Chilean star Alexis Sanchez’s 76th minute equalizer was all Arsenal needed to end their run of three successive defeats as the 10-man Gunners held Tottenham Hotspur to a 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
Aaron Ramsey’s brilliantly-improvised finish gave Arsenal the lead at half-time of a tense north London derby at White Hart Lane.
Much of the pre-match talk had centred on whether this was the biggest north London derby of all time – and while there was more than a hint of hype about it, the match certainly held great significance for both sides.
With the Gunners trailing their rivals by three points, and lying six behind league leaders Leicester City, there was little room for error at White Hart Lane. After three successive defeats, a positive result was badly needed to breath new life into a stuttering title bid – and what better place to do it.
Wenger’s side were without two key figures – the injured Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny. It meant Ospina coming in for his first Premier League game in close to 10 months.
Mertesacker returned to partner Gabriel in the heart of the defence as Kieran Gibbs was drafted in at left back in place of Nacho Monreal.
Elsewhere, Mohamed Elneny partnered Francis Coquelin at the base of the midfield, with Ramsey moved back out to the right flank with Joel Campbell dropping the bench while Danny Welbeck replaced Olivier Giroud as the central striker.
Spurs meanwhile, came into the derby on the back of a defeat at West Ham United that ended a six-game winning run in the Premier League. Mauricio Pochettino responded by making four changes to his team, the most notable seeing Dele Alli return and both full backs being changed.
The Gunners were under concerted pressure for much of the first half, and were indebted to David Ospina for a fine save to deny Erik Lamela.
But after soaking up the pressure, the visitors grabbed the lead when Hector Bellerin’s ball was diverted into the top corner, via Ramsey’s flick.
After the break, the Gunners seemed to be heading for a damaging defeat when, after Francis Coquelin was sent off for two bookable offences at the start of the second half, the hosts scored twice in quick succession.
Arsenal had started the second half confidently, but Coquelin’s red card seemed to change the game inexorably in Tottenham’s favour when Toby Alderweireld and Harry Kane scored within two minutes of each other.
But Arsène Wenger’s side were determined not to go down without a fight and, with 14 minutes remaining, they raced forward and equalised through Alexis.
It may only have been a point for Arsenal, but it felt like a big one as we enter the final straight of an incredible season.