FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 1ST MAY, 2005
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 5 (3) ASTON VILLA 1 (1)
Kanoute, 6, 27
Barry (pen), 45
Attendance: - 36, 078
Referee: - Mr. M. Clattenburg
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson (sub Cerny, 63); Kelly, King (Capt.), Dawson, Edman; Davies, Davis, Carrick, Reid; Kanoute (sub Mido, 77), Keane (sub Defoe, 77)
Subs not used: - Bunjevcevic; Ziegler
Booked: - Davis
Aston Villa (4-4-2):- Postma; Delaney, Laursen, Ridgewell, Samuel; Solano, Davis, Hitzlsperger (sub Hendrie, 58), Barry (Capt.); Angel (sub Moore, 58), Vassell
Subs not used: - Sorensen; De La Cruz; Cole
Booked: - Postma, Solano
With the whiff of UEFA flaring their nostrils, Spurs zipped into a gear rarely seen this season, and literally pulverised Aston Villa, who were fellow contenders till today. Spurs zoomed through the 50 point barrier, AND with Stephen Kelly’s superb last minute goal, Martin Jol’s confident side pipped Middlesbrough to hold pole position by a one goal margin, setting up next Saturday’s game at The Riverside to be a great occasion.
Martin Jol made just one change to the starting line-up, favouring Robbie Keane above Defoe, stating that he felt Robbie would have an extra incentive to perform against one of his former managers. Perhaps Defoe was considered to have had too much contract talk on his mind, as he signed a new four and a half year deal this week.
Villa arrived on the back of a run of five games unbeaten, but they slumped to their worst defeat since losing 4-0 at Old Trafford in December 2003, with a defensive performance worthy of relegation contenders, not a side challenging for a place in Europe. However, they did have a very early chance when young Steven Davis broke into the Spurs area, and saw his shot saved by Robinson. The ball (rebounding from Robbo’s save) actually hit Dawson’s hands, but he was sprawled on the ground with no chance to avoid the contact. The ball rebounded into Robbo’s hands off Davis. The pace of the game was terrific, as both sides clearly recognised the potential spoils of a good result, and it wasn’t long before Ledley King hit a great header from a corner which Postma (presumably preferred to Sorensen Note - later found to be due to stomach 'flu) saved point blank.
Next came a moment of controversy, as Delaney made a run into the Spurs area and went down under Edman’s challenge. Referee Mark Clattenburg (the man in charge of THAT game at Old Trafford) waved play-on. Delaney made no bones about it, and the challenge looked the type that may or may not have been given as a pen. However, Paul Robinson made an immediate long clearance, and Ridgewell was beaten to the ball by Kanoute who was one on one against the keeper. Kanoute’s shot went off Postma’s body and rebounded into the net off the post for a 6th minute lead. Postma got booked for protesting, presumably about the lack of a penalty award at the other end. The early goal for Spurs was a rarity, and our fastest of the season
After those early scares at the Spurs end, it became one-way traffic, and a 9th minute cross from the right was held by Postma with Keane in close attendance. A poor clearance reached Sean Davis, who hooked his shot wide from outside the area. Mr Clattenburg seemed to be allowing pushing in the back, as both Ledley King and Simon Davies looked to be victims of unfair, unpunished challenges. However, it was Sean Davis who made it into the book for a foul on Hitzlsperger. Simon Davies had a great game today, and seemed to have an extra half-yard of pace and desire over and above his opponents. Davies made a typical interception then delivered a good cross for Kanoute, whose shot was cleared for a corner. From the corner, a shot by Andy Reid made it through a sea of legs to rebound off the post. Sean Davis got the first touch and the ball ran to Ledley King, who hit a low left foot shot from 8 yards to make it 2-0.
Spurs were playing with style, and a Carrick ball reached Keane who feinted for Kanoute to send the ball into Robbie’s path. The ball was cleared but Davies followed up well too. More great play down the right, where Davies and Kelly have struck up a great understanding, led to a cross from Kanoute, and a header saved again by Postma. This time it was Sean Davis meeting the cross, with power. The corner reaped more reward though, taken short, and eventually crossed by Davies. Sean Davis was in the box again, but there was skill from Robbie who went over under a challenge from two defenders, and as he turned to protest to the referee, Fredi was on hand to fire the ball high into the net for a third!
Michael Carrick had several opportunities to take a pop today, but chose to pass on the responsibility. He made a good run on 31 minutes, but gave Kanoute the ball. Laursen made the clearance to concede the corner. Simon Davies was brought down on the edge of the area (no card for a Villa player), and Keane’s shot was deflected for another corner. Villa had been on the rack for so long and yet as half time approached Ledley had to make a great saving tackle on Barry. Sean Davis was off the pitch receiving treatment, when Villa took a quick throw, and Spurs looked a little ruffled for long enough to allow Angel a shot, which from short range hit Dawson’s arms, raised instinctively to protect himself. Whilst the penalty decision was viewed as harsh by the home crowd, it is difficult to argue against such an award with the arms raised so high. Barry made no mistake and the “Villans” went into the break with more hope than they deserved.
Reid took an early free kick and saw his shot well saved, before Villa did show some good passing play, and Spurs started to clear the ball anywhere, rather than with thought. Vassell had a great shot from an angle on the right tipped over by Robinson, who on the hour was injured in a clash with Vassell in a race for Solano’s threaded pass. Robinson did not fully recover and Radek Cerny made his first appearance of the season, as substitute.
Having been under a little pressure, Spurs lifted any veil of uncertainty from the result, as they broke from the back, thanks to Dawson and Sean Davis. Reid was allowed a run from the half way line and Delaney backed off until Reid was allowed room to hit a cracking shot from 22 yards to the roof of the net, right of the keeper. Thus Reid scored his first Spurs goal to cap a fine performance. He might not have had the level of resistance normally expected in the Premiership, but he consistently rounded opponents and delivered the goods. In fairness to Reid, when presented with the man of the match award, he said that Simon Davies really deserved that accolade, and his assertion was spot on. Davies was almost taking the micky in the latter stages of the game, and thoroughly deserved a goal.
With 15 minutes left, Davies made yet another interception and ran for goal, but his shot lacked power. Now Spurs took off two top strikers, and replaced them with........two top strikers! Defoe had a great chance with 7 minutes left, after Cerny’s clearance had been poorly cleared. Defoe’s shot was deflected by a defender onto the bar and out of play Defoe got another chance courtesy of that man Davies, seeing the keeper make a double save. Neither shot carried power.
Stephen Kelly added his name to the Spurs “K for Killer” men today, and ensured that we went above Middlesbrough, with a goal of class. Simon Davies chipped to Sean Davis, who hit a beautiful back-heel into Kelly’s path. Kelly had made a typical run into the box, goalside of Samuel, who was helpless as Kelly finished off with a deft touch that Robbie Keane would have been proud of. It was Kelly’s second goal in six games, from a move which is bringing profit. There was still time for Solano to get a booking for a cynical foul on Davies outside the box, but Defoe’s free kick went over the bar.
The atmosphere throughout and at the end of the game was terrific. Everyone realises that we do have our UEFA destiny in our own hands. Whatever the result next week, the issue will not be decided until the last day against Blackburn. A draw would leave us having to match Boro’s last day result, when they play Manchester City, who justifiably still feel part of this race for 7th. It’s sure to be a great atmosphere at Teeside next week, and I’m already champing at the bit to be there. Wouldn’t it be great if Spurs could all but finish the job next Saturday?
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