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It Felt Like Two Points Dropped

It’s hard to know where to begin with an account of the first North London derby of the season. I suppose chronologically to set the scene. I arrived at 12.30 (I didn’t want to miss the kick-off!) and spent a pleasant pub crawl in great company sipping rather unusually at refreshing Bloody Marys. It was evident from the time I arrived that a raucous atmosphere was building. It transferred into the Grove.

So the supporters most definitely did their bit, but what they witnessed was an astonishing contest. Both sides seemed out of sorts with the exception of Matteo Guendouzi for us and Son for Middlesex. Having said that we most definitely started on the front foot and Nicolas Pepe’s effort that just cleared the target hinted at better to come. Unfortunately it was the visitors who took the lead after a comedy of errors at the back, too many to mention, where we still have serious problems. Eriksen knocked home a tap-in.

That knocked us out of our stride. I had hoped beforehand to see a 4-2-1-3 but Unai Emery picked all three of the men of whom I thought two should start. That was amplified when Granit Xhaka threw himself into one of those absurd lunges in the area and presented Kane with the opportunity to double the lead. Remarkably the Swiss international avoided a card of any description although frankly he could not have complained if he had seen red.

Before the ball hit the net I had escaped to the bar. Fortunately they show the game on a big screen so I did not miss the moment when Guendouzi and Pepe combined to put in Alexandre Lacazette. With two exquisite touches he teed himself up to smash the ball past the helpless Loris and that would have lifted the spirits at the break.

The bulk of the second-half was all about us. How often do we come from behind to beat them. We have a mental hold over them at home. Would it be another 5-2? Frankly it should have been, particularly after we sent on Dani Ceballos for Lucas Torreira. Most thought it should have been Xhaka hooked so the Uruguayan was afforded a sympathetic standing ovation for a relatively average performance by his standards.

The midfield immediately had a better balance. The substitute himself saw a fine drive tipped over by Loris, Sead Kolasinac was a whisker away from a far post tap-in, and then a moment of magic. Guendouzi drove forward and played an unbelievable ball to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who got a stud on the ball to volley just inside the near post. 2-2 and game on.

The atmosphere had been outstanding throughout and now we were threatening to lift the roof off the stadium. Credit to the home support for their uplifting efforts. They should have been rewarded and thought a winner had arrived from the unlikely source of Sokratis Papastathopoulos, but had missed the assistant referee’s raised flag for Kolasinac being offside in the build-up.

Harry Kane once again demonstrated his chronic inner ear infection seeking to win yet another penalty as he stepped across Sokratis and hit the deck in theatrical fashion. No surprise there then.

The substitution of Lacazette by Henrikh Mkhitaryan was jeered by many but the striker had indicated that he had a problem and would need to come off. The choice of substitute appeared bizarre earlier today when Mkhitaryan departed on loan to Roma. Perhaps the manager thought Reiss Nelson a little too inexperienced for a tempestuous derby which nearly boiled over a couple of times.

The closing moments were surprisingly open and either side frankly could have nicked it. Neither did so two points were shared, although it felt like we had dropped two. We shouldn’t be happy at anything other than a win at home to them, and whilst I understand the degree of relief at the way it panned out they were most definitely there for the taking.

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