LONDON: Mikel Arteta launched a scathing attack on referee Paul Tierney after Tottenham beat 10-man Arsenal 3-0 on Thursday to keep alive their hopes of finishing in the Premier League’s top four.
Antonio Conte’s side would have been eliminated from the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League if they had lost to their bitter north London rivals.
But Harry Kane tormented Arsenal once again as the Tottenham striker opened the scoring with a controversial penalty.
Crucially, Arsenal’s Rob Holding was sent off for two bookings in seven minutes.
Kane netted again before the interval and Son Heung-min bagged Tottenham’s third goal in the second half.
Instead of sealing a return to the Champions League for the first time since the 2016-17 season, fourth-placed Arsenal now face a nerve-jangling conclusion to the top-four battle.
Arsenal still hold a slender advantage, but the end of their four-match winning run leaves them just one point ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham, with both sides having two games left.
Gunners boss Arteta was furious with both the penalty and red card, saying: “If I say what I think I’m suspended for six months. I don’t know how to lie so I prefer not to say what I think.
“I cannot give my opinion. I think you can read my body language very clearly. I’m not unhappy with my players. I’m proud of my players.
“I want the referees to come in front of the camera and explain his decisions. It’s a shame because such a beautiful game was destroyed today.”
Conte said several weeks ago that it would be a “miracle” if Tottenham reached the Champions League given their lowly position when he replaced the sacked Nuno Espirito Santo in November.
But their victory in arguably the biggest north London derby since Arsenal won the league at White Hart Lane in 2004 ensured that miracle could still come true.
Tottenham host struggling Burnley on Sunday then travel to relegated Norwich, while Arteta’s men visit Newcastle on Monday and entertain Everton.
Having masterminded Tottenham’s largest league win over Arsenal since 1983, Conte called on his players to maintain the momentum against Burnley.
“We won an important derby and now we are close to them in the table. For sure, we need to recover very well because we will play on Sunday against a team that has beaten us,” he said.
“I was very clear with my players, to enjoy and celebrate in the right way but at the same time think about Sunday as otherwise this win will not be important.”
As well as the huge European stakes for both sides, Tottenham also felt lingering resentment about Arsenal’s successful appeal to have this fixture postponed in January due to Covid and injury problems.
The acrimony did not take long to boil over in the deafening atmosphere at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Amid the maelstrom, it was Tottenham who landed the first blow after 22 minutes.
Cedric Soares collided with Son as they contested Dejan Kulusevski’s cross in the six-yard box and the contact was enough to convince Tierney to award a penalty.
Arsenal surrounded Tierney to complain angrily, but Kane stepped up to send Aaron Ramsdale the wrong way with a nerveless spot-kick.
Arsenal were shell-shocked and the game shifted decisively in Tottenham’s favour in the 33rd minute.
Eric Dier’s long pass targeted Son and Holding crudely blocked his path with his shoulder, a needless offence that prompted Tierney to send off the defender for his second booking.
Scenting blood, Tottenham doubled their lead four minutes after Holding’s premature exit.
Rodrigo Bentancur flicked on a corner and Kane stooped to head home from virtually on the line as Conte celebrated with a jig of delight.
Kane, the top scorer in north London derby history in all competitions, now has 13 goals in 17 meetings with Arsenal, who must rue the day they rejected him as a eight-year-old.
The night got even better for Conte in the 47th minute as Kane rolled Gabriel and the ball broke for Son to clip a deft finish into the corner.