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Spurs v Aston Villa, 06.02.10


Attendance:- 35, 899

Referee:- Mr. C. Foy
Assistants:- Mr. P. Sharp & Mr. M. Yerby
Fourth Official:- Mr. P. Walton

Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, King (Capt.), Bale; Bentley, Huddlestone, Palacios, Modric; Defoe, Crouch

Subs not used:- Alnwick; Kaboul, Walker, Bassong; Jenas, Kranjcar; Gudjohnsen

No Bookings

Aston Villa (4-4-2):- Friedel; Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, L. Young; A. Young, Petrov (Capt.), Milner, Downing (sub Sidwell, 88); Agbonlahor, Heskey (sub Carew, 21)

Subs not used:- Guzan; Davies, Beye; Delph; Delfouneso

No Bookings

Villa’s foundations hold firm

Spurs failed to break down the Villa defence at White Hart Lane in this televised evening game. I can’t say that Spurs huffed and puffed because there was far more quality in our play than that. Brad Friedel was the busier of the two keepers and two or three of his saves were not clean and convincing. What with a decent penalty appeal turned down for a foul on Defoe, there was only one team that deserved to win this game. The fans often chanted “Boring, boring Villa”, and they were rarely interesting to watch, but they did their job in frustrating Spurs who slipped to fifth place due to Liverpool’s win over Everton.

Spurs made three anticipated changes from the side that one at Elland Road, with Ledley King wearing the skipper’s armband, and Wilson Palacios and Luka Modric returning to the midfield. Palacios was lion-hearted in the midfield winning the vast majority of his battles and earning the epithet of “The Enforcer”. He certainly takes no prisoners and is back to tip top form. Modric too was instrumental in much of Spurs stylish approach play feeding the strikers consistently. Harry Redknapp had his recent recruits on the bench, but chose not to use any substitutes for the second game running. He said he was happy with those on the pitch, but I cannot help thinking that a change of strategy and personnel might have broken the deadlock. Other managers (of Champions League teams)would have made a change or two, wouldn’t they?

Villa deployed their enforcer and skipper Stiliyan Petrov at the back of the midfield, with James Milner being tried in a creative central midfield role, whilst Ashley Young and Stewart Downing worked down the right and left flanks respectively. Spurs were rarely bothered defensively, apart from one occasion when Gomes made an excellent double save.

Rather surprisingly, Villa did not bring with them a full contingent of supporters, which allowed more of the Park Lane end to be allocated to Spurs fans. The Villa fans had “occupied” The Irish Centre pre-match though, and carried on their celebrations of a forthcoming trip to Wembley in the stadium.

Spurs had the first chance after 3 minutes, when Crouch headed down one of Dawson’s long diagonal passes, into the path of the advancing Modric, whose shot carried insufficient power to worry Friedel. Five minutes later it was Modric again with the chance following a quickly taken free kick. He hit this shot over the bar. Crouch won a header from a Gomes clearance and Defoe fed the ball to his right for Bentley, who hit a low shot that whistled just outside the far post. Ledley King had a good header from a Bentley corner, but it straight into the arms of the alert keeper. Crouch won another header from Bale’s cross and Modric carried the ball into the left side of the box, before teeing Crouch up for a shot which was saved for another Spurs corner. It seemed that it would only be a matter of time before Spurs domination would be consummated by a goal, but it was never to come.

Emile Heskey did start the game, but only lasted 21 minutes due to injury and was replaced by Carew. Palacios won the ball and passed to Huddlestone who hit a rasping shot, saved by Friedel with Modric following up. Then came Villa’s one meaningful chance of the game, as Milner picked up a cross from the left and hit a low shot that Gomes parried. The ball ran to Agbonlahor, but Gomes was up again and able to make the second save.

Another Bentley free kick was headed by Dawson, but deflected for a corner. Spurs had a good spell of possession after another Palacios interception, winning a corner from a Bale cross, taken by Bentley from which Bale’s shot was cleared. After a foul on Crouch, Bentley took the free kick after 40 minutes. Ledley King had a great effort saved by Friedel, and Defoe’s final effort went over the bar.

Tom Huddlestone had a couple of early shots on goal, but the second half became far less interesting than the first. It was not helped by the referee, who definitely did not favour the home side, sometimes failing to play an advantage when possible, and other times perversely awarding free kicks to the opposition. There were no bookings though, for which credit goes to the teams and Mr Foy.

It was pretty much one way traffic for Spurs, who did crank up the pressure in their endeavours to get the vital goal. Crouch hit a looped header onto the top of the net from Corluka’s cross, and Bentley tried another left foot shot (as he had at Leeds) cutting in from the wing before forcing a corner as a result of his power.. Defoe had that failed call for a penalty just inside the Villa area, before he, Modric and Crouch combined to create the chance for Crouch, whose shot was deflected for an umpteenth corner.

Modric was then to be found on the right flank, teaming with Corluka, before Bentley’s final cross, which Crouch headed wide. Friedel struggled to save a Defoe shot from another Crouch header, before a short cross by Bale was headed down by Dawson for Crouch to try a back-heel which agonisingly fell on the wrong side of the Villa net.

Once again, it just wasn’t our day, but the race for fourth is not over yet. Liverpool go to goonerville midweek, whilst we must try and reap revenge at Wolves. Now, there’s another nice place for a football fan to visit!

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