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Spurs v Aston Villa, 01.10.07

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
MONDAY 1ST OCTOBER, 2007
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 4 (1) ASTON VILLA 4 (3)

Spurs scorers:-
Berbatov, 20
Chimbonda, 69
Keane (pen), 82
Kaboul, 90

Villa scorers:-
Laursen, 22, 33
Agbonlahor, 40
Gardner, 59

Attendance: - 36,094

Referee: - Mike Dean
Assistants: - Mark Scholes, Steve Tincknell
Fourth Official: - Steve Bennett

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, Kaboul, Bale; Lennon (sub Malbranque, 85), Zokora, Huddlestone, Tainio (sub Defoe, 53); Berbatov (sub Bent, 73), Keane (Capt.)

Subs not used: - Cerny; Rocha

Booked: - Keane, Kaboul (for their celebrations!)

Aston Villa (4-4-2):- Carson; Mellberg, Knight, Laursen, Bouma; Gardner (sub Petrov, 73), Reo-Coker, Barry (Capt.), Young; Moore (sub Harewood, 66), Agbonlahor

Subs not used: - Taylor; Davies, Osbourne

Booked: - Reo-Coker, Gardner, Carson

Frazzled and Dazzled!

Younes Kaboul’s dramatic added time equaliser provided a fitting score-line to a match on the night when Spurs celebrated their 125th anniversary, and when we remembered the greatest Spurs name of them all – Bill Nicholson. There were no less than five 4-4 scores in the early years of Bill’s management, which included home and away games against Arsenal, matches against West Bromwich Albion and Burnley, and the first (in Bill’s first season) against Portsmouth. The scorers (Smith, Clayton, Jones) in that first game were in the stadium last night to witness another epic high-scoring draw to match those mentioned and the famous 5-5 against Aston Villa in March, 1966.

Spurs fans went through all the emotions last night. There was the filmed tribute to “Sir” Bill, which included an interview with his beloved and faithful wife, the late “Darkie” Nicholson. It was revealed that Bill’s ashes were indeed scattered beside the White Hart Lane pitch, so his spirit truly does remain at our home. Free anniversary flags were issued, and waved with great enthusiasm to greet the parade of some 60 legends, which sadly did not include Jimmy Greaves, Graham Roberts and Paul Gascoigne, but where special greetings were reserved for the likes of Perryman, Hoddle and Ginola. Cliff Jones, Dave Mackay, Terry Dyson, Alan Mullery and Perryman paraded the trophies that Spurs had famously won under the guidance of the great man.

Even the Aston Villa fans sang Happy Birthday for us, but that was when their team had come from behind to take a first half lead, and when they looked like well and truly spoiling the party. Robinson had a howler, and could be held culpable for all four goals, but chiefly for the first two. When Villa went 4-1 up with half an hour to go, many Spurs fans left in disgust but will surely rue the fact they missed one of the great dramas in the history of White Hart Lane.

It was clear there were to be goals from the outset, as the game was played at great pace throughout, so much so that too much of it passed by big Tom Huddlestone, whose form and decision-making was at fault too often. Spurs were missing Jenas, due to his abdominal strain, and whilst Zokora played with great gusto beside Huddlestone, Spurs did miss someone to put their foot on the ball in the middle and try to control the game.

Villa’s young protagonists such as Ashley Young on the left, and Agbonlahor and Moore up front gave the Spurs defence a torrid time, and I don’t think I’ve seen Michael Dawson have such a bad game in a Spurs shirt, as he struggled with the speed of his opponents. Villa were buzzing and always managed to get men behind and ahead of the ball in force. No Spurs players was given the luxury of time on the ball, such was the athleticism of our opponents.

The statistics show that Spurs in fact dominated possession, but of course those crucial errors cost us goals we could ill-afford to concede.

Spurs had the first chance after three minutes, when they were pressing down the right, and Bouma’s mistake led to the ball reaching Berbatov. Tainio picked up the pass, but his shot was deflected for an early corner. Villa provided Spurs with a warning soon after when Young got the better of Chimbonda, and tested Robinson with a shot that was held. Bouma sent a ball into no-mans-land from the left which passed by everyone. After 7 minutes, Spurs broke well, and the Villa defence was in the wrong set up as they retreated from a corner, but Berbatov’s shot went wide.

Villa’s Reo-Coker and Craig Gardner got early bookings as they tried to quell the early Spurs pressure, driving towards the Park Lane goal in the commemorative halved blue and white shirts. Tainio, Zokora and Lennon were all links in the Spurs chain that led to a Huddlestone shot from 25 yards which Scott Carson struggled to hold. Again Villa responded and this time Robinson had to stretch to his right to push over an excellent Young shot.

