FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 18TH JANUARY, 2003
ASTON VILLA 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)
Referee:- Neale Barry
Villa (4-4-2):- Enckleman; Delaney, Mellberg (Capt), Johnsen, Samuel; Hendrie (sub Vassell, 46), Taylor, Hitzlsperger, Barry; Dublin (sub Crouch, 77), Moore (sub De La Cruz, 46)
Subs not used:- Postma; Wright
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr, Richards, King, Taricco; Davies, Anderton, Bunjevcevic, Poyet (sub Freund, 80); Sheringham (Capt), Keane
Subs not used:- Sullivan; Perry; Acimovic; Iversen
Booked:- Anderton, Bunjevcevic, Keane
Spurs secured their first Premiership win at Villa Park, and their fourth away win of the season, thanks to a fine volley within the area from skipper Teddy Sheringham with 70 minutes on the clock. For Villa this was their fourth home defeat of the season, and with only 6 home games to go and 29 points on the board, they do have to look over their shoulder and perhaps feel grateful that the likes of Sunderland, West Brom, Bolton and West Ham may battle the relegation places amongst themselves. Villa Park with 38,576 fans inside was very quiet for much of the game with the exception of the usual great support from Spurs fans. After Teddy's winner, the away support cheekily started a "We want Ellis out" chant, which I heard continued outside the ground after the game, by the dissatisfied home fans!
Spurs move back above Southampton with this win, but the fact that they are well-placed for a European qualifying run-in does not take away the pain of that recent defeat - yet.
Thankfully, Glenn Hoddle stuck with a 4-4-2 today, but Sheringham and Richards returned at the expense of Perry and Iversen. Mauricio Taricco took the traditional left back slot, and Gary Doherty was left out completely today. Gus Poyet took a left sided position, but we lacked pace in attack down the left, and Stephen Carr, who had an excellent game, was given all the scope he required to lead attacks down the right, linking well with Simon Davies. Anderton and Bunjevcevic did adequately in the middle, but it all has to be put in perspective with a below par Villa, who hardly threatened goal in the first half, and could not have argued had they gone in 2 down at half time.
Villa lined up with Hendrie on the right wing where he failed to impress to the degree he had at White Hart Lane in a more central role. This time he was replaced at the interval, as was Stefan Moore who I thought was unlucky to be replaced. De La Cruz gave Taricco some problems on the right flank, and Vassel predictably pressured the Spurs defence, but Dean Richards (particularly hot) and Ledley King were on top of things at the back.
Spurs had the early pressure, and in no time at all, Simon Davies was slipping a ball to Keane whose deflected shot hit the side netting in front of the away stand. Today was one of those days when Robbie got his usual quota of chances, but the ball just didn't quite run for him as he would have liked, or he failed to keep control as we would have liked! With fifteen minutes gone, Teddy headed down a good ball from Goran Bunjevcevic into Robbie's path, but the Villa defence cleared their lines well. Then Villa did manage a threatening attack in front of the Holte End, when Delaney picked up a clearance at the half way line and sent Moore away down the left flank. Moore's low cross was met by Dublin at the near post, but the ball was deflected out for a corner.
Gareth Barry then cut in from the left side and aimed a long range shot at Keller which Kasey collected quite comfortably. Mid-way through the first half, Teddy headed an Anderton cross into the box in the direction of Keane. Johnsen seemed to clearly handle the ball, but referee Barry waved away the appeals. Robbie picked up another chance when an attack from Villa broke down and the clearance reached him on the right near the half way line. Robbie raced all the way into the box, but was thwarted just as he was about to pull the trigger.
Spurs had enjoyed a lot of good possession in this half, and really should have had a reward for their play, which was far better than the lack-lustre Villa side. Five minutes before the break, Dion Dublin did well to hold off Dean Richards and secure possession, but then he gave the ball away to Poyet. Poyet and Teddy tried to tee up Keane again, but Teddy's final ball was just too strong into the area, and could not be reached by the hat-trick hero of last week.
Spurs had two good chances before half time. Firstly, a short corner by Anderton and Davies led to Stephen Carr's shot from 20 yards being parried by Enckleman, but the rebound would just not run to Keane who was ready to pounce. Then just on half-time, Richards headed another Anderton corner onto the post. The ball ran to Teddy who flicked the ball over his head to Keane who put the ball in, but was adjudged offside.
One felt that Spurs really should have secured the points for all the domination they had enjoyed, but of course one also feared that the second half would be different. Taylor tried to change things with the insertion of Vassell and De La Cruz, and Vassel in particular did give the Spurs defence a stern test. But firstly Spurs gave the Villa defence something to think about when following a good build up from right to left, Robbie hit a long shot which seemed to have beaten the keeper but which was cleared by Samuel in front of his goal. Richards made an excellent tackle on Vassel inside the box. The home crowd wanted a penalty, but Vassell (and the away fans) knew it was a great clean tackle.
There was good work from Spurs down the left, featuring Anderton, Bunjee and Taricco, before Robbie was sent away again, this time shooting to the keeper. Spurs then had to suffer a bit of pressure with Villa winning three corners in succession, before Teddy and Robbie fed Gus Poyet who snatched his long shot and pulled it well wide of Enckleman's left post. On the hour mark, Simon Davies darted between two defenders and sent a long ball towards the area, which Enckleman headed away from the advancing Keane. Gus was following up, but his curled shot was gathered safely by the recovering keeper.
Three minutes later, Spurs broke out of defence superbly. Stephen Carr won a defensive header and sent Davies away. Simon found Keane who had another one on one with the keeper. His shot went under the keeper but into the side netting. Another great build up from Spurs started and finished with Davies who headed over the bar from 12 yards after Taricco's cross.
Villa came closest to scoring on 67 minutes when De La Cruz broke away from Taricco, and got to the bye line at the edge of the six yard box. His cross was somehow missed by Dublin and Taylor who were waiting to pounce in the area. This was a lucky escape for Spurs, who responded in the finest fashion three minutes later, with a fine switch from left to right for Carr, whose cross was met by Teddy scoring with a first time shot from some 15 yards out.
After that, it was very much a case of Spurs holding out for the three points, as Crouch replaced Dublin, and Freund came on for Poyet. Crouch won a bit of ball in the air but did nothing to threaten goal. He was baited by the away crowd rather unfairly I thought as a "Spurs reject", when most of them probably never saw him play. I do feel that Graham Taylor bought badly in this case, and that Crouch's level is the Nationwide League. Crouch did have a shot blocked which then fell to De La Cruz, whose shot was well saved by Keller with five minutes left.
The players and away crowd celebrated this win with vigour, and now we have a ten day break before facing Newcastle at White Hart Lane on Wednesday 29th January. By that time Newcastle will probably have beaten Bolton, who they play in the forthcoming mid-week, so they will be well ahead of us. That game and the following one at Stamford Bridge will be particularly challenging!
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