Tottenham resurrected its chances of defeating Arsenal to the last Champions League qualifying spot with a 3-0 victory over its bitter north London rival in the Premier League on Thursday.
Tottenham moved one point behind fourth-place Arsenal, which had center back Rob Holding sent off in the 33rd minute when the score was 1-0. Harry Kane scored twice, including one from the penalty spot, and Son Heung-min added the other immediately after halftime.
Each side has two games left, and Tottenham’s conclusion to the season seems to be simpler than Arsenal’s. While Spurs play Burnley and already-relegated Norwich, Arsenal must travel to Newcastle before facing a resurgent Everton at home.
“This sort of game is not easy — especially when it’s a game you have to win,” Tottenham manager Antonio Conte stated. “We knew there could only be one outcome tonight.” We had focus and the appropriate amount of calm and positive pressure.”
In some ways, Arsenal was to blame for its own demise, with full-back Cedric Soares barging into Son at the back post for the penalty that Kane curled into the corner in the 22nd minute.
Holding, who had already been booked for hauling back Son, then chose to stop the South Korean striker with an elbow rather than track his run after Eric Dier’s pass over the top of the Arsenal defense.
In the 33rd, Holding collided with the face of Son, who collapsed to the ground and was awarded a second yellow card.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta declined to comment on the penalty or the red card, but his rage was palpable.
“I’m suspended for six months if I state what I believe,” Arteta added.
Arteta opted not to put on a specialist defender to shore up the defense — center back Ben White, who was recovering from injury, remained an unused replacement — and Arsenal went further down inside four minutes.
Son swung in a right-wing corner, Rodrigo Bentancur headed the ball toward goal, and Kane stooped to head in at the back post from only a meter out.
Son slipped one goal behind Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah in the battle for the league’s top scorer in the 47th minute, curling in the third goal from inside the area after Kane was tackled just as he was ready to shoot on the turn.
Son has scored 10 goals in his past eight league games and now has 21 for the season, his most for Spurs. He seemed dissatisfied when he was replaced in the 72nd minute, depriving him of the opportunity to pull level with Salah, and was given a huge embrace by Conte after the final whistle.
Arsenal’s awful night was topped by defender Gabriel limping off with an apparent right hamstring injury. Arteta’s central-defensive resources are being taxed at the wrong moment, with Holding suspended and White maybe still not entirely fit.
Manchester City and Liverpool are already certain to be in the Champions League next season, while third-place Chelsea is on course to join them, sitting four points ahead of Arsenal and requiring one victory from its final games against Leicester and already-relegated Watford.
It seems like Arsenal and Tottenham are vying for the last spot, which should be decided on the final day of the season.
“It’s difficult to lose a football match in the circumstances that we did,” Arteta stated. “This game is over for us; now it’s on to Newcastle.” This game has gotten out of our hands, and we must accept it.”