Spurs put in a disappointing performance as they surrendered a 1-0 lead to slip to a 2-1 loss against Arsenal in the North London derby.
The game quickly settled into a pattern of early Gunners possession, Spurs looking happy to sit back and keep it tight, just as they did in the 2-0 win in December when they expertly utilised the counter-attack.
Emile Smith Rowe almost opened the scoring with a cracking effort from distance in the 15th minute, the Arsenal academy graduate beating Hugo Lloris but seeing his effort crash back off the bar.
After weathering the early pressure, Spurs finally started to see a bit of the ball, and with their first shot of the game in the 33rd minute, Jose Mourinho’s side would take the lead through a superb improvised finish from Erik Lamela. The Argentine – brought on for the injured Heung Min Son – had been busy in the buildup, and having received the ball from Lucas Moura, Lamela produced an exquisite Rabonna finish into the bottom right corner which nutmegged Thomas Partey on the way.
Arsenal got back on top in terms of possession, and would get themselves level on terms with their first shot on goal, Kieran Tierney getting forward down the left, cutting the ball back to Martin Odegaard who followed up his thunderous strike against Olympiakos in midweek to draw his side level, his effort taking a deflection on the way past Lloris.
Arsenal would be afforded the chance to take the lead just after the hour mark, Davinson Sanchez flying in to try block an Alexandre Lacazette effort, only to catch the Frenchman on his way through, before the number nine stepped up and rolled the resulting penalty past the Spurs captain.
Having lit up the first half with a moment of magic, Erik Lamela was sent for an early bath, an accumulation of fouls seeing him pick up two yellow cards in the space of seven minutes to leave his side with an uphill battle.
45 – Spurs have dropped 45 points from winning positions against Arsenal in the Premier League, the most of any team against a specific opponent in the competition. Spursy. pic.twitter.com/oox4iuErKx
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 14, 2021
The sending off seemed to spark Spurs into life, however, and after having a relatively quiet afternoon, Harry Kane did manage to find the back of the net with seven minutes to play following a free-kick from the right, only to see it chalked off after making his run towards the back post fractionally too early. The Spurs striker also saw an 89th minute free-kick come back off the post as the visitors fruitlessly looked to salvage a point.
Speaking after the game, Jose Mourinho admitted his side performed poorly, but questioned the validity of the Arsenal penalty.
“No post-match interviews for referees? That is a pity,” he told Sky Sports.
“We played really bad in the first half. The 1-1 was not a fair reflection of the first-half. We were poor. Defending bad. No intensity or pressing. Some important players hiding. Really bad. In the second half we only had space to improve which we did and then it is a question – but an impossible one as they don’t speak – for the referee Michael Oliver to answer.
”Probably Paul Tierney too as he was the VAR. According to Kevin Friend, the referee told him he had a clear decision and the VAR does not want to go against.
“The game was under control in the second half so we recovered. We made changes to try and win and then it is a penalty and after that a second yellow for Lamela. It means the last 20 minutes 11 v 10 the team try to get the result.
“What I see from the bench is just a feeling at first. I am 40-50 Metres away. I saw it on the iPad. Referees have a difficult job sometimes. I did not complain but when I watch back on the iPad it is what it is. If somebody has a different opinion it has to be one of the big Arsenal fans with a season ticket. It is the only one I accept as it is the passion speaking. Other than that I don’t accept a different view as it is obvious.
“If the players don’t do better it is because they can’t do better. I belong to the team so I am as guilty for the first half as the players but the best thing is we improve in the second half. Players get tired, coaches get tired, maybe referees get tired too. My record with Michael Oliver on penalties with Chelsea, United and Tottenham is unlucky.”
Next up for Spurs is the second leg of their Europa League last 16 tie against Dinamo Zagreb.