Tottenham Hotspur 1 Arsenal 3
And while Messers Sumner, Summers and Copeland proved they still had what it takes on Sunday last week, the Met's matchday commander yesterday showed himself to be pretty well in touch with the rhythm of things too, if in a slightly killjoy way, in having ordered an early kick-off for the North London derby and prohibited Tottenham from selling beer in the away section of the ground. Clearly, he wasn't going to be fooled by all the latest Lilywhite hype about finally beating a Thierry-less Arsenal at the nineteenth attempt, and how right he was not to be, and to prepare for the first away win there in a few seasons.
I'd arrived pretty early on to discover the scandalous beer embargo, and so was standing pitchside by my allotted seat chatting to various people as they arrived when I was informed that the (topless) bottle of Coke I'd bought at the bar was a potentially hazardous weapon and would need to be poured out into a plastic cup. Notwithstanding the fact that presenting members of the crowd with a cup is pretty unusual at the Lane (even if you win the league there, they only let you have an inflatable trophy to play with), just how scared were the authorities of trouble for them to think open soft drink bottles were potent attacking forces and to send round stewards with stacks of plastic beakers to fix the problem?
Well, even if all the plastic weapons of mass destruction were safely confiscated by kick-off, there was plenty of potent attacking force on show on the pitch, though the opening goal came from the side with less of it, as Gareth Bale's artful free kick swept in over the lacklustre Arsenal wall and sweetly just inside Manuel Almunia's near post. 1-0 to Spurs and the Lane was briefly rocking, though the home crowd had gone quiet long before Arsenal started scoring in the last half hour, which probably had much to do with the knowledge that not all red and white finishing would be as profligate as Hleb and Adebayor had been in a flurry of chances before half time.
With the knowledge that in previous derbies even scoring four times has sometime not been enough to get anything from the game, Spurs pressed on gamely enough but Kolo Toure's makeshift partnership in central defence with Gilberto shut out pretty much everything bar a couple of goalmouth scrambles, one covering tackle when Berbatov had rounded the keeper being a particular highlight for me, though a watchful Clichy clearing off the line in the second half was just as vital. As time went on, the home side's accuracy deteriorated (eg what may have been a shot from a harried Huddlestone going out for a throw-in) and the visitors' sharpened up. Robinson did pretty well, smartly saving a number of snap shots, and had obviously gained some confidence from keeping his place in the national side at Wembley. But even as the ground had gone quiet with Arsenal's winning a free kick near the spot where Bale had popped in the opener, you could see (if, like me, you were looking past him from behind the corner flag at the now inswinging ball) that England's number one was moving far too late to get to where he needed to be, and Adebayor thus headed home into an empty net.
With the lead gone, Jol introduced Lennon for Bale, which I thought was a bit harsh on his goalscorer, who quite apart from the goal had had as good a game as anyone in white to that point, and he chose to wait until Fabregas, left in space, had buried a thirty yard rocket past the flailing Robinson before introducing his £16.5m striker Darren Bent. If it was possible to look any less like someone worth the money, I'd want to know how, as Bent fluffed his first and Spurs' best chance of the dying game, poking his one-on-one harmlessly wide, and it was already clear that the points were going to the southern end of the Seven Sisters Road when the £3m bargain basement player Adebayor got his second of the match and a nerve-settling Arsenal third with a sublime chip up and volley.