Rivalries in football have never better been exemplified than by Derby matches. From the Manchester Derby to El Clasico – these rivalries extend beyond football and well into regional socio-political differences. This weekend, three derby matches were scheduled to be played in the English Premier League. While Arsenal played Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea hosted Fulham for two London derbies, Liverpool took on Everton for the Merseyside derby. The electric atmosphere and breathtaking football that took place proved why Derby matches hold such immense value for fans as well as for players.
The biggest of the three matches were played in Emirates Stadium, where an optimistic Tottenham side traveled to take on an 18-match unbeaten Arsenal. During the Arsene Wenger era, the same fixture had provided some belters, which is why the pressure was on current Arsenal manager Unai Emery. The match started at a blistering pace, as both teams moved with intent in order to make an impact early on. A Jan Vertonghen handball in the penalty area gave Arsenal a penalty in the 10th minute, which Premier league top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang converted for his 11th goal of the campaign. However, the tide soon turned as Tottenham scored two goals in quick succession to take the lead – going into halftime with a 2-1 lead over their London rivals.
Arsenal has performed significantly better during the second half of matches this season, and this game was no exception. With the introduction of Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal began to pass the ball better and began creating spaces between Tottenham defenders. In the 56th minute, a Hector Bellerin through ball found Ramsey on the right wing, who flicked it to Aubameyang who smashed the ball into the goal beyond a hapless Hugo Lloris. Arsenal relentlessly attacked even after the equalizer and was awarded another two goals in three minutes. After being fed through on goal by Ramsey, Lacazette twisted and turned and managed to shoot the ball while falling down. The ball deflected off Tottenham defender and beat Lloris in the far post. A few minutes later, an outstanding Lucas Torreira ran clear to dink the ball over a hapless Lloris for a fourth Arsenal goal. A second-half comeback resulted in Emery’s first win as Arsenal’s manager against Tottenham while jolting them ahead of ahead of Spurs in the Premier League table with a 19-match unbeaten run.
In the other London Derby, ex-Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri led Fulham to Stamford Bridge where they faced a technically superior Chelsea side. Despite showcasing a spirited performance, goals by Pedro at the beginning of the game and by Loftus-Cheek towards the end resulted in a 0-2 loss for Fulham.
In the Merseyside derby, Liverpool looked to clean the wounds of a Champions League loss to PSG by securing a victory over Everton at Anfield. The match was headed for a goalless draw when something unexpected happened. In the 6th minute of injury time, Liverpool midfielder Virgil van Dijk horribly sliced the ball in an attempted volley towards the Everton goal. The ball harmlessly looped towards goalkeeper Jordon Pickford and was going to fall behind the bar. However, in a state of confusion, he intervened with the ball before it could hit the top of the net from the outside. As a result, the ball bounced off the bar twice and fell to substitute Divock Origi who bundled it into the net. As Anfield erupted, a delirious Jurgen Klopp sprinted onto the middle of the pitch to celebrate an unusual Liverpool victory in the last minute against Everton.
All the three Derby matches surpassed expectations among fans, reminding us why they are so revered in club football.