Spurs crush Arsenal to keep top-four bid alive

LONDON (AFP) – Mikel Arteta launched a scathing attack on referee Paul Tierney after Tottenham beat 10-man Arsenal 3-0 early yesterday 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.

Tottenham’s Son Heung-min celebrates after scoring against Arsenal. PHOTO: AP

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.”