After 18 minutes, Spurs broke out of their half, and Huddlestone sent a good ball from the half-way line that Berbatov controlled skilfully before hitting a shot that Carson could only parry. Two corners followed. From the first, taken by Bale, Chimbonda’s header was saved. From the second corner, taken by Huddlestone, Berbatov rose and headed down to beat Carson beneath his body.

Sadly, Spurs failed to hold the lead, and Robinson dropped Barry’s corner. The ball rebounded a couple of times, but was slotted home by Laursen, to dampen our spirits. Lennon had a good chance on the right side of the area, after Berbatov headed down, and Keane lobbed the ball to him. The shot was high and wide. Keane then received the ball from a throw on the left and sent in a low cross from the bye-line, which passed in front of Lennon.

Villa always looked dangerous in our half, with their speed and movement. I was thinking of the gooner game when we took a lead but were overcome by pace and skill, Our pain was 8increased in the 33rd minute when Villa took the lead after a free kick and cross from the left, which again was subject to a bit of ping-pong in the box, ending with another Laursen goal, this time with a shot that crept through Robinson’s legs.

Spurs might have responded from a corner, but sadly the header rebounded off Michael Dawson into safety, then five minutes before the break, Villa scored their third goal from their fourth chance, when Agbonlahor was too quick and too good for Dawson (perhaps left in the lurch by Kaboul). Agbonlahor rounded Dawson and beat Robinson’s out-stretched right hand with a shot across his bows into the far corner.

Two minutes into the second half, Zokora was penalised on the edge of the area, and Robinson made a good save to his left from Young’s free kick, then got away with a penalty claim, when diving at the feet of Agbonlahor. The game was moving so quickly that the officials struggled to keep up at times. There had been an offside in one of the Villa goals, but that was to be matched when Defoe got away with being in an offside position for the Kaboul goal. Gareth Bale came more and more into the game in this half, with almost all attacks coming down the left flank. Kaboul raced up in support of Bale after 53 minutes, and got on the end of the move with a shot that passed a yard or so over the bar.

Tainio was replaced by Defoe, who had an early shot after winning a tussle with Gareth Barry. I thought at the time that Kaboul got booked for his foul on the edge of the Spurs area that led to Villa’s fourth goal, but he got his only yellow card for over-celebrating at the end of the game. Anyway at the free kick it seemed to me that the Spurs wall was set up a little too far to the left and that Robbo had left himself too much goal to cover. 20 year old Craig Gardner took advantage, hitting a low driven shot that beat Robinson to his right to send the visiting fans into delirium, caused a wry grin on the face of Daniel Levy, and a soulful look from Martin Jol, whose job was very, very precarious at that point.

Spurs rallied, the crowd got behind the boys, and Defoe was unlucky not to score when he picked up Berbatov’s pass, hitting a shot that Carson somehow managed to save with his out-stretched left foot. From the corner there were appeals for handball when Keane’s shot was charged down, to no avail. Spurs got one back, and lifted the spirits of all home supporters, after Bale got the better of Gardner, crossing for Defoe, whose shot rebounded off the post as far as Chimbonda, who provided the vital finishing touch. Amongst the substitutions, Berbatov was replaced by Darren Bent.

There was a good challenge by Zokora near the half way line leading to another chance for Defoe, this time wide. Villa sub Harewood committed a stupid foul on Bent to concede a penalty, from which Robbie Keane stepped up, to include his now customary pause, and a competent finish to the left corner. It was one-way traffic now and all hands (including Robinson) were to the pump as the dramatic equaliser came after a long throw by Bale, more head tennis and attempted shots in the Villa area, with Kaboul having three touched, before he sent us all into raptures with a powerful drive into the top right corner.

Kaboul ripped off his shirt (for which he did get booked) and raced to the bench, followed by the whole team, where the Spurs entourage was smothered in the joy of the moment.

We’d been frazzled, then dazzled, and when we got our heads together, we accepted that 4-4 was certainly better than losing 4-1, but we remembered that we were still in the bottom three with a trip to Anfield next in the Premier League. It has to be said though, that a team that can come back from 4-1 down against opposition that recently beat Chelsea and Everton, must surely have the power and ability to ultimately lift themselves out of the mire.

Kaboul’s goal must go down in the ongoing annals of Spurs history as one of the great Spurs moments. It was the cue for more flag-waving – reminiscent of the Argentinean days of Ardiles and Villa – and a happier drive home.

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