Football: Sanchez keeps gunners in race

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring against Tottenham during their English Premier League football match.
Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring against Tottenham during their English Premier League football match. PHOTO: EPA
Arsenal's Hector Bellerin (left) and Per Mertesacker trying to beat Tottenham's Harry Kane to the ball. Kane scored Spurs' second goal but Arsenal salvaged a point through Alexis Sanchez.
Arsenal's Hector Bellerin (left) and Per Mertesacker trying to beat Tottenham's Harry Kane to the ball. Kane scored Spurs' second goal but Arsenal salvaged a point through Alexis Sanchez.PHOTO: REUTERS

His 76th-minute equaliser ensures Arsenal are only 3 pts behind second-placed Spurs

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Tottenham Hotspur 2
Arsenal 2

LONDON • It was a wild, oscillating match, in keeping with the story of an eccentric English Premier League title race, and when the players left the pitch at the final whistle, there was regret for both sides.

Arsenal will wonder whether it might have been a lot more straightforward but for Francis Coquelin's sending-off, when they were 1-0 ahead.

And Tottenham Hotspur cannot be fully satisfied not to have beaten the 10 men after an electric three-minute spell when they scored twice to turn the game in their own favour.

That was certainly an exhilarating moment when Harry Kane set off on his victory run, throwing his protective face mask into the air, after the goal that gave his team a 2-1 lead just a couple of minutes after Toby Alderweireld's equaliser in the 60th minute.

Those were moments to convert the blood of any Spurs supporter into red wine but this was an afternoon, ultimately, when Arsenal answered a lot of the questions that have engulfed them over the last fortnight, salvaging a point through Alexis Sanchez in the 76th minute.

Arsene Wenger's team have been derided as lacking any form of competitive courage and, in the worst cases, a level of failure bordering on collective cowardice.

The criticism has been vehement, often coming from players who once shared glory with Wenger. But in fairness to Arsenal, this was not another occasion when they could be accused of lacking competitive courage.

In the first half, they played with a kind of togetherness that made it feel slightly preposterous that they could have lost so meekly against Swansea City and Manchester United.

They had taken the lead after 39 minutes courtesy of Aaron Ramsey's improvisational flick and were looking relatively comfortable until Coquelin's foul on Kane brought the Arsenal player his second yellow card nine minutes into the second half.

Arsenal might have legitimate grievances that Coquelin was fouled in the build-up to handling the ball for his first booking.

And Wenger was incensed later in the match when the referee, Michael Oliver, showed leniency to Tottenham's Eric Dier after he had pulled back the Arsenal substitute Olivier Giroud, having shown the same player a yellow card a few minutes earlier.

"I cannot complain about Francis Coquelin's second yellow but we can complain about Eric Dier not receiving a second yellow card, Wenger told BT Sport.

Coquelin's dismissal gave Tottenham new belief and they were level on the hour, Alderweireld sweeping in the loose ball after Arsenal had been unable to clear Christian Eriksen's corner.

The complexion of the game had suddenly changed and, when Kane curled in a beauty two minutes later, albeit with Dele Alli marginally offside in the build-up, Spurs were on course to move level on points with Leicester at the top of the table.

Arsenal had other ideas and, having set up Aaron Ramsey for their first goal, Hector Bellerin played in Sanchez to scuff a shot past Hugo Lloris for his first league goal since October.

The biggest North London derby in years could have gone either way in a nerve-wracking finale.

Arsenal defender Gabriel almost sliced a cross into his own net and then in stoppage time, Ramsey looked set to fire a dramatic winner before a goal-saving tackle by Kevin Wimmer.

At the end, Tottenham, bidding for a first title since 1961, remained in second place on 55 points, three ahead of third-placed Arsenal. Leicester are still leading the table.

Asked if Arsenal are still in title race, Wenger said: "I don't know. Let's see what happens over the weekend but we have to take encouragement from today and if we can reproduce that, we still have a chance. It shows that we had the right spirit and balance in the team, and overall we had a solid performance."

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was happy with his side's performance, despite their inability to take all three points on home ground and with the advantage of having an extra player on the pitch for more than 45 minutes.

The Argentinian told BT Sport: "I am pleased. It's true, when it was 2-1 I am little bit disappointed with the result, but we have to be happy we keep the three-point gap to Arsenal.

"After Harry's goal, it was 11 versus 10, and they scored a very good goal but it was our mistake. Overall, the response after the West Ham game (when Tottenham lost 1-0) was fantastic.

"In our position, two points from the top, we have nine games ahead and we need to be focused."

Before the match, Spurs and Arsenal fans were involved in violent clashes outside White Hart Lane.

Police on horseback were forced to intervene as events threatened to spiral out of control.

One supporter was seen with blood streaming from a head wound, while others were knocked to the floor. The police later said two men were arrested.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 06, 2016, with the headline 'SANCHEZ KEEPS GUNNERS IN RACE'. Print Edition | Subscribe