André Villas-Boas refused to lay any shred of criticism at the feet of Emmanuel Adebayor despite the striker's 17th-minute red card representing the turning point in Tottenham Hotspur's 5-2 derby defeat at Arsenal. The Spurs manager also claimed that his beaten team had controlled the game from the "first minute to the last minute".
The assertion drew a waspish response from Arsène Wenger, his Arsenal counterpart, who hoped that the victory could ignite his club's Premier League campaign, as it had done last season, when they won the derby here in February by the same scoreline. "If our opponents are in control from the first to the last minute and we win 5-2, I don't mind too much," Wenger said. Spurs did control the opening 17 minutes and they led through Adebayor's goal against his former club. But the tide turned sharply upon the Togolese's sending-off for a high and reckless lunge at Santi Cazorla. Villas-Boas, though, had a different view of his team's fourth defeat in five league matches.
"The red card did not change the running of the game," he said. "We felt at half-time [at 3-1 down], that if we could cut the margin to one goal … the stadium wasn't with Arsenal, there was nervousness around … we felt that we could have a chance. At 4-2, we had chances for 4-3.
"Yes, we suffered but there were chances that, had we converted and brought the score to only one goal difference, it could have gone our way. We were very, very good from the first minute to the last, with 11 men and with 10 men. We were in control from the first minute to the last minute."
Villas-Boas's defence of Adebayor was staunch and the player did not look too vexed after the game as he joked and high-fived with his former Arsenal team-mates. The manager said the challenge merited a red card but Adebayor would not be fined and there was no need for himto apologise.
"There is nothing to say," Villas-Boas said. "We understand that it could have been any other player on any other day. This is football. Challenges like this happen. I don't think he was too wound up. We make the most out of players' motivations. Ade was in full control of his emotions and in a north-London derby, you want players to be strong and brave. Ade did not go in to harm Cazorla. Cazorla is quick, he reacted and took the ball away before Ade's feet met his foot."
Wenger felt that Arsenal had controlled the second-half but he agreed that there were still nerves when Gareth Bale cut the deficit to 4-2. "You could see that the confidence was not completely still there," he said. "I hope this result will help us make a step up on that levelWe have to find stability in our expression."