FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 2ND MAY, 2004
ASTON VILLA 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Referee:- Neale Barry
Aston Villa (4-4-2):- Sorensen; De La Cruz, Mellberg (Capt.), Ridgewell, Samuel; Solano (sub Delaney, 90), McCann, Hitzlsperger, Barry; Crouch (sub Dublin, 85), Angel, (sub Allback, 68)
Subs not used:- Postma; Whittingham
Booked:- Solano, Sorensen
Spurs (4-3-1-2):- Keller; Kelly (sub Ricketts, 70), Richards, Gardner, Taricco; Davies, Redknapp (Capt.), Brown; Keane; Kanoute (sub Doherty, 78), Defoe
Subs not used:- Hirschfeld; Bunjevcevic, Mabizela
Whilst Bolton were beating Leeds at The Reebock Stadium, thus ensuring Spurs' Premiership status, the eleven men (plus two substitutes) whose job it was to represent the magnificent history and tradition of Tottenham Hotspur lost their thirteenth away game of the season, and failed to score for the eleventh time in 18 away fixtures so far. I have no doubt that the Spurs team tried their best, but it was not good enough against a Villa side that passed and moved slickly, and should have won this game by a greater margin than the one goal scored. At the end of this week-end. Villa lie in fifth place, just one point behind Liverpool and vying for that fourth Championship League place with the Scousers and the Geordies. As for Spurs, they still wait for the mystery man whose job it will be to re-vitalise the team, and put them back on the road to glory.
David Pleat made a couple of changes, and is becoming as much a tinker-man as Mr. Ranieri in another part of London. Would that Spurs were playing a Champions League semi-final this mid-week! Dean Richards' return to the team was probably telegraphed really, but after seeing his performance today, I would have preferred Gary Doherty to start in the place of Ledley King who must be suffering that hip injury mentioned by Mr. Grip this week. John Jackson was dropped (even from the bench), and Jermain Defoe started with Robbie Keane in the hole behind the front two. This meant that Redknapp sat between Davies and Brown, and Spurs had no real width, exposing the full backs to the full force of Solano on the right, and Barry on the left, with support from Davies and Brown often arriving a little late. With Redknapp's lack of pace, and this lack of manpower in the middle, Spurs were too easily over-run by the energetic Villa line-up, who often left the white shirts in their wake. Once passed (and it happened all too often), Richards would stand still, instead of even trying to recover his ground.
Stephen Kelly did okay in the first half, but suffered an onslaught early in the second, eventually being replaced by Ricketts, allowing Davies to fall back. Whoever won the toss made an unconventional decision which meant the home side played towards the Holte End in the first half. If it was Redknapp's decision, it didn't work, because in no time at all (fifth minute, actually), Spurs fell behind to a sucker punch of a goal. Hitzlsperger took a free kick on the right which went to the back post, where Barry had been allowed space by Kelly. Barry headed into the area, and Angel was unmarked with an easy header from close range in front of his ecstatic home fans.
Spurs nearly pulled off a quick response, when a free kick was floated to Kanoute, whose shot from a sharp angle on the right was saved by the ever-reliable Sorensen. After 10 minutes Hitzlsperger received a ball from the left and ran across the defence, hitting a right foot shot wide of Keller's right post. Defoe was fouled about 23 yards out, but Jamie Redknapp hit the free kick over the bar. It wasn't long before Taricco "won" a free kick on the edge of the box. Jamie floated his kick to the back post, where Richards made a good connection with his header, but hit it 2 yards over.
Spurs managed one or two decent moves, and one mid-way through the first half was started deep in their own half, through Redknapp and Brown. Robbie Keane fed Davies, who this time was working the left channel. His cross was headed into the goal area by Defoe, but Kanoute failed to move for the ball. Another free kick by Hitzlsperger was headed over by Angel in too much space at close quarters.
There was nice cameo featuring chiefly Keane and McCann (aided by Solano and De La Cruz), as Robbie tried to make headway down the left flank near the corner flag. Villa came out with the ball to the delight of their fans. Just before the break, Robbie Keane did make room for a shot which was held comfortably by the keeper.
Villa started the second half with a vengeance and could easily have had three more goals in no time. Firstly after a sharp passing move down the left Hitzlsperger hit a cracking shot that bounced off the top of the bar, then Barry was left in space by Richards and Kelly, thankfully shooting just wide. Spurs were in disarray, and a Barry cross from the left led to a McCann shot going wide. Stephen Kelly gifted a Keller throw-out to Barry, whose low cross passed safely across the goalmouth.
Spurs' best chance probably came after 57 minutes, after Brown and Kanoute fed Davies on the right, who forced a sharp save from Sorensen at the foot of his left post. 8 minutes later, Spurs carried the ball forward through a Gardner run, and he sent Keane away, whose shot was wide. Samuel exploited the space behind Kelly, and sent in a low ball, which Angel (having turned Gardner) flicked wide of the post. Defoe had a shot that never worried Sorensen, before Gardner was in the thick of the action again. This time Allback got the better of him, but his shot was straight into Keller's arms.
The replacement of Kanoute by Gary Doherty was a bit of a mystery to most Spurs fans, but in fairness, Doherty did win most of his headers up front, laying off decent balls for Keane and Defoe. One of these led to a close range effort from Defoe, who then got into a spat with Sorensen. Defoe got booked soon after for a lusty challenge in the midfield, whilst Sorensen also found his name entered in Mr. Barry's book for a bit of dissent.
It wasn't too long into this game, before we knew the result at Bolton was going in our favour, and in truth there was little in this game to excite Spurs fans today, who wait eagerly for the close season, and a promised "big-name" manager. The team does still have something to play for though. They need to win their last two games, to beat the previous worst points tally in the Premiership. If they are not careful, they could also finish in the club's lowest Premiership position.
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· The preview for this game can still be read here
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