Tottenham Beats Arsenal 2-1 to Boost Chances of Champions League

Tottenham won 2-1 at Arsenal to boost its chances of a top-four finish in English soccer’s Premier League and qualification for Europe’s Champions League.

Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon got first-half goals for Tottenham against its north London rival at White Hart Lane yesterday. Per Mertesacker scored for the visiting team.

The victory lifted Spurs into third place and extended their advantage over fifth-place Arsenal to seven points. Leader Manchester United has 71 points, 15 more than defending champion Manchester City, which visits Aston Villa tonight. Chelsea has 52 points in fourth spot ahead of Arsenal with 47.

“It’s massive to go seven points clear in a north London derby,” Tottenham defender Michael Dawson told Sky Sports. “We have a long way to go, but it’s a good day.”

Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas said his team will have to fight hard in the remaining 10 games as is seeks to qualify for Europe’s elite club competition next season.

“It was very, very important for what it means,” Villas-Boas said of the win against Arsenal. “We try to profit from another important fixture and keep doing our job. It is important we gather as many points as we can to finish where we want to be.”

Bale opened the scoring in the 37th minute, beating the offside trap as he latched on to Gylfi Sigurdsson’s pass and slipped the ball past goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. It was his 20th goal for Spurs this season, including nine in his past seven games for the club.

Lead Doubled

Two minutes later Spurs doubled their lead in similar fashion, as Lennon ran on to a defense-splitting pass from Scott Parker before slotting past the goalkeeper.

Mertesacker got a goal back for Arsenal in the 51st minute, heading in from a free kick with the ball taking a slight deflection off Bale.

Arsenal stepped up the pressure in search of the tying goal. Nacho Monreal shot just wide and Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris beat Olivier Giroud to Carl Jenkinson’s cross.

Bale should have scored again, though skied the ball from close range. Szczesny then cleared from Sigurdsson.

Aaron Ramsey had a chance to tie the scores, though his shot was deflected wide. Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski had a shot deflected over the crossbar in stoppage time as Spurs held out for the win.

Tottenham last finished above Arsenal in the league in the 1994-95 season, although the Gunners haven’t won a trophy since

2005. That’s led to pressure on manager Arsene Wenger, who said his team now faces a difficult task to finish in the top four.

‘Massive Challenge’

“It will be a massive challenge,” Wenger said. “I said before the game that we could not afford to drop points. It happened to us many times this season and only in big games. It’s difficult to say why, there’s no common thing.”

Yesterday morning, Arsenal said majority owner Stan Kroenke is committed to the 13-time English champion for the long term and wouldn’t consider a sale. A Gulf-based group is planning a record 1.5 billion-pound ($2.3 billion) bid for the Gunners, the Sunday Telegraph and the Sun said.

The club said last week it had cash reserves of 123 million pounds at the end of the financial half-year to Nov. 30. The Arsenal Supporters’ Trust has said the figures showed the club should spend more money on the team after players including Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas left.

After yesterday’s game, Wenger told Sky Sports he knew nothing about a bid and said any decision on whether to sell was a matter for the club’s owners.

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