An amazing turnaround sees us snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, as it finishes Aston Villa 1 Spurs 2 in our Premier League clash.
It wasn’t pretty, but the introduction of Harry Kane was pretty effective in turning the game around, helped by the dismissal of Christian Benteke.
Of all the things that happened in the game, the most curious was a 5-minute spell of pressing at the start of the match.
We closed Aston Villa down quickly, forcing Brad Guzan to send the ball long.
We also harassed Villa’s backline to earn corners and Roberto Soldado fizzed an effort past the post from outside the area, after Carlos Sanchez was relieved of the ball.
It was a bright start, but this period of pressing lasted just a mere 5 minutes. It was curious why we didn’t continue as we’d started brightly, but after that the game settled down in to the expected flow. We were controlling possession; Villa were content to drop off, engage the ball as it entered the middle third and play on the counter attack.
Battle of the left
Much of the first half was spent by each team getting at each other down our left flank.
This was a key area we looked at in the Tottenham tactics for Aston Villa vs Spurs as the Villains have been vulnerable and have conceded goals through here. They don’t protect their right back and the opposition player on this side can get forward.
The same was true here. Charles N’Zogbia was playing as a wide forward on this side and offered little help to Matthew Lowton. This saw Danny Rose get in to acres of space for several crossing opportunities.
The first one arrived after just four minutes after Lowton was caught inside with Nacer Chadli and Emmanuel Adebayor.
Seconds later and he was in again as Lowton was unable to get out to him.
Two minutes later and he had the freedom of the flank as Lowton was caught inside once more.
Not long after he had the opportunity to cross for a fourth time with Lowton again stretched.
The problem for Rose was that his delivery was not great and we failed to take advantage of these opportunities.
The best chance from getting in to Lowton’s zone came from Ryan Mason. His short cross found Christian Eriksen. The Dane’s shot was deflected and Roberto Soldado’s reaction header trickled agonisingly past the wrong side of the post.
N’Zogbia was offering little help to Lowton, but equally Nacer Chadli was of similar aid to Danny Rose.
This saw Lowton and N’Zogbia combine to take advantage as Jan Vertonghen was being pulled out from his centre back position, leaving Younes Kaboul 1v1 with Christian Benteke.
The Villa centre forward was able to exert his aerial dominance, but also strength and power which was too much for our captain to handle.
Lowton got free to send in a cross that Benteke headed wide, but N’Zogbia going behind Rose had removed Vertonghen from the centre.
We then got several other warnings as Benteke pinged a driven shot off the post and a header over, before Villa took the lead. Predictably it came from getting in to the space behind Danny Rose and Jan Vertonghen was pulled out from the centre by N’Zogbia’s movement.
This left a huge space behind Vertonghen and Andreas Weimann ran towards it. Etienne Capoue for some reason stopped tracking Weimann and the Austrian slid in to knock the ball in to the net with the outside of his boot.
More chances followed for both sides down this flank and it was amazing that neither manager reacted until half time. Paul Lambert switched the sides of N’Zogbia and Andreas Weimann to have the much better defensive player in the Austrian on this side.
Spurs through the centre
The baulk of the first half and much of the action centred on our left flank, but there was also a threat to release Emmanuel Adebayor to run in behind. This was especially true after a turnover when Villa were caught up the park in counter attack mode.
The first opportunity saw our striker caught offside as Christian Eriksen tried to release him.
The next opportunity saw him time his run perfectly as Soldado supplied the ball.
Adebayor saw his effort tipped around the post by Brad Guzan when he should’ve near posted the goalkeeper rather than go across him.
Second half squabbles
After the game had been reasonably open in the first half, especially on our left flank, Lambert’s switch of Weimann to this side shut that down, for both teams.
The space was naturally now on N’Zogbia’s new side, the right, and we created a couple of half chances. The best of these came as Soldado fed Nacer Chadli in-behind Aly Cissokho. His shot across the goal was partially saved by Brad Guzan and Emmanuel Adebayor couldn’t squeeze home the rebound.
The game was petering along until the introduction of Harry Kane. On replacing Adebayor, he immediately got in the action as he too got in-behind Aly Cissokho and fired a cross that was saved by Brad Guzan’s legs.
Kane then headed the resulting corner straight at the keeper when either side of him would’ve given Villa problems.
The game then descended in to a series of squabbles after Jan Vertonghen’s challenge on Ashley Westwood. The Belgian cleanly won the ball, but went in two-footed, which angered the Villa man and his team mates.
With Villa baying for red and Vertonghen receiving a yellow, this led to several more little incidents breaking out in the passages of play afterwards. There were two or three periods when the players were caught in small bunches hacking at the ball and each other, which lead to the game’s pivotal moment, a red card for Benteke.
It developed from one of these messy periods of play as several players were caught in a small area. The ball pinged around between them with plenty of physical contact.
Benteke had knocked Lamela in the back and then Ryan Mason, but as Mason bumped the Villa man, Benteke put his hand up on his face and a melee ensued.
Benteke received his marching orders and the game changed. Villa had to play even more on the counter attack and we needed to stretch them, but that was a problem having played in a narrow formation all game.
Mauricio Pochettino reacted to the red card by taking off Etienne Capoue and introducing Andros Townsend. The winger immediately went to the right side and continually cut inside, not helping the width problem.
Winning set pieces
The game was meandering towards an inevitable conclusion until two set pieces swung it.
The first was a rare sight, a Spurs goal from a corner. Nacer Chadli’s comments afterwards seemed to indicate that this was a routine. His movement to the back post saw him run past both Weimann and Agbonlahor who barely moved.
Lamela delivered a perfectly crossed deep ball right to the Belgian at the back stick, if this simple movement was indeed was the plan.
The second arrived from a deflected Harry Kane free kick, which was won by Andros Townsend. With us requiring width, Andros was naturally in the centre of the pitch, but won the ball back on the edge of the area, before being felled as he stretched and nicked it away from Carlos Sanchez.
Kane refused to give up the free kick to anyone else and was rewarded as his shot flicked off the top of the wall and behind Brad Guzan. The travelling army of fans went nuts, as did the players, sparking joyous celebrations by the corner flag which hadn’t seemed remotely possible ten minutes prior.
Aston Villa 1 Spurs 2 overall
The result papered over a lot of cracks as we snatched a late victory.
We were far too narrow, far too open on our left side and the formation with Soldado playing behind Adebayor didn’t work. It forced Christian Eriksen to play in wider positions where he didn’t look comfortable and wasn’t effective. Soldado himself also looked much more at home after Kane came on and he was pushed up top with Harry behind him. It also relegated Erik Lamela to the bench and we lacked jump and energy without him.
Mauricio Pochettino rightly praised Harry Kane afterwards and the forward is making a serious case to be starting in the Premier League now.
The late goals may just boost squad moral after some indifferent results and the crticism we’ve taken in the media.
Sometimes it’s not the performance that matters but the results. Getting three points any way we can improves the overall confidence, rather than playing well and getting thumped like we did at City.
Final score: Aston Villa 1 Spurs 2.