Van der Vaart double seals derby draw

LONDON - Arsenal wasted a golden opportunity to close the gap at the top of the Premier League when they squandered a two-goal lead to draw 3-3 at Tottenham Hotspur in a thrilling London derby on Wednesday.

Champions Chelsea kept alive their slim chance of retaining the title with a routine 3-1 home win over Birmingham City.

Manchester United top the standings on 70 points, six ahead of Chelsea and Arsenal, who slipped to third, with five matches left.

Arsenal, who conceded a penalty deep into stoppage time to draw with Liverpool on Sunday, were again left to rue the concession of a late spot-kick as their hopes of a first trophy for six years suffered another blow.

"It is not over, we have to fight and continue to battle," manager Arsene Wenger told Sky Sports. "We had an outstanding first half and in the second we dropped physically because we had a difficult game on Sunday.

"Maybe the second goal was decisive becasue we needed to go with a two-goal difference at halftime. We had an outstanding spirit and we need to keep battling until the last day."

Arsenal started fast at White Hart Lane and struck after five minutes when Cesc Fabregas played Theo Walcott through and he slid the ball past Heurelho Gomes for his 12th goal of the season.


Arsenal led for only 90 seconds before Spurs scored another finely crafted goal when Vedran Corluka crossed for Dutchman Rafael Van der Vaart to lash the ball past Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny from the edge of the box.

Arsenal began to assert themselves in midfield and continued to look dangerous on the break, Samir Nasri firing through Michael Dawson's legs on 12 minutes to put his side ahead.

Spurs also created chances but Arsenal extended their lead five minutes before halftime when former Gunner William Gallas made a mess of clearing a Bacary Sagna cross.

Walcott chipped the ball in and Robin van Persie's powerful header was palmed away brilliantly by Gomes, only for the Dutch striker to lash the rebound into the roof of the net.

Spurs hit back with a brilliant goal of their own when Tom Huddlestone half-volleyed a rocket of a shot from outside the penalty area before halftime.

Spurs recovered from 2-0 down to beat Arsenal 3-2 at the Emirates this season and they set about repeating the feat.

The relentless attacking football continued and the home side equalised when Szczesny needlessly fouled substitute Aaron Lennon and Van der Vaart coolly converted the penalty.

Spurs stayed fifth on 54 points, two adrift of Manchester City.

Chelsea opened the scoring against Birmingham in the third minute through Frenchman Florent Malouda and forward Salomon Kalou doubled the lead with a superb goal before halftime.

Malouda grabbed his second after 62 minutes and Fernando Torres came on as a substitute soon afterwards but the Spanish striker again failed to register his first goal since his record transfer in January.