London: Hugo Lloris saved a last-minute penalty from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as Tottenham avoided a third straight defeat and claimed a 1-1 draw with Arsenal in Saturday’s north London derby.
Arsenal led early on through Aaron Ramsey’s well-taken goal, but Harry Kane’s contentious penalty 16 minutes from time ensured third-placed Spurs maintain a four-point lead over the Gunners in the fight for top-four finish.
Unai Emery’s men will reflect on a missed opportunity to inflict further pain on a Spurs side that had lost to Burnley and Chelsea in the past week.
Emery made a number of big calls with his starting line-up with Aubameyang dropped to the bench alongside Mesut Ozil even though both scored in Wednesday’s 5-1 thrashing of Bournemouth.
Alexandre Lacazette was instead handed the task of leading the line and the Frenchman spurned a big chance inside three minutes when he skewed his shot wide with just international teammate Lloris to beat.
Lacazette has edged ahead of Aubameyang in Emery’s pecking order thanks to his superior link-up play and that showed in Arsenal’s opener.
Davinson Sanchez misjudged his header from a long ball forward and with one touch Lacazette sent Ramsey in the clear.
The Welshman has already signed a pre-contract deal to join Juventus next season, but at the stadium where he scored the winner in two FA Cup finals for the Gunners, he left the Arsenal support with another memory to cherish by coolly rounding Lloris before slotting into the empty net.
Spurs started like a side short on confidence, but they slowly wrestled control back and only the offside flag and Bernd Leno in the Arsenal goal denied them an equaliser.
Kane sent a thumping header into the top corner from Christian Eriksen’s free-kick but was ruled offside.
The same two players combined a minute before the break as this time Kane’s scooped pass picked out the Dane who shot too close to the advancing Leno.
However, the German goalkeeper then made a remarkable stop to turn Moussa Sissoko’s follow-up effort behind.
Lacazette passed up another big chance at the start of the second period when he again failed to hit the target at the end of a well-worked Arsenal move before being hooked for Aubameyang just before the hour mark.
The former Lyon striker’s reaction to being replaced suggests Emery still has a tough task to keep both his star forwards happy.
Emery also has work to do at the other end of the field as Arsenal remain without a clean sheet away from home in the Premier League this season, although there was plenty of controversy about Spurs’ equaliser.
Shkodran Mustafi was guilty of a push on Kane’s back, but the England captain should have been flagged offside before referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot.
Kane dusted himself down and slotted home his 22nd goal of the season.
Arsenal had a huge chance to land a significant psychological blow to Spurs’ season and secure their first away win against top six opposition in the Premier League since January 2015 when Aubameyang went down under Sanchez’s challenge late on.
However, Aubameyang’s poor penalty was saved by Lloris and Jan Vertonghen produced a stunning last-ditch challenge to deny the Gabon striker in the scramble that followed.
Arsenal played the final seconds with 10 men when Lucas Torreira was sent-off for a late lunge on Danny Rose, but for the first time this season Spurs drew to remain in the driving seat for Champions League football next season.