Hugo Lloris was Tottenham’s hero as he saved Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s 90th-minute penalty to keep bitter rivals Arsenal from clipping at their heels in the Premier League top-four race.
After back-to-back defeats had put a bullet in Tottenham’s title hopes for another season, the Gunners game across London looking to drag them further into a scrap for the top four.
Arsenal had not tasted victory away at a top-six rival in 21 attempts before Saturday’s early kick-off, but they looked well-placed to break that run when Aaron Ramsey rounded Hugo Lloris to score yet another memorable goal at Wembley.
His and Arsenal’s hopes were dashed in one controversial second-half call though, which led to Kane netting a ninth career goal against Arsenal, this time from the spot.
The Gunners thought they had stolen a first win at Tottenham during Pochettino’s tenure when referee Anthony Taylor pointed again to the spot, only for Lloris – after a string of errors this season – to deny their top scorer.
Tottenham have rarely felt pressure like this in a north London derby. For so long the underdogs, they were now even money and in need of a win to keep Unai Emery’s side at arm’s length in the race for the top four.
They remained, though, without Dele Alli and one who understands what this fixture means more than most within their ranks, Harry Winks, missing through injury. Emery, on the other hand, had almost an embarrassment of riches to choose from, but left most of them on the bench. Top scorer Aubameyang sat alongside Lucas Torreira and Mesut Ozil in the sun on the Wembley touchline.
Ramsey was the man chosen in Ozil’s place. He may be leaving for Juventus come the summer but the Welshman knows a thing or two about these clashes, and scoring at Wembley.
After a feisty start at the national stadium, alive with noise with Tottenham’s usual capacity cap lifted, Ramsey left a mark in his final north London derby.
As Spurs pushed for an opener, Granit Xhaka, yards from his own corner flag, sensed a chance and launched the ball forward. Davinson Sanchez, usually so assured when in between Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, fluffed his lines in bringing the ball down and Lacazette pounced, one touch to set Ramsey racing through before he sat down Hugo Lloris, rolled the ball home and told the Tottenham fans to follow their goalkeeper with his celebration.
Without Winks, Spurs were lacking control and could not get going, Christian Eriksen, Heung-min Son and Kane all struggling without the platform the academy graduate so often supplies.
Despite that lack of control, though, Kane thought he had brought them level. A perfectly guided header from Kieran Trippier’s whipped cross had left Bernd Leno helpless, though the German was saved by the linesman’s flag.
Leno would need no such intervention to keep Arsenal ahead just ahead of the interval, however. Having been unimaginative going forward, Spurs finally found some creativity as Kane dropped off and clipped a wonderful ball into Eriksen. One-on-one from seven yards the Dane should have levelled but fired straight at Leno. The 26-year-old parried straight to Moussa Sissoko before springing to his left to turn the Frenchman’s well-hit strike comfortably over the bar.
As they had done at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, Tottenham were finally clicking into gear just before the break. The key, this time, would be to carry that across half time and into the early moments of the second half. They looked to have managed that as well, most of them at least, when Kane jinked wonderfully through two red shirts before finding Trippier alone on the right wing. His cross, though, was closer to the far stand than any Spurs man waiting in the middle.
Pochettino’s side were slowly taking hold, though Arsenal remained resilient, with Emery sending on Aubameyang for Lacazette just to give their hosts that little more to think about on the break. Pochettino turned to his own bench, sending Erik Lamela on for Victor Wanyama, the Argentine quickly curling one wide of the far post before tussling with Laurent Koscielny and sending a dangerous cross to Leno’s far post.
Tottenham perhaps deserved reward for their second half display, but needed a touch of luck in moving level. Having got a close call on Kane’s header in the first half correct, Arsenal will have plenty of complaints following Kane’s latest strike against them. The England captain tumbled to the ground under pressure from both Mustafi and Koscielny as Eriksen swung a free-kick over, the contact deemed sufficient enough by referee Anthony Taylor to point to the spot. A harsh call, made worse when replays showed Kane was offside from Eriksen’s delivery.
Arsenal had enough to respond. Ozil having joined Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi in the front line.
It was Aubameyang who looked to have won it for the visitors when Sanchez sent the Gabon international to the ground, Wembley dismayed as Taylor blew his whistle. Lloris has taken relentless criticism, but remains – in the eyes of Pochettino – one of the best goalkeepers on the planet. And he will doubtless have his manager cooing once more after diving low and to his right to push Aubameyang’s spot kick away. Iwobi collected the loose ball and immediately squared to Aubameyang, four yards from goal, only for Vertonghen, a hero here against Borussia Dortmund in Europe, to come flying across the goal mouth and block any attempt.
A frantic end continued late on as Torreira, introduced to shore things up in midfield, was sent off for a challenge on Danny Rose, who had accused the Arsenal camp of over-celebration following their derby victory in December.
For Arsenal it is a precious moment missed. The defeat will rankle, though the bigger game in the context of this season surely lies next Sunday when Manchester United visit their corner of north London.
In the Tottenham camp, a week from hell has – only just – been avoided. What was left of their cushion to the pack below remains intact, while nerves will have perhaps been calmed ahead of what should be a comfortable visit to Dortmund, but given recent weeks could have been troublesome.