Gareth Bale scores again as Spurs beat Arsenal 2-1
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Tottenham confirmed the shift in north London's balance of power by beating Arsenal 2-1 in the Premier League on Sunday, opening up a seven-point gap between the rivals in the fight for Champions League qualification.
Near-identical goals by Gareth Bale – his 10th in his past eight games – and fellow winger Aaron Lennon in a three-minute span at the end of the first half proved decisive for Spurs, whose euphoric post-match celebrations gave an indication of the psychological importance of the victory. It left them third with 10 games remaining.
Per Mertesacker's 51st-minute header that deflected in off Bale gave Arsenal hope of a third straight derby comeback from 2-0 down in a typically absorbing and frantic match at White Hart Lane. But the visitors couldn't avoid a costly loss that leaves them fifth, denting their chances of playing in the Champions League for a 16th straight season under Arsene Wenger.
"It's not a big enough margin yet to be completely safe,'' said Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas, whose team is now unbeaten in 12 league matches. "But what we think is that it can have a direct effect on their motivation – and on ours, too.''
With Arsenal likely to go without silverware for an eighth successive season, Wenger has been pinning his hopes on a top-four finish to salvage something from a miserable campaign. But even that is in serious doubt now, with Chelsea five points ahead in fourth place. There is no more room for error – and such is Arsenal's fragility, especially in defense, that further setbacks seem likely between now and the end of the season.
"It's a massive challenge,'' Wenger said. "I still think it's possible and will fight for it, that's for sure.''
Arsenal came back from a 10-point deficit to Spurs last season to secure qualification for Europe's top competition on the final day, but Wenger had Robin van Persie up front then. And Bale wasn't in the kind of scintillating form that is currently earning him comparisons with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
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