LONDON (AFP) - Arsene Wenger saluted his Arsenal stars for answering the critics who questioned their character as the 10-man Gunners fought back for a 2-2 draw against bitter rivals Tottenham on Saturday.
Wenger's side were in danger of being cast adrift in the Premier League title race when they fell 2-1 behind in the second half at White Hart Lane.
With Francis Coquelin sent off after Aaron Ramsey's opener, Arsenal surrendered the lead when Tottenham hit back through Toby Alderweireld and Harry Kane.
It was the kind of situation that many would have expected to prove too much for Wenger's players following their lacklustre back-to-back defeats against Manchester United and Swansea this week.
But they recovered impressively to equalise through Alexis Sanchez with 14 minutes remaining and Gunners boss Wenger was quick to hail their fighting spirit.
"I am proud of the spirit, but there are big regrets, going down to 10 men was the big regret for the day and it was hard to take," Wenger said.
"We told Francis Coquelin at half-time because he had yellow already but (Tottenham midfielder) Eric Dier deserved a second yellow as well and that could have changed the game.
"I never questioned the character of the team, when you lose you have to respond on the pitch and we did that in a convincing way."
Although Wenger was relieved to escape without a damaging north London derby defeat, his side are now five points behind leaders Leicester, who can extend that lead when they face Watford later on Saturday.
Tottenham are two points adrift of the Foxes after missing a chance to go top for the first time in seven years.
But boss Mauricio Pochettino was satisfied with the way his team recovered from their midweek loss at West Ham.
"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," Pochettino said.
"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 was fantastic.
"In our position, two points from the top, we have nine games ahead and we need to be focused on Thursday against Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League."