass finds Giroud in behind the defence and the striker takes it beautifully in his stride. Dawson slides in dangerously inside the box, but Giroud doesn't really do anything when he should have put his foot through it.
11 minRamsey is the latest to advance on the Spurs goal, but Lloris is out quickly to deny the midfielder. This has been a very good start from Arsenal.
13 minJenkinson tries to whip a cross in that ends up more like a shot. It is never beating Lloris, but the Frenchman has to keep it from flying into the top corner.
16 minThe pace of the match has slowed down a bit now as Spurs begin to get their foot on the ball. They are edging their way into this one having survived Arsenal initial burst.
17 minTottenham fans want a free kick for a foul on Scott Parker by Vermaelen, but it was a brilliant challenge. Hard and fair, the type we are seeing increasingly few of nowadays.
18 minYELLOW CARD! That one isn't so fair. Adebayor takes a heavy touch and lunges into a reckless challenge in his haste to win it back. Mark Clattenburg gives him a deserved yellow card.
20 minSigurdsson curls a pass behind the Arsenal defence and Bale is inches away from controlling it with the outside of his left boot. Arsenal would have been in real trouble if he managed to bring that under his spell.
22 minCazorla slips a ball into Walcott and the winger looks to be in on goal with his pace. Walker shows that he is no slouch himself to get back and put in a fine tackle on the England international. Good defending.
24 minWalker almost loses out to Cazorla as the Spaniard closes the right-back down quickly, but he uses his pace to recover and win the ball back. More good defending from Walker there.
25 minLennon scuttles down the right flank in his inimitable style, but his cross is blocked by Monreal, who followed him all the way. Spurs recycle the ball and Lennon comes again, but is denied once again by Monreal.
27 minAdebayor goes down inside the box but the ref rightly tells him to get up. Arsenal break on the counter and Walcott puts a ball into the danger zone, which Spurs just get clear.
28 minYELLOW CARD! Wilshere slips a ball into Giroud, who is stopped from running on to it by a clumsy challenge by Vertonghen, who rightly gets his name in the book.
29 minYELLOW CARD! Arsenal get their first player in the book as Lennon tries to break away down the right. Ramsey is chasing him and has no choice but to bring him down and pick up a yellow.
32 minJenkinson is released on the right flank and he tries to drill a low ball in to Giroud, but a Tottenham man gets there in time to clear it away. Jenkinson is having quite a good game at the moment.
34 minSpurs are really struggling to create anything at the moment. Bale hasn't been in the game at all and the hosts look pretty lost without him.
36 minI believe that is called the commentator's curse! Bale races through the middle and no Arsenal player picks him up. Sigurdsson finds the Welshman, who looks a mile offside, and he makes no mistake when one-on-one with Szczesny. Replays show that Mertesacker was playing him on, so that was a good decision from the linesman. First blood goes to Tottenham!
39 minWow! Two goals in as many minutes for Spurs! Parker comes forward and Lennon waltzes in behind the defence, who are still inexplicably playing a high line. Monreal leaves Lennon and Vermaelen doesn't move a muscle, allowing the winger to round the keeper and slide it into the empty net. Amazing scenes, is there anyway back for Arsenal now?
41 minRemember that Arsenal came back from 2-0 down last time these two teams met, going on to win 5-2. That was at the Emirates, however, so they face an even bigger challenge now.
43 minArsenal come forward in an effort to grab a goal back, and they work the ball over to Jenkinson, who has space on the right again. He puts another low cross in, but once again Vertonghen is there to clear it with Giroud lurking.
45 minWe will have two minutes of added time at White Hart Lane. Can Arsenal grab a goal back before the break?
45+1 minRamsey has a chance to put a cross in from the right this time, but the result is the same as ever. He fails to beat the first man and it is cleared away with relative ease.
4.49pmWell, well, well. The first half was played at a frenetic place throughout and looked pretty even for much of it, with Arsenal on top if anything. Two goals in as many minutes from Tottenham suddenly swung the momentum in the hosts' favour, however, and now they are firmly in the driving seat.
