Arsene Wenger criticised Francis Coquelin but saluted 10-man Arsenal’s character after they battled to draw 2-2 with Tottenham.
The Gunners looked on course for a vital victory at the home of their fiercest rivals when Aaron Ramsey’s superb flick flew past Hugo Lloris but the game changed on a red card handed to Coquelin 10 minutes after half-time.
Tottenham capitalised instantly, scoring twice in two minutes through Toby Alderweireld and a wonder strike from Harry Kane, but then it was the hosts’ turn to falter as Alexis Sanchez grabbed a late equaliser.
Coquelin’s second yellow card, coming after a reckless challenge on Kane, damaged his side’s hopes of a potentially crucial win in the title race and Wenger admitted it was a costly error.
“He knows he made a big mistake,” Wenger said. “We knew at half-time, we warned him as well.
“It was a mistake. He wanted to do well and mistimed his tackle and got sent off. I cannot complain about it.
“He has to quickly learn from that. At the top level it is about full commitment and 100 per cent, but in a controlled way. When you have a yellow card it was a mistake to go down on the tackle.”
Spurs dominated the opening half-hour but struggled to create any clear-cut chances and the visitors grew in confidence after Ramsey had put them in front.
A point halts the Gunners’ slide following consecutive defeats to Manchester United and Swansea but they still trail Tottenham by three points in the table – with leaders Leicester arguably the game’s only winners.
“I feel we have shown our attitude, our character. I’m happy and proud of our performance,” Wenger said.
“We refused to lose the game. We have big regrets because I couldn’t see at 11 against 11 how we could drop points today.
“We made a big mistake at 1-0 but even after the shock at 2-1 we didn’t lose the game and we looked dangerous going forward.”
— BT Sport Football (@btsportfootball) March 5, 2016