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Match Reports
Spurs v Aston Villa, 24.08.02


Redknapp, 26

Referee:- Clive Wilkes

Attendance:- 35,384

Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Taricco, Richards, Gardner, Ziege (sub Thatcher, 66); Davies, Redknapp, Acimovic, Etherington (sub Bunjevcevic, 60); Sheringham (Capt), Ferdinand (sub Doherty, 81)

Subs not used:- Sullivan; Rebrov

Booked:- Ziege, Bunjevcevic

Aston Villa (4-4-2):- Enckleman; Delaney, Mellberg, Staunton (Capt), Wright; De La Cruz (sub Allback, 46), Hendrie, Kinsella, Barry (sub Samuel, 76); Vassell, Crouch (sub Angel, 46)

Subs not used:- Postma (GK); Hadji

No bookings.

Jamie Redknapp won the hearts and minds of the Spurs faithful on his home league debut with another classy show in midfield, capped by a superb winning goal, scored midway through the first half. Having secured four points from their first two games, Spurs have made a good start, but the Brummie knives are out for Graham Taylor, or chiefly Chairman Doug Ellis, as they lost 1-0 for the second week in succession.

I must admit that I was one of those that thought Villa would have a really bad season, but on this form, I don't think they have too much to worry about, although their achievements will never match the ambitions of the fans. Ex-Spur (never a first teamer) Peter Crouch was a Taylor signing, made by Taylor, but the manger had the guts to make radical changes at half time, putting Allback and Angel up front, and withdrawing England star Darius Vassell to the right wing. Between them, these three made Spurs fight every inch of the way to preserve their lead, and Anthony Gardner in particular led the defence to a clean sheet.

It was another warm, sunny day in London, and, as around the country, the minute's silence in memory of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman was immaculately observed.

Glenn Hoddle seems to have switched allegiance to 4-4-2, maybe to accommodate his extra strength in midfield. Christian Ziege returned from injury and played behind Matthew Etherington. Between the two of them they led several good attacks, in the first half, one of which led to the goal. Milenko Acimovic started on the left of Redknapp, but both of them got forward often. With Simon Davies (who had scored a stunning goal for Wales midweek) on the right, Spurs were setting their stall out for attack, despite the veteran front line!

It has to be said that Villa had more possession and more shots during the game. Kasey Keller was a man of the match contender with a number of fine saves, especially after the break. Acimovic had a steady game, and on occasions showed clever skills. He won several valuable free kicks, and over the course of the season, may win himself a "Ginola-type" reputation, with a tendency to go down quickly. It was an early such free kick won on the left, that Ziege floated to the back post, where Sheringham should have converted the free header. His effort went over the bar by some distance. Five minutes later, Lee Hendrie had the first of a number of shots, when Crouch came deep, and fed the ball to the midfielder, whose 25 yard effort was over the bar. Hendrie had another chance two minutes later, which he curled away from Keller's left post.

After 19 minutes, Villa nearly caught Spurs on the hop with a quick free kick, which reached Vassell whose low 25 yard drive was wide of the goal. Ziege then conceded a free kick on the touchline, and got a touch to the floated ball, which then fell into Crouch's path. Keller was on hand to save from close range, and the ball was cleared.

Spurs then took the lead, although they only had Sheringham's header to show for their earlier efforts. Etherington and Ziege worked well to get (I thought) into the area, before the ball was handled. I thought a penalty was on the cards, but referee Wilkes awarded a free kick which was taken by Acimovic. He hit a powerful cross/shot, which the keeper could only parry. Kinsella's clearance reached Redknapp, lurking outside the area, and he cleverly hit a controlled shot over the crowd, which went into the net after one bounce. It was great start to Jamie's Spurs scoring career, and how he and the crowd loved it!

Villa carried on as before, and their Ecuadorian right winger - De La Cruz passed inside to Kinsella, whose cross was headed across goal and wide by Crouch, who really should have done better. Just before half time, De La Cruz gave Hendrie yet another chance, but again the shot was wide. Spurs responded well, with skill and pace (Yes - pace!) demonstrated on the right from Les Ferdinand. His cross broke to Ziege, whose shot was also wide of the mark.

Taylor rang the changes then at half time, and Spurs were on the back foot, as firstly Gardner blocked an Angel shot, after good work by Vassell on the right, and then Vassell again left Ziege behind to send a dangerous cross over that Taricco put out for a corner. After 50 minutes, Spurs had a good chance, when Acimovic crossed from the left, Ferdinand ducked, and Sheringham hit a low first time left foot shot that went outside the keeper's right post.

Keller made the first of his super saves after 54 minutes, when Barry got on the end of a Wright cross from close range, but Kasey flew to his right to push the ball round for a corner. Villa maintained the pressure and Kinsella had a chance from a corner, that went over the bar.

Matthew Etherington was having one of those days when he was exciting, but not often delivering. He was replaced by Bunjevcevic after the hour, to shore up defensive midfield duties, allowing Acimovic to move out to the left. Milenko had a headed chance go over the bar, when Teddy collected a Davies header on the right and crossed. Sheringham had seemingly returned from an offside position, but the linesman's flag stayed down. Ziege then got booked for hauling Vassell down in full flow, but the Villa man was only just into the Spurs half, so those that bayed for a red card were being too hopeful.

Clearly, there was plenty of tension for the home crowd, but this was a very entertaining game, despite the lack of chances for Spurs. Jamie Redknapp was unlucky when his snap shot from a Ziege corner bounced off Staunton, who led a dangerous counter by the visitors. This ended with dangerous shot by Allback - saved by the ever-competent Keller. Neil Sullivan will have to wait a while for a recall on this form from Kasey. Ziege was replaced by Thatcher, who played gamely, but who I always feel is likely to come second to a runner like Vassell. And so it was after 68 minutes, when Ben backed and backed off Vassell, who was allowed to the edge of the area. Vassell threaded the ball to Angel, whose cracker of a shot was saved by Keller with a double punch.

With nine minutes to go, Gary Doherty replaced Ferdinand, leaving Sergei Rebrov as the only unused outfield substitute. Surely he would be happy if the transfer window opened for him this week? Spurs then managed to gain control, and it was Doherty who carried the ball away from our half, who led a sequence of passing play, finishing with a Redknapp effort going wide. The referee blew for time after three minutes over the 90, leaving Spurs unbeaten and with four points in the bag. Despite the number of injured players in the squad, we fielded a good line-up that performed well. We all know how that situation could and should be improved over the next week, and I live in hope that we will go to Charlton on Tuesday night with a new striker's name on our lips.

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