4.51pmIt's no surprise to see Bale on the scoresheet, but it was surprising to see Lennon undo the defence in very similar fashion just a minute or so later. Arsenal are leaving a lot of space behind their defence, who aren't exactly fast, that Bale and Lennon will continue to exploit if nothing changes.
4.53pmThere were a couple of occasions other than the two goals that Bale could have been played through the middle, and it seems to come when one centre-back has stepped up and the other hasn't followed. They will need to rectify that in the second half and you can be sure that that will be Wenger's main issue at the break.
4.55pmHaving said that, Arsenal are by no means out of this one. They started the match very brightly and, until the two goals, were probably the better team. If they can get an early goal then anything can happen.
4.57pmThe following 45 minutes must be regarded as the most important of Arsenal's season. A reminder that a loss would leave them seven points behind Spurs, and five points off the final Champions League spot.
4.59pmSo, what will Wenger be saying to his players? Well, they began the match at 100 mph and Spurs really looked like they were struggling to cope. They may have to throw caution to the wind at some point in this half, but if they can really get about Spurs in the first 10 minutes or so then they will still be hopeful of getting something out of this game.
5pmVillas-Boas, on the other hand, will be focusing on keeping tight at the back. Their defence is playing a similarly high line to that of Arsenal, which Walcott could expose if he moves up front, so he will be keen to make sure that his side aren't undone in the same way that Arsenal were.
5.01pmThe players are back out on the pitch and ready to restart. No changes for either side.
45 minArsenal get us back underway, this is a huge 45 minutes for them.
47 minSHOT! Bale races down the right and floats in a decent cross on his weaker foot. There is no-one in the area, but it falls to Sigurdsson, who tries to curl a shot towards goal but gets it all wrong as it flies some way wide.
49 minWalcott tries to show off his considerable pace on the counter-attack by knocking the ball past Assou-Ekotto. He gives himself too much to do, however, as Vertonghen sweeps up and clears the danger.
50 minRamsey wins a free kick in a good crossing position for Arsenal. Walcott will swing it in from the left...
50 minGOAL! Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal (Per Mertesacker)
51 minArsenal are right back in this one! Walcott's free kick is met by the head of Mertesacker, who just glances it beyond Lloris and into the back of the net. The ball may have come off Bale on the way through but I think Mertesacker can take that one.
52 minCLOSE! The ball falls to Monreal on the edge of the box and he unleashes a powerful effort which swings just wide of the Spurs goal. Arsenal are on top.
53 minCHANCE! Jenkinson drills in another dangerous low ball and Ramsey looks destined to knock it in, but Lloris comes out to smother it at the midfielder's feet. That was a real chance!
55 minTottenham have steadied the ship in the last few minutes but they will be feeling the tension now. You have to love North London derbies!
57 minGiroud is down and holding his collarbone after a heavy fall. Arsenal will be hoping that this is nothing serious.
58 minLuckily for them, it isn't. Giroud is back on his feet and moving freely again. Tomas Rosicky is warming up on the touchline now.
59 minCHANCE! What a chance for Bale! You would've put a lot of money on him scoring that in his current form! Dembele puts in a brilliant low cross across the face of goal and Bale has the goal gaping at the back post, but he puts it into row Z. The ball was bobbling along the floor so it wasn't quite a tap in, but a player of Bale's quality should've buried that.
60 minARSENAL SUB: Jenkinson's afternoon is over as he is replaced by Rosicky. It's an attacking sub but I can only assume that Jenkinson has picked up a knock as he has been playing pretty well.
62 minSHOT! Arsenal knock the ball about on the edge of the Tottenham penalty area, patiently probing for a way through. Eventually the cross comes in from the right, but Walcott's header goes way over the bar.
63 minWalcott threatens to break free but Vertonghen puts in a brilliant last-ditch tackle to deny the England man.
64 minArsenal refuse to kick the ball out with Adebayor down, and Spurs aren't happy about it! The Gunners eventually win a free kick, and Dawson kicks up a fuss, which causes Clattenburg to take him to one side and calm him down. Dawson was lucky not to pick up a yellow there.
66 minTOTTENHAM SUB: Adebayor is stretchered off with that injury, and is replaced by Jermain Defoe.
