BY STEVE MITCHELL
ARSENAL GRAB NORTH LONDON BRAGGING RIGHTS AFTER SPURS SUFFER PAIN AT THE LANE:
Arsenal gave their supporters an early Christmas present after they ran out emphatic 5-0 winners in the first North London derby of the season at White Hart Lane this afternoon. After their return to the top-flight in the summer, Spurs fans had been looking forward to this game since the fixtures were announced but by 4.55pm, their optimism had been shattered thanks to a sensational display of attacking football from Terry Neillâ€™s men.
The writing was on the wall for the home side as early as the first minute when Gunners frontman Alan Sunderland latched onto to a dreadful back-pass from John Pratt to fire the visitors in front. Spurs were visibly shaken but almost got themselves back into the contest when Colin Lee wriggled free of big defender Willie Young only to screw his shot across the face of goal with Peter Taylor all alone in the centre.
With Republic of Ireland midfielder Liam Brady in sensational form, Arsenal quickly wrestled back control and doubled their advantage on 38 minutes when Bradyâ€™s cross-field pass put in Alan Sunderland who fired home for his second of the afternoon despite goalkeeper Mark Kendall getting a hand to the ball.
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Shortly after the re-start, Sunderland nearly completed his hat-trick but watched as his header cannoned back off the crossbar. Brady was involved again in some great inter-play with Graham Rix whose delightful cross found David Price at the back post but his header was brilliantly saved by the legs of Kendall.
The young custodian could do nothing about Arsenalâ€™s third on 61 minutes however, after another tantalising run and cross from Brady was met by the powerful head of Frank Stapleton to put the result beyond any doubt.
Brady then got his sideâ€™s fourth on 65 minutes with what will surely be a contender for goal of the season. The Irishman wrestled the ball away from Taylor and with the outside of his left foot, curled a superb effort past the hapless Kendall.
Now all that was left was to see if Sunderland could complete his hat-trick in front of the Match of the Day cameras and he duly obliged eight minutes from time after Stapleton had flicked on a goal kick from former Spurs custodian Pat Jennings.
It was a match that will live long in the memory for all Gunners fans but more importantly, it keeps them in contention for a shot at the First Division title this term.
WEEK 21 ROUND-UP:
With Liverpool and West Bromwich Albionâ€™s games falling foul of the weather, Everton had the chance to pile on the pressure at the top of the table but were surprisingly beaten at Highfield Road by Coventry City. Ian Wallace, Garry Thompson and Steve Hunt were on target for the Sky Blues, Mick Lyons and Bob Latchford got the Toffeesâ€™ consolation.
Bolton Wanderers enjoyed a famous win at Burnden Park against Manchester United on Friday night. A Frank Worthington double and a goal from former United man Alan Gowling gave the Trotters a surprise victory.
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After seeing his side ship seven at Middlesbrough last weekend, new Chelsea boss Danny Blanchflower will be pleased with his sideâ€™s goalless draw at Stamford Bridge against Bristol City. The scoreboards were not troubled at the Baseball Ground or Maine Road either as Derby County and Aston Villa drew a blank along with Manchester City and Nottingham Forest.
Leeds United got back to form in front of their fans at Elland Road with a 3-1 win over Middlesbrough. John Hawley was again on target for the West Yorkshire club alongside Eddie Gray and Tony Currie. Mark Proctor grabbed Boroâ€™s consolation.
FIRST DIVISION RESULTS â€“ FRIDAY DECEMBER 22:
Birmingham City v Ipswich Town (match postponed)
Bolton Wanderers 3-0 Manchester United (Worthington 2, Gowling)
W.B.A. v Southampton (match postponed)
SATURDAY DECEMBER 23:
Chelsea 0-0 Bristol City
Coventry City 3-2 Everton (Wallace, Thompson, Hunt; Lyons, Latchford)
Derby County 0-0 Aston Villa
Leeds United 3-1 Middlesbrough (Hawley, Gray E., Currie; Proctor)
Liverpool v Wolves (match postponed)
Manchester City 0-0 Nottingham Forest
Norwich City v Q.P.R. (match postponed)
Tottenham Hotspur 0-5 Arsenal (Sunderland 3, Stapleton, Brady)
League Division One table after close of play on 23 December 1978
|3||West Bromwich Albion||18||11||5||2||36||14||22||27|
|19||Queens Park Rangers||19||4||6||9||15||24||-9||14|
UPCOMING FIXTURES â€“ TUESDAY DECEMBER 26:
Arsenal v W.B.A.
Aston Villa v Leeds United
Bristol City v Coventry City
Everton v Manchester City
Ipswich Town v Norwich City
Manchester United v Liverpool
Middlesbrough v Bolton Wanderers
Nottingham Forest v Derby County
Q.P.R. v Tottenham Hotspur
Southampton v Chelsea
Wolves v Birmingham City
FOLLOW THE WHOLE 1978-79 SEASON IN THE ENGLISH FIRST DIVISION WITH STEVE MITCHELL HERE ON THE FOOTBALL PINK. FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @barafundler