Arsenal recovers to draw 2-2 against Tottenham

NFL

Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, left, celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during their English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates stadium in London, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

LONDON (AP) — Arsenal fought back from two goals down against Tottenham to draw 2-2 in the Premier League on Sunday, with the Gunners’ much-anticipated attacking trio unable to see off their fierce London rivals.

Spurs shocked the home fans at Emirates Stadium to take an early lead in the 10th minute, when forward Christian Eriksen capitalized on an error from Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno to slot the ball home. Harry Kane later doubled the lead with a penalty kick after Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka’s reckless tackle on Son Heung-min left referee Martin Atkinson no choice but to point to the spot.

Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette pulled one back just before halftime to make it 2-1, taking a touch to bring the ball between the two central defenders and lashing it home.

Arsenal then regained a foothold in the game, putting pressure on Tottenham’s back line in the second half. Midfielder Matteo Guendouzi floated a long pass behind the Spurs defense to find Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who drifted between the two central defenders. The striker only needed to stick out his leg and poke the ball past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris for the equalizer in the 71st.

The result leaves Arsenal in fifth place in the league, with Spurs in ninth.

“We can be very proud of the response, and how our supporters pushed us,” Arsenal manager Unai Emery said, adding that “we deserved more.”

He said that Xhaka’s tackle on Son was due to frustration and that he was happy overall with the midfielder’s performance, but said “we need to be clearer in our box.”

Arsenal thought it had a winner minutes after the equalizer when defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos bundled the ball over the line, sparking wild celebrations among the home crowd. But an offside decision against Sead Kolasanic was upheld by VAR and the score stood at 2-2.

It was nearly Spurs’ day after a difficult week — losing to Newcastle and then constant speculation about the possible departures of Eriksen, defender Jan Vertonghen and even manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Pochettino said that his team can only improve.

“I’m optimistic and positive,” he said. “In the first three games, the team didn’t show all the quality that we had.”

He repeated that Spurs had been unsettled at the start of the season over the future of Eriksen and others. When asked if he thought Eriksen would leave the club since the transfer window in several European countries doesn’t close until Monday night, Pochettino appeared confident overall.

“I don’t want to say it’s impossible (that he will depart), but it’s going to be difficult,” he said, before adding: “Nothing is impossible in football. (But) I’m optimistic.”

For Arsenal, the match was meant to showcase a vibrant attacking force in Lacazette, Aubameyang and summer signing Nicolas Pepe — the first time all three have started a match together. But the visitors were able to stifle them in the first half, before Arsenal became a threat after the break.

“We are not happy, but we did a great job. It was a tough game, but we played well,” Aubameyang said. “We maybe deserved more tonight.”

The fact that Eriksen and Vertonghen both started was a surprise since both players have been linked with moves away from Spurs. Eriksen, though, put all the doubt to rest about whether he was in a good frame of mind to play by opening the scoring. Leno spilled a shot from Erik Lamela, weakly pushing it into the path of the Denmark international. Eriksen pounced on the ball for a simple tap-in for his 50th Premier League goal.

Tottenham’s defenders then protected their lead, not allowing Arsenal’s attacking trio time on the ball. As the clock ticked down to halftime, home fans groaned after Xhaka’s wild challenge in the area on Son, who wasn’t even on the ball. Kane stepped up and fired the ball in the bottom-left corner.

Pepe demonstrated a coolness with the ball, skipping past defenders with ease at times and he had several chances to score, but misfired on multiple occasions. And Pochettino’s decision to play Davinson Sanchez at right back meant that Aubameyang didn’t have as much time on the ball as he would have liked.

Sanchez’s “performance was great,” Pochettino said.

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