68 minArsenal have a free kick in a very promising situation as Sigurdsson brings down Walcott on the edge of the box. Cazorla will cross this one in... but it isn't successful as the last one and is cleared away.
69 minCHANCE! What a chance! Bale pings a brilliant pass to Defoe down the right and the sub cuts inside before feeding Sigurdsson, who is completely unmarked as he bursts into the box. His touch lets him down and he tries to play it square instead of shooting. Potentially huge moment in this match, he really should've scored.
71 minCHANCE! Another chance for the hosts as the ball is fed to Defoe on the edge of the area. Arsenal allow him space to shoot and he duly obliges, but drags his shot wide of the mark. He really should have done better there.
72 minLennon twists and turns his way into the Arsenal box and for once cuts back onto his left instead of going down the channel. His eventual shot is well blocked, however.
73 minSAVE! The resulting corner is cleared, but Spurs recycle and Dawson wins the next header in the area before Arsenal manage to clear only as far as Bale. The Welshman lets fly with a volley from the edge of the area, but it is straight at Szczesny who manages to hold on to it. Either side of the keeper and that could have been 3-1.
75 minThere are just 15 minutes left in this one and I really wouldn't want to second guess what could happen!
76 minARSENAL SUB: Wenger makes another attacking sub as Podolski replaces Arteta.
78 minPodolski has a chance to take the ball into his path and release a shot but his first touch is poor and the chance goes.
80 minCHANCE! Ramsey is released down the right and is in acres of space and plenty of time to pick a spot with his shot. He drags his effort, which takes a slight deflection off Assou-Ekotto on its way through, wide of the post, however. That was a real chance.
82 minClattenburg awards Spurs a free kick about 30 yards from goal. Bale is standing over it, but the angle isn't quite right for a shot.
83 minMaybe it is! Bale goes for goal with his effort and it bounces just in front of Szczesny, but the Arsenal keeper holds on to it.
84 minSHOT! Giroud displays a deft touch by controlling a high ball on the edge of the area, but his next touch isn't so cultured as he blazes it high over the bar.
86 minDembele is down hurt at the moment, his knee seemed to give way in a tackle and it didn't look pretty. From that attack Sigurdsson had a shot that ended up a long way wide of the mark, but Tottenham's main concern at the moment is Dembele.
87 minTOTTENHAM SUB: Dembele is walking off, which is good to see, but he won't be able to continue. He is replaced by Jake Livermore.
88 minCLOSE! Podolski wins a free kick about 30 yards from goal and Walcott steps up to it. He goes for the shot and it isn't a bad try whatsoever. He curls it over the wall but it ends up a yard or so wide of the post.
90 minWe will have six minutes of stoppage time! Is there any late drama in store for us here?
90+1 minWilshere tries to thread a ball through to Walcott, but Vertonghen just steps across to intercept it. He then plays a ball down the left to Bale, who takes it into the corner and eventual concedes a goal kick.
90+3 minAssou-Ekotto hoists a clearance all the way out of the ground. That's some effective timewasting!
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90+4 minCHANCE! The ball falls to Podolski on the edge of the box and he lets fly with a half volley which Dawson throws himself in the way of. Szczesny comes up for the corner but nothing comes of it.
90+6 minYELLOW CARD! Walker picks up a late yellow for kicking the ball away.
90+6 minTOTTENHAM SUB: Gallas will come on for these last few seconds, replacing Lennon.
5.57pmThere you have it! A thoroughly entertaining game of football comes to an end, and it is Tottenham who have the North London bragging rights. Goals from Bale and Lennon gave them a two-goal lead at half time, and they held out admirably in the second half having conceded fairly early on.
5.59pmArsenal's Champions League hopes have taken a huge blow in that game. They are now seven points behind Spurs and five behind Chelsea, who currently occupy that all-important fourth spot. Tottenham, meanwhile, move to within just two points of second place and go one step closer to qualifying for Europe's premier competition next season.
6pmRight, that's it from me today. Thank you for joining Sports Mole for another thrilling edition of the North London derby. I will leave you with Sam Hughes's match report and be sure to stick around for match analysis, which will be on site within half an hour. Goodbye!