Moments transcends everything in sport and nothing defines that more than football especially the bad ones. Welcome to 'Throwback Thursday', where we take a look at a moment in time, and this week, we look at the 2014/15 Premier League season and a goal that Tottenham fans will remember with joy.
It’s the 7th of February 2015 and it’s a full-capacity crowd at White Hart Lane although few would expect anything less on a day like this. This is the North London derby, after all, arguably one of English football’s biggest and maybe even amongst the biggest in the world. It certainly is London’s biggest and most marketable especially since it has always provided us with magical moments. 35, 659 people sitting, waiting and wondering as the game enters its final moments.
A quick glance at the scoreboard and it’s level with one apiece to either side but Tottenham have the ball as Danny Rose strides over to take a throw on the left. It’s closer to the corner flag than many would have liked it to be but as Rose collects the ball from a fan and walks back to the line, he has got options. Christian Eriksen is standing right in front of him and Nacer Chadli is a little to his left but the problem is the fact that so are three Arsenal players.
They’re all in and around the three Tottenham men, which makes Rose’s choice a harder one but as mentioned before, he does have options. Ryan Mason is within throwing distance but he has got Olivier Giroud marking him but the option is still there. The clock continues to tick on as the game enters the final five minutes of normal time. The referee stares at Rose, hoping that the full-back takes it quickly so that he doesn’t have to book him as Harry Kane and Erik Lamela wait in the middle.
Time has now stopped but before we dive into the climax and reach the end, let’s roll it back and figure out how we got here in the first place. Because as luck would have it, nobody on this planet ever expected Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham to put up any semblance of a fight but that’s exactly what happened.
This was, after all, his first full-season with Tottenham after he was pulled from Southampton and appointed as the new boss in North London at the end of the 2013/14 season. He had a massive job in front of him with the remains of Andre-Villas Boas’ Spurs left for him to deal with including those seven men brought in for the Bale fee. Not only that, to make things even worse for Pochettino, the ghost of Bale still lingered about as Spurs struggled to find themselves a talisman.
But intelligent moves in the summer combined with some excellent man-management and tactical input saw Tottenham fly up the table and within two points of their eternal rivals in Arsenal. It would have meant that a win in the North London derby would have pushed them about the Gunners with the hope of bringing St Totteringham’s day to an end after eighteen long years. And they walked into the game as the better side, having taken 22 points from a possible of 27 up to that point.
Arsenal, on the other hand, were revelling in what was their best summer transfer window for quite some time as Arsene Wenger opened up his check-book and splurged on everyone possible. It was, at the time, the most expensive transfer window in the club’s football history with them spending a grand total of €119 million on seven players. That’s a list that included former Barcelona man Alexis Sanchez, Manchester United’s greatest prospect in Danny Welbeck and a few others.
However, their form coming into the game was just as impressive as Tottenham’s with them losing just twice in their last eleven games, a run that had slowly pushed them up the table. They needed the win just as much as Spurs did because while their title race was on the verge of over, Champions League qualification was well within their reach. That was something that Arsenal and Wenger prided themselves on; their ability to consistently finish within the top four spots.
But even with top scorer Alexis Sanchez injured, Arsenal were looking to keep Tottenham’s winless North London derby run intact. Mauricio Pochettino’s side had not won a derby against their local rivals since March of 2013 which had many fans wondering, despite their side’s run of form, as to whether this rag-tag group could really end that. This was of-course, nothing compared to the ten-year league drought against Arsenal that Spurs fans had to endure as Arsene Wenger’s men ruled North London with an iron-fist.
However, times were slowly changing with Manchester City coming into the foray and Tottenham were hoping that they were the next side to do just that. But despite their winless run against Arsenal, Spurs had possibly the most lethal weapon in the league in Harry Kane. The former Arsenal fan and youth product had, after a series of loan spells at Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich City and Leicester City, finally found his way at Tottenham. He’d managed to net 19 goals coming into the game which includes his first European hat-trick.
Not only that, it includes two braces in the league with a match-defining performance against Chelsea, where Kane scored twice and assisted two more, and his form continued. It gave Arsenal a real headache although without their top scorer the Gunners struggled to make a genuine impact. The hosts dominated the opening half but beyond a routine stop from David Ospina, five minutes into the half, which saw the Colombian get injured.
However, while Ospina was fine to continue, Spurs apparently weren’t as they continued to poke and prod the Arsenal back-line but to no avail. But then came the breakthrough, as against the run of play, the away side somehow managed to find the net. It was a marvellous finish from Mesut Ozil after Danny Welbeck beat fellow Danny Rose with pure pace, teed up Giroud for the shot but the Frenchman, either through sheer luck or a moment of magic, found Ozil at the far post.
You would think that a goal in the eleventh minute would set the tone for Arsenal but instead, it was Tottenham that turned up the heat as they tried to pummel their opposition into submission. But it didn’t work as David Ospina proved to be more than a match for anything Spurs threw at their visitors including a 25-yarder from Ryan Mason and Danny Rose’s daisy-cutter that skimmed wide. Yet in the end, it took budding superstar Harry Kane to pull his side back into the game.
It was a deserved equaliser about ten minutes into the second half, as Spurs continued to pile on the pressure and cause Arsenal real problems. But the leveller came from a mistake after a corner, a typical Arsenal mistake after Ospina stretched to keep a Dembele header out but the save landed at Kane’s feet and he tapped it home. Things from there would only go from bad to worse for Arsenal as Spurs continued piling on the pressure although the Gunners were a threat on the break.
Danny Welbeck continued to cause more and more problems with his pace but he was the only one doing anything, as the Englishman tried to test Hugo Lloris from long-range. But the Frenchman was more than up for the challenge as the game ticked into its final moments and Spurs continued to pile on the pressure. Arsenal already had their backs to the wall and were now looking for nothing more than to see out the game when Danny Rose came flying down the wing.
For some absurd reason, the full-back had acres of space down the left and ran right into it before putting a cross into the mixer. It turned out to be the wrong choice, especially with Eriksen screaming for a pass on the edge of the area, as it hit no one dressed in lily-white. Instead, Laurent Koscielny got there first and cleared the ball for a throw-in as the clock ticked into minute 85. The game was nearly up, five minutes plus added time left in it and Arsenal looked like they were settling for the draw.
Spurs were playing as if they were 3-1 down and needed two goals in the final few minutes to save themselves from getting relegated and that shocked many in red. The stadium loved that though as Danny Rose picked up the ball and looked to get the game underway again. He had options, with Eriksen jogging towards him and Nacer Chadli standing on his right, close to the corner flag. But with three Arsenal men surrounding them, Rose had to look beyond that.
Ryan Mason was about 15 yards to his left but Olivier Giroud was marking him and within enough space to poke the ball clear if he had to. The crowd at White Hart Lane begins to buzz because they know that with time ticking down, a late goal here could be the nail in the coffin. It could mean the end of St Totteringham’s day for the first time in eighteen years. Eighteen long years and all it would take was a goal as Danny Rose continued to look for options.
Welcome to a moment in history