Tottenham sink Arsenal with second half show as Harry Kane strikes
LONDON -- Three points on Tottenham's 1-0 win over Arsenal in the north London derby; the game was pretty even in the first half but after Harry Kane's goal early in the second there was only going to be one winner.
1. Harry Kane the killer again
After reaching 100 Premier League goals against Liverpool last weekend, Kane revealed that he is still motivated by his release from Arsenal as an eight-year-old.
The striker's 16-year-old mission to prove the Gunners wrong continued with the decisive goal in Saturday's north London derby as Spurs moved seven points clear of their fiercest rivals and earned revenge for their 2-0 defeat at the Emirates in November.
It was Kane's seventh league goal in a north London derby -- only Emmanuel Adebayor, who played for both clubs, has more -- and he could have easily finished the match with a hat trick. Arsenal simply could not live with the England striker or with Tottenham, who steamrollered the visitors after half-time and should have won by more, although Alexandre Lacazette missed a one-on-one chance in stoppage-time.
After a tense first half -- in which Spurs had possession and Arsenal had counter-attacks but neither team could find a killer pass -- Kane prove the difference just four minutes after the interval, rising at the back post to head Ben Davies' cross into the bottom corner. It was reminiscent of his first goal against the Gunners, three years and three days ago, when he scored an 86th-minute winner at White Hart Lane.
Kane was unlucky not to double Spurs' lead inside the next five minutes, heading Mousa Dembele's cross an inch wide before Petr Cech parried a rasping volley as Arsenal, not for the first time, completely lost their shape and focus defensively after falling behind.
The 24-year-old was involved in further chances for Eriksen and Son Heung-Min but wasteful Spurs could not find a second goal and they had survive some nervy moments in the final few minutes as Arsenal flooded forward.
In the end, it would have been harsh on Kane not to be the matchwinner. Arsenal were flattered by the 1-0 scoreline and again left regretting their 2004 decision.
2. Spurs looking up, Arsenal looking down
This victory concluded a run of games in which Spurs have not only underlined their case for a spot in the top four but suggested they may, once again, be the closest challengers to the eventual champions.
Before the matches against Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, Spurs fans might have been content with five points, particularly considering their rivals January reinforcements and their dismal record at Anfield.
Instead, they have picked up seventh points and recorded two more landmark wins at Wembley to follow this season's victories over Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Liverpool. They have now won nine of their last 10 games at the national stadium, with an aggregate score of 28-4, and Manchester City are now the only top-six rival yet to visit.
Before the match, Pochettino was bullish about his side's chances of finishing runners-up again and, given Spurs usually click into gear around this point of the season, they look a good bet to close the four point gap to second-place United, who visit Newcastle on Sunday.
Arsenal, by contrast, are now five points shy of the top four, having played a game more than in-crisis Chelsea, who can extend that lead to eight points with a win against West Brom on Monday. The Gunners have a two-week break from Premier League action in which Arsene Wenger will hope his new-look front-three will begin to gel, but next is Man City's visit on March 1. After that game, they could easily be even further adrift.
3. Cech a huge positive for Arsenal
If there was one positive for Arsenal, it was the performance of Cech. The veteran goalkeeper was rated as a doubt after picking up a calf injury against Everton and many Arsenal fans might hoped for David Ospina between the sticks after their No. 1's recent howlers against Bournemouth and Swansea.
But the 35-year-old proved that reports of his demise have been much exaggerated with a superb display, especially in the second-half, which was the only thing that prevented the result from being an embarrassment for the Gunners.
After parrying Kane's volley at 1-0, Cech acrobatically clawed Eriksen's freekick over the bar, before standing tall to deny Alli, Kieran Trippier and substitute Erik Lamela. It was a performance that vindicated Wenger's faith in him and suggested that it is too soon to write him off as a top-level Premier League goalkeeper.
Wenger could also take heart from the performance of Mohamed Elneny, who suggested again that what he lacks in quality on the ball, he makes up for in defensive solidity. The Egyptian played major part in keeping Eriksen quiet during the first half and, although he was chasing shadows after the interval and was substituted as Wenger chased the game, he was a second bright spot in a sea of gloom for the Gunners.
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.