Even Harry Kane can’t sugar coat it – this is massive blow for Tottenham Hotspur

Harry Kane approached one section of home supporters and applauded and then wandered over to another.

After that, he called it a day as most were heading to the Tube, knowing there was little to celebrate here.

Never mind Kane’s typically emphatic penalty had earned Spurs a fightback draw.

Never mind a late Hugo Lloris penalty save and dramatic Jan Vertonghen block had denied Arsenal victory.

Never mind this arrested the light slump of consecutive Premier League defeats.

For the prospect of a comfortable retention of a top four slot, this was a game Spurs needed to win.

They have now dropped eight points in three matches and face a fraught battle to finish in a Champions League place, even though they still have a significant edge over their North London rivals, Manchester United and Chelsea.

As tenaciously-earned as this point was, there is no sugar-coating it.

This is another setback, not quite as dramatic as a defeat at Turf Moor, but a setback all the same.

And while the balance of play would dictate a draw as a fair result, Spurs were the more grateful beneficiaries of an eccentrically generous display from Anthony Taylor and his assistants.

Forget any hair-splitting reading of rules and any interpretation that claims Kane, because he had not connected with or attempted to connect with Christian Eriksen’s set-piece, was not offside when Shkodran Mustafi’s idiotic challenge arrived.

The Kane penalty that cancelled out Aaron Ramsey’s accomplished first half finish simply should not have been given.

And while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang might well have hoodwinked Taylor with his dramatic late fall under the uncultured attentions of Davinson Sanchez – whose mistake led to Ramsey’s long run for the opener – there was a clear infringement during the Arsenal striker’s failed spot-kick.

Aubameyang’s penalty was poor but after Lloris had palmed it aside, Alex Iwobi returned it for the striker to make tap-in amends.

Instead, Vertonghen arrived with what some have described as one of the challenges of the season.

It was certainly dramatic. But as Vertonghen had almost been in challenging distance of Aubameyang when the Arsenal man actually struck his ill-fated penalty, it was a challenge facilitated by an illegal position.

As it was a day for tooth-combing the rules, here they are.

If Aubameyang had scored, the goal would have stood.

As he missed and Vertonghen encroached spectacularly, it should be retaken.

Ah, but what if an Arsenal player was also encroaching? No matter, penalty should still have been retaken.

The bottom line, of course, is that referees stopped checking on and pulling up encroaching players an age ago.

And Aubameyang was the culpable one with his weak effort.

Had he converted the match-winning opportunity, Arsenal would have claimed a win to be merited, especially as Alexandre Lacazette had missed a luscious chance to double the lead early in the second half.

But, in truth, this was a contest between two teams who looked closely-matched in a bracket some way below the top two.

It was disjointed in large parts and occasionally fractious, none more so than when substitute Lucas Torreira studded Danny Rose’s shins and was sent off in the final throes.

That was one judgement Taylor probably got right.

But do not make this outcome about the referee.

This was about a gritty comeback not quite taking the spotlight from a faltering Tottenham.

They were not rank bad here but, on this form, it is still a blessing they take a three-goal lead to Dortmund on Tuesday.

And then come Premier League trips to Southampton and Liverpool.

Kane said this performance showed fans ‘we are ready to fight for the rest of the season’.

No-one doubts that.

The only doubt now is whether they can rediscover the sort of form that should have them as very warm favourites in the four-horse race for two Champions League spots.

Because as spirited as this was, a step-up is still needed.