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Aston Villa v Spurs, 29.12.01

FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 29TH DECEMBER, 2001
ASTON VILLA 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)

Villa scorer:-
Angel (pen), 90

Spurs scorer:-
Ferdinand, 38

Referee:- Mr E. Wolstenholme

Attendance:- 41,134

Teams:-
Aston Villa(4-4-2):- Schmeichel; Wright (sub Stone, 71), Staunton, Mellberg, Samuel; Merson (Capt), Boateng (sub Taylor, 88), Hendrie, Kachloul; Vassell, Angel

Subs not used:- Enckelman; Barry; Dublin

No bookings

Spurs (3-5-2):- Keller; Perry, Richards, King; Taricco, Anderton, Freund, Poyet, Ziege (sub Gardner, 84); Sheringham (Capt), Ferdinand (sub Rebrov, 82)

Subs not used:- Sullivan; Sherwood, Davies

Booked:- Richards, Ziege (fouls), Ferdinand (kicking ball away)

Having defended the Villa second half onslaught magnificently, Darren Anderton needlessly handled a Steve Stone cross that would otherwise have gone out of play beyond the far post to allow Angel to convert the penalty with almost the very last kick of the game. Indeed, referee Wolstenholme (who I have not seen in action before) blew the final whistle after allowing the kick-off only. The equaliser was scored after four minutes of added time. As Glenn Hoddle remarked after the game, it was a mystery where this amount of time came from, as no trainer had entered the field of play, and the game had moved smoothly and at a good pace throughout.

It was a sucker punch to concede at such a time, and whilst we prevented a third successive defeat, the result leaves Spurs five points adrift of sixth place. Kasey Keller made his league debut for Spurs today, and had a marvellous game, making several tremendous saves. Some reports say that Sullivan had been axed, but I await confirmation of whether that was the case, or perhaps Sullivan was rested. Nevertheless, after a slightly hesitant start, Keller did enough to keep his place for the New Year's Day clash with Blackburn. Chris Perry returned to the defence, and each of the back three played well.

Whilst Villa gave us plenty to worry about in the first half with their pace from midfield, Spurs did return to their stylish passing form, deservedly taking a 38th minute lead through Les Ferdinand, whose seventh Premiership goal of the season was the 150th league goal of his career.

Keller's slightly shaky start was demonstrated by the fact that he did not come for a couple of early crosses, but he was soon to get into his stride. Vassell hit an eight minute shot into the side netting, then Kachloul hit a shot across the face of the goal. Spurs began to get it together, as Teddy Sheringham sent Ziege away down the left. Despite the freezing temperature, Ziege was sporting a new cropped hairstyle, and he sent a cross over that was headed wide. Schmeichel was called into action to save from teddy as he met the next Ziege cross from 12 yards.

Dean Richards made a great saving tackle from the advancing Vassell, and Spurs responded from deep with an Anderton pass to Ziege, whose cross was headed to the keeper by Les Ferdinand. On 26 minutes, Freund's throw from the right was headed on by Richards, and Ferdinand's header hit the post, rebounding across the goal into the hands of the grateful Shmeichel. Kasey Keller then had to make a triple save from Merson, Kachloul and Angel in that order. The third shot was adjudged offside, but that does not take away the keeper's superb work.

Ferdinand's goal came from another well-worked move down the left, as Anderton sent Ziege away with a great ball. From 45 yards out, Ziege sent a ball to the middle, which Sheringham left for Sir Les to break through to a one on one with Peter Schmeichel. The big keeper did get a touch onto Leslie's shot, but it still carried into the net. The Holte End was silenced, whilst the Spurs fans started the "We want Ellis out "chant for them!

After the break it was almost one way traffic, but Spurs were holding out against the pressure of a succession of corners well. Richards got booked for a foul, and Staunton took a short kick to Wright whose shot was blocked and reached Hendrie (passed fit shortly before the match) on the right of the area. Keller flew to his right to save from the midfielder, and the Spurs fans chanted "USA". A rare Spurs attack culminated in a Poyet shot being deflected for a corner, taken by Anderton, but headed to Schmeichel by Ferdinand.

With fifteen minutes left Kachloul crossed from the left, and Staunton headed goalward, only to be deprived by the athletic Keller, who saved another threatening header within minutes. Rebrov replaced Ferdinand and Gardner took over defensive duties on the left from Ziege. Gardner did get forward to good effect a couple of times, but his final shot or cross lacked the killer touch, whilst both Rebrov and Sheringham required a little too much time when they were given space to shoot too.

Just when it looked like Spurs were going to take all three points, Anderton handled the ball in front of the Holte End. It looked like the referee had missed the infringement, but the home fans' roar and the assistant persuaded him to blow, and Angel had no trouble as Kasey dived the wrong way for his kick.

Spurs now host Blackburn on New Years Day, who today completed the signing of Man Utd's Andy Cole, who is likely to feature.

Brian Judson's Preview for this game can still be read here
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