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Aston Villa v Spurs, 07.11.98

FA PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 7TH NOVEMBER, 1998
ASTON VILLA 3 (2) - TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (0)

Aston Villa scorers -
Dublin 31, 35
Collymore 47

Spurs scorers -
Anderton (pen) 64,
Vega 75

Attendance:- 39,241

Referee:- Rob Harris

Teams:-
Villa:- Oakes; Watson, Southgate, Ehiogu, Barry, Wright; Taylor, Hendrie; Merson, Collymore,, Dublin (sub Draper, 81)

Subs not used:- Rachel (GK); Thompson, Joachim, Grayson

Booked:- Dublin,Ehiogu, Taylor

Spurs:- Baardsen; Carr, Scales, Campbell, Edinburgh ( sub Sinton 46 ); Fox ( sub Vega 46 ), Anderton, Nielsen, Clemence ( sub Allen 81 ), Ginola; Iversen

Subs not used:- Walker (GK); Dominguez

Booked:- Ginola

Christmas came early for Aston Villa, and new boy Dion Dublin today, as Spurs, having held their ground comfortably for the first half an hour, contrived to gift Dublin his first two goals for his new club. This was easily the worst team performance under George Graham, and despite the comeback from a 3 goal deficit, the score line flatters Spurs. Not one individual Spurs performance comes to mind for good reasons, but sadly it was a day to forget for John Scales, who could be faulted not only for all three goals. but made several other errors as well. Incredibly, I overheard a Vega sympathiser at half time, who said "At least Ramon only gives away one goal a game" (!). Vega in fact made a second half appearance, and conjured up a goal from a corner, AND put in a fairly solid defensive performance. Scales place must be at risk for Tuesday's game at Anfield.

Dublin was booked as early as the first minute of the game for elbowing John Scales in an aerial challenge. Ironically, I thought that Scales was one of our best players until the point when Villa scored. Whilst Villa looked the sharpest of the two sides in attack, we were defending quite well in the early stages. Spurs were, however, caught on the hop by a dashing run from Merson down the left flank, which left Carr stranded. Merson ran Ginola like into the penalty area, but his cross was cleared by Scales for a corner. Shortly after, our first chance fell to Iversen. Clemence had done well to win the ball, and pass it to Anderton, whose cross enabled an Iversen header that went wide. Iversen was, sadly a lone runner today. In my view, his best work since his latest come-back, has been with a partner, and I was disappointed that Rory Allen did not partner him from the outset today. I don't know the nature of Armstrong's injury, but Iversen got crocked late in this game, and must be a doubt for the Liverpool game.

After about a quarter of an hour, Collymore threatened the goal with a long shot, which was just tipped over by Espen, and Dublin had a clear header go wide from a free kick. Dublin was easily able to get to the ball ahead of Scales. Iversen then had another good chance, when a Ginola run, and cross set him up for a shot on goal. The ball fell a little behind Steff though, and his shot went wide.

Fox was rightfully substituted in my view, and it is a fact, that although HE was the right wing man, it was Anderton who was getting the ball into danger areas more often. One cross from Darren reached Ginola whose volley went high and wide from outside the box.

The first gift for Villa arrived after 31 minutes. Scales seemed to be surprised that a corner reached him in a position parallel with the back post, when perhaps he expected it to have been cleared. As a result, his touch on the ball was appalling, and he seemed to knee it back across the area with no control whatsoever. A Villa player could not have done better, as the ball was perfectly in the path of Dublin, who shot home.

The old Spurs was visible for the rest of the first half, as heads went down, There was a real danger that this could have developed into a pasting. Within 4 minutes, Villa were two up. This time, Scales and Anderton got too close to each other, and lost the ball about 35 yards from goal. The ball ran for Dion, who easily drove the ball beneath Baardsen, who had been grossly let down by his defenders. Once again, I have seen us lose a goal through Anderton being in a central defensive position. Most of us agree, he must play on the right.

One more chance fell to Iversen before half-time. This time, Fox did find his target with a deep cross. Iversen headed straight into the goalie's arms.

George Graham decided to match his opponent's tactics at half-time, by playing three central defenders, bringing on Vega for Fox, and Sinton to play left wing back instead of Edinburgh. It wasn't long before the home side went three up. I believe Scales lost the ball and the ball was quickly passed to Collymore who was able to leave Sol struggling in his wake to score with a powerful right footed shot.

In the second half, Espen Baardsen made two particularly memorable saves. One to push a Collymore free kick round the corner, the other was a super reaction save to dive low to his left and save an Ehiogu header from a corner. He made a further save at the feet of Hendrie. From the rebound, Dublin fired so wide that the ball went for a throw in!

To their credit, Spurs did put some fight into their game in the second half. TV replays will be studied closely tonight to see whether a 56th minute Anderton shot that bounced down off the underside of the bar was over the line or not. It WAS very close.

Spurs were given a little hope when Ginola won a penalty after 64 minutes. He was clearly brought down by Ehiogu on the edge of the area, and the referee did not hesitate to give the spot kick. Anderton took the kick, and scored. The goalkeeper dived the right way, but just too early. It was not the best of penalties, and this is a weakness for us at the moment. Ginola is certainly a marked man at the moment, because he got booked for the seventh time this season for a pretty mild foul. He will be heading for more than a one match suspension soon. Anyone would think he is Roy Keane!

The game was set up for a rousing finish, when Vega stuck his foot out, and met an Anderton corner with fifteen minutes to go. Yes, he did kiss his shirt!! Almost immediately, Dublin had what would have been a hat-trick goal disallowed for what was a marginal offside decision. His ecstatic celebrations were rudely cut short.

Rory Allen was introduced for the last ten minutes of the game. Unfortunately, he was never given a chance to strike up any effective patnership, because soon after his arrival, Iversen was crocked by an Ehiogu foul, and he limped through the rest of the game, although he did manage a nice shot from outside the area. Allen too had a chance late in the game, when a Ginola cross reached him at the back post. Rory could only put the ball into the side netting. The pressure was all on Villa in those late stages, and we did force several corners, but all to no avail. In truth, our overall performance did not merit any reward.

I will be interested to read eye-witness reports, because the camera angles from Villa park are very distant, but I have to say I was very disappointed with our passing today. You will notice that I have not mentioned Nielsen, who I felt had a particularly fruitless game. He was by no means alone, when I say that many passes were falling short of target.

It's going to be tough at Anfield without a fit striker or two. The reds lost at home today, and their tails will be up! What a week ahead we have to face!

Brian Judson's preview

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