Sunday, May 06, 2012

Aston Villa 1 Tottenham 1

Always expect the unexpected with Spurs.  Needing a win at Villa Park they managed to come back from a goal down to equalise with only ten men but with Villa content with a point and so lacking in ambition, Spurs should have gone on to win and move above Arsenal in the race for third.  Now it's all down to next week and Spurs getting a better result than their near neighbours and Newcastle.

Aston Villa 1  Tottenham 1
Scorers: Clark                          Adebayor (pen)  
Team: Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Kaboul, Rose; Lennon, Sandro, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (Parker); Adebayor  Subs: (unused) Cudicini, Nelsen, Livermore, Defoe, Giovani, Saha

Spurs started with the same team for the third match in a row and were the more confident side in the opening period.  Scott Parker returned from injury to take King's place among the substitutes.  Spurs knew that a win would take them above Arsenal into third place with the final placings in their own hands next week against Fulham.

An early Villa corner came when Danny Rose got a block on a shot by N'Zogbia but Spurs were comfortable while the home team exerted some early pressure.  Then with Spurs moving forward quickly in attack Emmanuel Adebayor had a good turn and shot which went wide.  Kyle Walker was unusually careless giving the ball away on three occasions and from the final one Younes Kaboul had to get back to put in a good tackle in the penalty box on Heskey.

Spurs built up the pressure on the Villa defence but they defended as if their lives depended on it with crucial blocks, tackles and clearing headers.  Following a period of pressure Walker shot over and then again Dunne put in a tackle as Gareth Bale went to cross.  On seventeen minutes Rafael Van der Vaart had a shot blocked after a good move involving Bale, Luka Modric and Adebayor set him up. 

Villa won a corner after a free-kick but Brad Friedel made a good punched clearance under pressure.  Spurs broke at speed but Vila again blocked Modric's shot and when Bale's shot was blocked Walker shot over.  A good move broke down when Adebayor was caught offside as Bale and Van der Vaart tried to play him in.  On thirty minutes a run and cross by Aaron Lennon to the back post was headed past by Bale. 

Spurs were carrying the greatest threat but Villa showed great spirit and a determined defensive display as wave after wave of Spurs attacks came at them.  Modric was blocked as he tried to get forward and then Van der Vaart shot wide from the right.

A minute later, on thirty four minutes, Clark tried a speculative strike from twenty five yards, it deflected off William Gallas' head and looped past a wrong-footed Friedel to leave Spurs stunned.  It was to be one of only two attempts on target by Villa in the whole match, Spurs had ten.

Spurs responded with a shot by Bale from Walker's cross which was well saved by Given.  A corner and header by Gallas caused problems for Villa but they got the ball away and then from a well worked short corner Modric played the ball to Kaboul who set up Van der Vaart but his shot went just past the post.  In the final minutes of the first half Villa put Spurs under some pressure but Sandro put in a strong tackle to clear the danger.  At the end of the half the goal attempts were 11 - 3 in Tottenham's favour.

With forty five minutes to save their season, Spurs started the second half looking for a goal and Bale almost got the ball through to Adebayor.  Villa defended with nine men back and following good possession Danny Rose's cross was cleared for a corner.  Then, out on the left touch line, Rose challenged two Villa players for the ball and won the ball but caught Hutton on the shin and the referee showed him a red card with forty one minutes still to play.  For the second successive season, Spurs were to finish the game at Villa Park with ten men, Jermain Defoe having been sent off last year.

After a lengthy break, when the game resumed Spurs were rather disorganised at the back and took a few minutes to settle but then from a quick free-kick Adebayor got away through the centre but his weak shot was saved when Lennon was free on the right.  Spurs then started to exert pressure on the home side and just as it looked as if Harry Redknapp was going to introduce Defoe, they got the goal they deserved from a penalty after an hour.  From a corner, Sandro collected the ball and as he ran across the area, Dunne brought him down.  Adebayor sent Given the wrong way and Spurs had half an hour to score the second goal they needed for third place in the Premier League.  The decision to play Defoe was changed and the only substitution made was replacing Van der Vaart with Parker as the game was about to enter added time.

For much of the final thirty minutes it was Spurs who pressed forward and Villa who looked as if they had ten men, the home side restricted to looking to hit Spurs on the break.  From one such situation, Friedel had to come out quickly to clear but otherwise he was untroubled. 

For all their possession Spurs didn't look like scoring, especially with Bale at left back and in the end they ran out of ideas against a packed home defence and players who were totally committed.  Spurs had 21 attempts on goal to Villa's four.

The sending off of Rose, fired up the Tottenham players - the ten men gave everything but they couldn't find that extra goal and so remain a point behind Arsenal and hand the initiative for third place back to them while also keeping Newcastle United who lost to Manchester City interested in the fight for Champions League football next season.

Having got back into the game with a goal so quickly after the red card, Spurs should have been able to go on and win against a Villa team with such limited ambition.  Once again when Spurs have an opportunity to take advantage of another team's (Arsenal's) slip-up, they fail to deliver - of such things Spurs fans have to become used to.  After a glimmer of hope following wins over Blackburn and Bolton in the previous two matches, disappointment that once again we have spurned a great opening, the results of which could define the club's future for year's to come.


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