- Associated Press - Sunday, April 30, 2017

LONDON (AP) - Tottenham shifted the balance of power in north London’s soccer rivalry by securing its first Premier League finish above Arsenal in 22 years with a 2-0 victory over its neighbor on Sunday.

Arsenal imploded inside 77 seconds at the start of the second half to hand Tottenham a ninth consecutive league win. In the penultimate game at White Hart Lane before the stadium is demolished, Dele Alli scrambled the ball into the net and Harry Kane won a soft penalty that he converted.

“We worked hard. We outworked them,” Kane said. “The fans have got the bragging rights for now, but we’ve still got four important games to finish off.”

Manager Mauricio Pochettino’s hopes of overhauling Chelsea’s four-point lead at the top of the league are fading after the leaders beat Everton 3-0 on Sunday. But Spurs are still locking down second place for their highest finish in 54 years and on the brink of a second successive season in the Champions League for the first time.

It’s grim times, though, for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, which last finished below Tottenham in 1995 ahead of the manager’s arrival the following year.

Back in December, Arsenal fans were still counting down to St. Totteringham’s Day, the day they coined to celebrate the point in the season Tottenham cannot catch them.

But as Arsenal has collapsed, Tottenham has surged. Arsenal’s seven-point advantage over Tottenham has been turned into a 17-point deficit as the team has slumped to sixth place.

The one certainty under Wenger has been Champions League qualification, which has been achieved for 20 consecutive seasons. That continuity is now in jeopardy with five games remaining for Arsenal and maybe Wenger, whose contract expires at the end of the season. Arsenal is six points from the Champions League places with five games remaining, one more than fourth-place Manchester City.

When Tottenham fans sang “Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay” there was no sympathy. It was just another opportunity to compound the troubled manager’s misery at a time when sections of Arsenal fans want Wenger to leave.

Such instability and uncertainty is usually the preserve of Arsenal’s neighbors, with Pochettino the 11th manager Wenger has faced during his 21-year reign.

“Spurs deserved to win, we have to accept that,” Wenger said. “Of course it is very disappointing, but the target at the beginning of the season is not to finish above Spurs, it is to win the league.”

While Arsenal fans are vexed that they haven’t won the Premier League since 2004 - the third success under Wenger - Tottenham’s title drought goes back to 1961.

North London derbies have been equally lopsided under Wenger, who entered his 50th game on Sunday with only seven losses.

There was no doubting which team was on top this time. It looked like Tottenham might pay for its missed chances in the first half when Alli headed wide and Christian Eriksen swept a shot over and Jan Vertonghen was denied by goalkeeper Petr Cech.

Had it not been for Cech’s agility, Arsenal might have fallen behind sooner. The second period opened with Victor Wanyama’s shot being tipped over and Kane’s effort collected by the goalkeeper.

But Arsenal was undone in the 55th minute. Kane ran onto a long throw-in and held up the ball under pressure from Gabriel Paulista. Alli seized possession and passed to Eriksen, who weaved past Laurent Koscielny before testing Cech. The shot was parried, but Alli stuck out his left boot into a crowded area to clip the loose ball into the net.

Arsenal never recovered. It took 77 seconds for the penalty to be conceded, with Kane going down lightly under Gabriel’s challenge and winning the spotkick.

Kane thrives against Arsenal. His 27th goal of the season was his fifth in five league games against Arsenal.

Cech kept his team in the game, with a flying save that prevented Vertonghen’s shot from curling into the top corner and Toby Alderweireld’s effort being blocked.

But Arsenal could find no way back against Tottenham, which is now virtually assured of making the top four, given its superior goal difference over fifth-place Manchester United.

Arsenal’s season could still end with the FA Cup if it beats Chelsea at Wembley Stadium. Tottenham will still be hoping Chelsea doesn’t enter the final as Premier League champions.

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More AP Premier League: apnews.com/tag/PremierLeague


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