Boosted by an dominant appearance from the now-senior Thomas Carroll, Tottenham's U21 side recorded a win to savour tonight by beating their junior North London rivals in their home territory at the Underhill Stadium in High Barnet.
The first half was frenetic and high-tempo if lacking for chances, with both sides struggling to carve through each other's defences. Spurs, lined up in a 4-3-3, looked to play whenever possible through Carroll and Bentaleb, whose energy and invention was married wonderfully to the bite of Giancarlo Gallifuoco's physical presence. I was impressed also with the intelligence and restraint of Ryan Fredericks, who continues his Pokemon like evolution from flying winger to right-back with aplomb, and as ever the tireless work of forward Shaq Coulthirst. Pleasingly, Kenneth McEvoy and Cristian Ceballos, interchanging on the flanks, both repeatedly had the beating of demoted-for-the-night senior right-back Carl Jenkinson, and the team's best chances came when the two wide men were picked out with through balls and allowed to put a cross in. Spurs forced a number of good saves out the the Arsenal keeper Martinez, and went in at the break having dominated the half.
The decisive moment in the game came almost straight after the kick-off, when Bentaleb tapped in a McEvoy cross at the near post to send the visiting fans into raptures. Rather than reeling from this winding blow, Arsenal regrouped and started to press harder at goal, forcing Jonathan Miles to come off his line to make a succession of low saves to deny their forwards. The Gunners really should have levelled the tie on the 66th minute when Akpom sent a header crashing off the crossbar- with Miles in no man's land, Gnabry was given a gaping goal to aim at with a follow-up, but contrived to send the ball over instead.
Thomas Carroll continued throughout the half to put himself all over the pitch to keep his side in front, leading to one awful moment when an Arsenal counterpart got up in his beautiful face after a coming together and the pair had to be pulled apart. The referee decided not to take any action against either player, but the signal had been given for a scrappy, furious end to the tie. As tackles flew and long passes became more desperate, Coulthirst missed a brilliant chance to put the game out of sight on 79' when he won an aerial duel against Yennaris to go clean through on goal but could only send a crashing shot off the woodwork and out. Though Spurs would be exposed once or twice before full time, Grant Hall and Zeki Fryers put in sufficiently commanding displays to keep the scoreline in their side's favour until the final whistle reaffirmed the youngsters' place atop their Elite Group. With only the playoffs to go in the U21 calendar, Tottenham's fledglings look well-placed to cap off an amazing year with a well-earned title.