FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 14TH OCTOBER, 2006
ASTON VILLA 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)
Angel (o.g.), 75
Referee: - Mr. M. Atkinson
Attendance: - 42,551
Aston Villa (4-4-2):- Taylor; Hughes, Mellberg, Ridgewell, Barry (Capt.); Agbonlahor, Petrov, McCann, Davis (sub Berger, 76); Baros (sub Agathe, 64), Angel
Subs not used: - Olejnik; Laursen; Bouma
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson (Capt.); Chimbonda, Dawson (sub Stalteri, 51), Davenport, Ekotto; Ghaly (sub Lennon, 59), Jenas, Zokora, Murphy; Berbatov (sub Davids, 76), Defoe
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Keane
Booked: - Ghaly
Sent off: - Davenport (Professional foul)
In an extraordinary sequence of events after the 72nd minute, the winds of fate turned against Villa’s Juan Pablo Angel, who firstly fired wide from the penalty spot, awarded for an alleged professional foul by Davenport against Agbonlahor, then at the other end Angel headed in Jermain Defoe’s corner kick to give the 10-man Spurs team a lead which they had deserved in the first half, but which came against the run of second-half play. Luck was certainly not walking with Angel today, but Villa did get a point, thanks to an 81st minute beauty from their skipper Gareth Barry – ironically a confessed Spurs fan.
The spotlight of course fell upon Paul Robinson, skipper today in the absence of Ledley King, and with vice-captain Robbie Keane on the bench. Perhaps wisely, Robinson chose to defend the Holte End first. Maybe he did this partly because there was some sun coming over the Trinity Road stand, but I am sure he also wanted to get the inevitable Holte End barrage of abuse out of his system. Spurs fans of course hailed their hero, who is undoubtedly “England’s Number One”, and as the game wore on, Robinson was a) rarely tested until the second half and b) totally focussed and un-flustered by the attention directed his way.
There were notable absentees on both sides, with Ledley King failing to make the squad, and Aaron Lennon starting on the bench. Villa’s keeper Thomas Sorensen was missing, due to an injury sustained on international duty, and his stand-in, ex-gooner Stuart Taylor was kept busy – especially in the first half – and sadly for Spurs fans, difficult to beat. Young striker Luke Moore is out with a shoulder problem too, so Angel was partnered by Milan Baros. Calum Davenport went to ground in the early exchanges, apparently suffering a broken nose, thanks to accidental contact by Angel. Calum went off bloodied, but soon returned wearing a number 50 shirt.
Spurs were on the back foot for the first quarter of an hour, but once Jermaine Jenas picked up a loose cross by Agbonlahor to lead a Spurs urge forward, the visitors became more and more dominant until half time. This first move ended with a good shot by Jermain Defoe, which Taylor parried and saw cleared. Robinson was alert to Angel’s shot from an angle on the right after a flick on by Baros, but he was then able to relax, as Spurs controlled the game for most of the remainder of the half. Zokora was awarded several free kicks today (all fairly), and one floated in by Murphy from the left was flicked by Jenas then hit from close range by Michael Dawson against the post. The ball bounced out, hit a defender then bounced back to safety off the unaware Taylor, as Dawson put his head in his hands.
Another Murphy kick was flicked on by Berbatov, and headed by Ghaly, only to see Taylor push this effort round the corner. Berbatov and Murphy started the next move from a tight spot on the left flank. Murphy passed inside to Zokora, who found Ghaly on the right. Ghaly’s ball reached Berbatov just outside the Villa area, and the Bulgarian had time to consider his shot, but fired too high. Defoe did excellent work towards the left flank, harrying a defender and winning the ball, creating a good chance for himself. He hit a super right footed shot that Taylor saved yet again. Villa fans were getting more and more frustrated at the referee, who allowed a free passage of play, rather than bow to home demands for a free kick in the Spurs half. Spurs built upon this opportunity, and the move ended with another Defoe shot – this one wide. Murphy passed to his right to tee up Jenas, who shot from 25 yards – held by the keeper, as he dived forward to the ground.
There was an injury time scare for Spurs, as Angel got into the box, with Davenport having to shy off his challenge to some degree. Luckily for Spurs, Angel lost his way, and the chance faded to nothingness.
Spurs had the first chance after the break, after Zokora made what is now a trademark run, crossed deep from the left, and saw the ball returned across the area by the Villa defence. Berbatov had time on his hands (or should I say at his feet) again, and should at least have hit the target with his shot. After 51 minutes, Spurs lost Michael Dawson – perhaps concussed again – and whilst Paul Stalteri came on for his first appearance of the season, it was Chimbonda who switched to the middle to cover for Dawson.
McCann had the first of a series of shots for Villa, as Spurs started to feel the pressure, with Ghaly becoming the first to see yellow, for a foul. Ghaly was replaced by Lennon, but Spurs failed to get the ball to him enough, and it wasn’t long before Lennon was having to come deep to get the ball for himself. This he did to good effect a couple of times, trying to send Defoe away. Baros was replaced another of Martin O’Neill’s former Celtic recruits – Didier Agathe – who enjoyed some success against Ekotto. Barry was getting forward more now, and did give Spurs some fear when he crossed to the back post, just missing any team-mates. Spurs had to endure moments of panic now, as Agathe beat Ekotto and his cross was headed by Agbonlahor, but saved. Ekotto had tried to allow the ball to run out of play, but was fooled by Agathe.
Spurs responded with a rapid counter after this effort, and Defoe had another good chance, just wide. Then came the crucial action in front of the Spurs fans, as Davenport was adjudged to have fouled Agbonlahor, to prevent a goal-scoring opportunity. I must admit, I thought that Stalteri had been penalised, but the referee showed red to Davenport, and pointed to the spot, from which Angel graciously fired a good yard wide of Paul Robinson’s left post. Spurs took the lead in rather surprising circumstances, as Defoe hit a corner from the right, and Angel at the near post glanced home into his own net. Oh the irony! The winds of fate certainly seemed to favour Spurs at that moment, who might have hoped to bring Villa’s unbeaten start to an end.
However, Spurs were now two centre-backs short, and having to improvise heavily, with Zokora working side by side with Chimbonda. Berbatov was sacrificed to enable Davids to strengthen the midfield, but Spurs had over 15 minutes to survive (including the 4 minutes added on). The strategy of booting the ball anywhere failed to relieve the pressure, except for a couple of runs by Lennon and Defoe. One run of Defoe’s (from his own half) was mysteriously brought to an end by an offside flag! Too often, Spurs found the ball coming back their way at the feet of the relentless wave of home players. It wasn’t long before Barry scored a magnificent equalising goal, as he cut in from the left flank, leaving Lennon and Jenas in his trail, before curling a right footed shot to the far top corner. Now it was just a question of whether or not Spurs could survive, which they just did despite efforts from Petrov, and two from Angel – one of which brought an excellent save from England’s number one!
It was an excellent point for Spurs (their first away point of the season), who recorded their first away goal in the Premiership, albeit scored by an opponent! Spurs must now re-group for the tough UEFA journey to Besiktas, with a growing and worrying injury list. Villa are now the only unbeaten team in the Premiership, but they are drawing too many games to make a real impact at the top.
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