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Spurs back in third after beating Arsenal

The North London derby was a tale of two storylines overlapping: Gareth Bale’s unstoppable form coming up against Arsenal’s latest crisis. Predictably it was the Welsh star who broke the deadlock with a cool finish in the first half, setting up Spurs for a win that consolidates their place in the Champions League qualification positions.

Aaron Lennon added a second goal immediately after Bale’s opener. Bale did little else in the match, and Arsenal briefly threatened to come back after Per Mertesacker headed in a cross early in the second half. Andre Villas-Boas’s side are a resilient outfit though and they held onto the three points to reclaim the third place in the table. They have now managed 12 games unbeaten.

Spurs are now seven points ahead of Arsenal. "That was very important," Villas-Boas told Sky Sports. "It meant a lot for our fans - we wanted to get this one over Arsenal and create a distance between us."

The manager warned against complacency. "Seven points is not big enough in the Premier League, because this time last year Arsenal came back," he said. "We have difficult fixtures coming up against Manchester City and Liverpool. We will try and push on and qualify for the Champions League. This was a good, important win against a top club who are fighting for the same objectives."

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger highlighted the defensive errors that led to the Spurs goals. "We were on top of the game when we conceded two goals," Wenger said. "My team produced a lot of energy and desire but we were not decisive enough in either penalty area. We played offside at the back when we shouldn't have done it. I feel sorry for the team and the fans. It's difficult to swallow."

He admitted that it would be hard to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Arsenal’s presence in this year’s competition hangs by a slender thread ahead of their second leg match against Bayern Munich.

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