FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
MONDAY 22ND NOVEMBER, 2004
ASTON VILLA 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Referee:- Chris Foy
Attendance:- 35, 702
Aston Villa (4-4-2):- Sorensen; De La Cruz, Delaney, Mellberg (Capt.), Samuel; Solano (sub L. Moore, 85), McCann, Davis, Hitzlsperger (sub Barry, 75); Cole, Angel
Subs not used:- Postma; Ridgewell, Whittingham
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Pamarot, Naybet, King (Capt.), Edman (sub Ziegler, 46); Mendes (sub Keane, 69), Brown, Carrick, Atouba (sub Davenport, 82); Defoe, Kanoute
Subs not used:- Fulop; Redknapp
Spirits are being tested to the full in the Spurs camp, affecting the management, players and not least the loyal fans who have now witnessed 6 consecutive league defeats, and a perilous dive towards the relegation zone. All this after a major re-structuring exercise in the summer, that led to hope, and the import of many players, some of which have International pedigree.
Martin Jol clearly needs a little more time before he can find the right blend, and the right chemistry that can make this band of pilgrims work effectively as a team. It's not as if Spurs played that badly last night at Villa Park. They clearly had the better chances in the first half, but sadly the best of those fell to Michael Brown and not an accredited striker such as Jermain Defoe, who surely would have put away one of the two golden opportunities that landed at Brown's feet. Six of those seven league defeats have been by the one goal, and we must all hope that things are going to click for Spurs really soon!
Once Nolberto Solano had scored his superb 57th minute winner, it was almost one-way traffic, and once again, only the heroics of Paul Robinson, with a superb close range save from the Villa scorer kept Spurs within range. From a defensive point of view, Solano should never have scored of course, and there will have been a thorough inquest at Spurs Lodge today, I'm sure.
During the course of the game, Spurs used three different left backs, as Erik Edman only lasted the first half, then Atouba was replaced and Reto Ziegler covered the spot. Calum Davenport made a substitute debut for Spurs, but only as an emergency striker for the last 8 minutes. Michael Carrick, who waited so long for a debut, disappointed last night, and was so easily out-shone by 19 year old Steven Davis, given a midfield debut by David O'Leary, and deservedly announced the Sponsors' man of the match. Too often in the second half, Carrick's floated free kicks were fodder for Sorensen, who had a couple of shaky moments in the first half. Pedro Mendes has a bit of pace, but he is better suited to the middle of the park.
My view of the game, seated directly behind the goal in (almost)the worst away seats in the Premiership is not conducive to a detailed report, but most of you have seen the game anyway. Spurs really did start well, and much as he is already being maligned by many Spurs fans, Thimothee Atouba had a part in some of Spurs better moments. After just 3 minutes, he fed Defoe, who got a shot on target, at least. Spurs got a free kick for a foul on Kanoute on the very edge of the box after 12 minutes, and referee Chris Foy upset the fans (not for the only time), when he adopted a position in front of and not behind the play to impede Defoe who raced to the side of the wall, ready to shoot. The move ended with a weakish Brown shot to the keeper.
Villa's approach play was effective, but the Spurs goal was not being threatened directly in the early stages. Atouba got a great effort in, when he beat De La Cruz inside the box, but saw Sorensen catch the ball as it flew to his top right corner. After nearly half an hour, following a Spurs corner, Brown's cross was left by Kanoute and Ledley King was caught unawares, and the ball seemed to come off his knee going out of play. Ledley's captaincy must be another issue. Ledley's a smashing guy and a great player, but even being so close to the Spurs defence, I never heard any evidence of a commanding captaincy.
Solano and Cole had been getting balls into the danger zone for Spurs, but it was Hitzlsperger who drew roars from the crowd with a rasping shot just outside Robinson's post. Hitzlsperger is clearly a "Freund-type" cult hero, as the crowd shouts "Shoot!!" whenever he gets the ball. The Villa midfielder has a far greater scoring record than our former player did!
Sorensen went thought a spell when he looked a little rattled, nearly committing a handball offence as he raced out to thwart the advancing Kanoute, and then mis-judging a bouncing ball on the bye-line to concede a corner. Spurs' greatest chance came after 38 minutes, when a cross came from the right, and Kanoute touched the ball to Brown, who should have done far better with his shot, but still gave the home keeper a stern test. One felt that Spurs would pay the penalty for failing to convert one of their few good chances, and so it proved.
Spurs even started the second half brightly, with Mendes finding Defoe at the near post, and Jermain turning and shooting quickly to bring another save. Then Villa came more and more into the game, and as often happens it was a relatively cheap corner that led to the goal. Taken by Hitzlsperger, the ball was flicked across the area (possibly by McCann who had just shared a bit of banter with some Spurs fans), and with his back to goal, Solano flicked the ball up and volleyed home on the turn, with Atouba lost in front of him and Ziegler too far behind.
Spurs then claimed a penalty as Defoe went down, but it was too far away for me to judge, and the referee said "No" anyway. In no time, Villa nearly went two up, as Carlton Cole picked out Solano at the back post. Paul Robinson made great ground and made a great reaction save to keep the ball out. Now Villa sensed blood and their speed in the middle was not being countered. Davis, then Solano, fed De la Cruz who got into the area and again brought a save from the Spurs keeper. It looked like Carlton Cole was well offside, but there was no flag, as Robinson again came to Spurs rescue outside his area.
Spurs one chance in the closing phase, interrupted as always by substitutions came from a good move, when Pamarot sent Mendes away down the line and the cross was headed just wide by Kanoute. Cole got to the bye-line and hit a powerful cross/shot that Robinson parried and thankfully no opponent was there to pick up. Davenport made a couple of clever flicks, one of which gave Robbie Keane a half-chance, which he skied way up into the Holte End to howls of derision.
So, we all left with our tails between our legs, wondering just where that next point, let alone the elusive win is going to come from. Of course, we all hope it will be next Sunday, but I've got a feeling we will have to wait a little longer.
· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
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