Arsenal runs over 10-man Tottenham
A moment of madness from Emmanuel Adebayor sparked a spectacular Tottenham collapse as Arsenal romped to a 5-2 victory in Saturday's entertaining north London derby at the Emirates Stadium.
Adebayor scored against his former employer to give Tottenham a 10th-minute lead, but he pressed the self-destruct button seven minutes later when he was given a straight red for a horrific sliding tackle on Santi Cazorla.
Tottenham struggled to cope with the numerical disadvantage thereafter and it only took a few minutes for Per Mertesacker to equalize.
Tottenham fared slightly better in the second half, but its only reward came through a Gareth Bale consolation after Cazorla killed the contest.
To add insult to injury, Theo Walcott grabbed a deserved goal in injury time to make the score the same as the 5-2 win that Arsenal used as a springboard for its Champions League assault last season.
Arsenal's victory means it jumps above Tottenham in the table, while Spurs have now suffered four successive defeats under Andre Villas-Boas, who will have questions to answer about why he decided to play Adebayor if there were doubts about whether the striker could keep a lid on his emotions.
Villas-Boas dismissed suggestions Adebayor may have been too wound up against his former club.
"I don't think so," he said. "We make the most out of players' revolts, players' motivations. It's something that we respect. I think Ade was in full control of his emotions and in a north London derby you want players to challenge for balls, you want them to win second balls, you want them to be strong, to be brave. That's exactly what they did from the first minute to the last."
Asked about his experience of managing Adebayor, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger added: "He's not especially hard to manage. He did control his reaction. Sometimes players have this kind of reaction when they are frustrated but this was not the case. He was flying. I thought he had a great start."
It was clear from the start that Adebayor was pumped up for the clash. After being snubbed by his former teammates in the tunnel, he tussled aggressively with Jack Wilshere for the ball inside the first minute.
The Togolese's every touch was booed during an opening five minutes that was bereft of goal-mouth action but packed with passion, thanks to the white-hot atmosphere inside the Emirates Stadium.
William Gallas, whose status as a former Gunner also meant he was jeered constantly, thought he had given Spurs an early lead when he intercepted Tom Huddlestone's shot and curled a shot past Wojciech Szczesny, but the Frenchman was correctly called offside.
One minute later, Tottenham did have the lead, however, through its controversial number 10. Szczesny palmed Jermain Defoe's shot in to Adebayor's path and he twisted his body to tap in to an empty net.
The striker, famed for running the whole length of the pitch to celebrate in front of Arsenal's fans three years ago, hurdled the advertising boards and goaded the irate home support.
Such was the vitriol against Adebayor that some of the home fans were ejected for hurling abuse at the 28-year-old.
Seven minutes later the home fans were jeering Adebayor off after his awful foul on Cazorla.
Studs showing, the Spurs striker propelled himself in to a high tackle on the Spaniard, who was in mid-air and Howard Webb had no option but to send the player off.
Villas-Boas accepted Adebayor's dismissal was justified but was reluctant to be too hard on the striker.
"Players want to dispute the ball, there was no intention to do any harm," the Portuguese manager told Sky Sports 2. "I think the sending-off determined the game, but the referee made the right decision."
Arsenal peppered the Tottenham box as the visitors struggled to cope with the one-man deficit.
The inevitable equalizer came after 23 minutes. Walcott latched on to Wilshere's ball and crossed for Mertesacker, who headed past Hugo Lloris after Huddlestone went missing in the box.
Villas-Boas checked his notepad for inspiration, but he must have known there was little he could do to stop Arsenal from taking the lead.
Lloris, making just his second league start, did his best to keep the Gunners out, saving twice in succession from Giroud.
Cazorla bent a swirling drive just over Lloris' bar as Tottenham tried to hold on until the break, but Huddlestone then gifted the Gunners the lead.
The midfielder, recalled to the England squad this week, poked Mikel Arteta's pass unwittingly in to the path of Podolski and his shot deflected off Gallas past Lloris.
Arsenal bagged its third in first-half injury time. Kyle Naughton knocked Cazorla down but he picked himself up and squared to Giroud, who beat Gallas to the ball and dispatched a close-range finish.
Kyle Walker and Bale remonstrated with Webb as they left the field at halftime, but in reality there was little they could complain about.
Lloris managed to keep the hosts out for 14 minutes before Arsenal hit on the break through Walcott and Podolski, who found Cazorla at the back post and he made no mistake from five yards.
Only a crucial block by Gallas stopped Arsenal from scoring its fifth as the hosts threatened a record-breaking victory margin.
Bale then restored a bit of pride for the away side with 20 minutes to go when he outpaced Mertesacker and drove past Szczesny through Laurent Koscielny's legs.
Flashes of Spurs' Bale-inspired near comeback against Inter Milan flashed in to the minds of the away support as the winger again went charging down the left and cut in to the box, but this time the his shot flew wide.
As the clock ticked toward 90 minutes, Tottenham started to throw more bodies forward but was left exposed at the back.
Defoe attempted a 10-yard volley while unmarked at the back post but he missed the ball Thomas Vermaelen shot just wide and Arsenal finished off the rout in injury time when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain took advantage of a Jan Vertonghen mistake to play in Walcott.
"We showed people how good we are today," Walcott told Sky Sports 2. "It'll give us tremendous spirit, and we've got a lot of players back to fitness and everybody's very confident."
Information from Press Association was used in this report.