London: Alexis Sanchez salvaged a point for 10-man Arsenal and denied Tottenham Hotspur the chance to go top of the Premier League after a pulsating north London derby ended in a 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
Aaron Ramsey’s first-half goal put Arsene Wenger’s side ahead, but the dismissal of Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin in the 55th minute shifted the game in Spurs’ favour, with Toby Alderweireld and Harry Kane putting the hosts ahead. However, the visitors showed impressive determination to recover through Sanchez’s 76th-minute effort to revive their faltering title challenge.
It was leaders Leicester City who were the main beneficiaries, though, with Spurs now two points behind Claudio Ranieri’s side, who face Watford later on Saturday, while the draw left Arsenal five points off the top.
Wenger acknowledged the importance attached to this game when he admitted beforehand it was one of the most significant north London derbies he has been involved in.
And while the outcome was vital to both teams, there was little doubt Arsenal came into the clash facing more questions about their ability to sustain their title challenge.
The midweek home loss to Swansea City had drawn criticism of Wenger and his players, but their fightback with 10 men at least temporarily answered the doubters.
Wenger reacted to the Swansea loss by making four changes to his starting line-up, with David Ospina replacing the injured Petr Cech in goal and Kieran Gibbs coming in for Nacho Monreal at left-back.
In midfield, the manager introduced Mohamed Elneny for his first Premier League start, while Wenger’s frustrations at his side’s recent efforts up front prompted his decision to start with Danny Welbeck.
Arsenal had offered little as an attacking force but still managed to force the lead with their first meaningful attempt on goal in the 39th minute.
Welbeck benefited from a fortunate deflection that freed him down the left but the forward showed great awareness to delay his cross before picking out the run of Hector Bellerin.
The right-back’s pass towards the centre of goal found Ramsey and the Wales midfielder was on hand to direct the ball past Hugo Lloris with a clever back-heel.
Wenger’s men should have found themselves two up moments later when Welbeck directed a header too close to Lloris from Sanchez’s cross.