The North London derby has always produced some of the most entertaining matches in Premier League’s history. As Arsenal takes on Tottenham today at the Emirates, we wind back the clock to 25th April, 2004.
It was the 134th league derby between the two sides. Arsenal travelled to the White Hart Lane in search of a point that could hand them over the League title as 2nd placed team Chelsea lost to Newcastle United in an early kick-off. The Gunners were yet to be beaten in the league that season and were displaying a brand of football that was perhaps first of its kind on English soil.
Tottenham on the other hand were struggling in the league. They made a poor start to the season and Glenn Hoddle was sacked in September. David Pleat, who was the Director of football at the club, took over the role of a manager till the end of the season, but failed to rescue Spurs from the bottom half of the table.
Arsenal got off to a fantastic start in the match as Patrick Viera opened the scoring after a swift counter attack from the Gunners. The move started from a Tottenham corner at the other end of the pitch. As Arsenal defended the corner, the ball fell to Henry. The Frenchman raced clear down the left and found Bergkamp with a through ball, ahead of him. The Dutchman hit a first time low cross into the box which was turned home by the on rushing Patrick Viera. It was a counter-attacking move to savor.
Arsenal doubled their lead in the 35th minute of the match as Robert Pires added to his wonderful goal scoring record against Tottenham. It was a wonderful move that started off at the back. Viera, Pires and Bergkamp made some quick exchanges between themselves and worked ball through the Tottenham midfield. Then all off a sudden Bergkamp played a wonderful through ball for Viera to run on to down the left. The Frenchman pulled the ball across for Pires who applied the finishing touch. Commentator Martin Tyler summed it perfectly – “It is football from another planet”.
At that point of the match, it looked like the Gunners were running away with the match and the points, but the second half was different game altogether.
17 minutes into the second half and Spurs pulled one back through Jamie Redknapp. The move started off down the left as Spurs, perhaps for the first time in that match, worked ball well through the midfield. Jermaine Defoe received the ball in the left channel, skipped past Lauren and passed it to Brown. The midfielder shifted the ball to his right at the edge of the box and set it up perfectly for Jamie Redknapp to striker. The Englishman struck the ball sweetly into the bottom right corner of the net. It was an wonderful striker.
Spurs grew in confidence as the match progressed as Arsenal were pegged back into their own half. But Arsenal’s defense held firm, that is, until the 90th minute of the match. It was a moment of madness from Jens Lehmann that handed over an golden opportunity to Spurs to snatch a draw.
Michael Brown’s corner struck the post and the ball deflected to Jermaine Defoe on left. But the game was stopped by the referee as he noticed a clash between Lehmann and Robbie Keane. Replays showed that Jens Lehmann pulled down Robbie Keane in front of the goal while defending the corner. The assistant referee pointed this out to Mike Halsey, who in turn pointed to the spot. Robbie Keane stepped up to take a penalty and calmly placed it into the top corner of the net. It ended 2-2.
The commentator (Niall Quinn) said – “Keane rattled the goalkeeper and then he rattled the back of the net”.
Tottenham took a well deserved point based on their second half performance, but with that draw Arsenal were crowned as the new Premier League champions with four matches still to be played. Moreover, they managed to end the season unbeaten and became only the second team in English history to do so. Spurs on the other hand finished 14th (their lowest rank since 1998). That signaled the end of David Pleat at White Hart Lane as Frank Arnesen was appointed as the new Director of football at the end of the season.
Although the present Arsenal squad leaves a lot to be desired and Spurs have closed the gap on their North London rivals significantly. These fixtures never disappoint neutral fans. So hold on to your sit for another thriller at the Emirates tonight.