BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 28TH NOVEMBER, 2009
ASTON VILLA 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)
Referee:- Phil Dowd
Villa (4-4-2):- Friedel; Beye, Cuellar, Dunne, L. Young; Milner, Petrov (Capt.), Reo-Coker (sub Sidwell, 71), A. Young; Carew (sub Heskey, 75), Agbonlahor
Subs not used:- Guzan; Clark, Downing, Delph, Gardner
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Dawson (Capt.), Bassong, Ekotto; Lennon, Huddlestone, Palacios (sub Jenas, 66), Kranjcar (sub Keane, 78); Defoe, Crouch
Subs not used:- Alnwick; Hutton, Bale; Bentley, Rose
O’Neill glad to hold on to a point.
After going down to a scrambled 10th minute goal by the home side, Spurs gained more and more strength until the second half when they clearly dominated the game. However, it took till the 77th minute for an equaliser to come through Captain for the day, Michael Dawson. Despite the uneven statistics of 17-4 shots on target in favour of Spurs, we had to be satisfied with a point we’d have taken before the game, which at least puts us third overnight. We must hope for a Chelsea win against the gooners tomorrow for us to stay in third, but we are still three points clear of fifth place Villa, whose manager Martin O’Neill was quoted as being glad to have held on for the draw against such a good Spurs side.
Harry Redknapp did make one change to the team which had annihilated Wigan last week, but it was not the change that some (including me) had anticipated. Peter Crouch kept his place beside Defoe, with skipper Keane remaining on the bench. However, there was no sign of Jonathan Woodgate, whose injury had been kept under wraps. Sebastien Bassong took his place, and partnered Dawson for the first time.
O’Neill switched Luke Young to left back to try to neutralise Aaron Lennon, but the truth is that Spurs failed to serve enough of the ball to their ace wing man in the first half, concentrating rather on the left flank, where Niko Kranjcar excelled again, although he also drifted into central positions to good effect, as he did last week.
When Friedel made an early save from Kranjcar, it looked as if it might be one of those days, when an in-form keeper would frustrate the attacking side. Together with a few good tackles and blocks, this was the way things turned out, starting with that third minute save from Kranjcar, who had exchanged passes with Ekotto, before firing towards Friedel’s top left corner. At the other end, Ashley Young’s whipped corners from the left flag looked a real threat to Spurs. Carew had tried a long distance shot for Villa, but they did take that early lead after Milner got ahead of Ekotto and crossed to the near post, where Cuellar’s glanced header was cleared off the line (possibly with his arm) by Ekotto. However, the ball fell Villa’s way, and it was Agbonlahor who go the final vital touch to claim the goal.
Spurs carried on where they had left off, with some good passing play. One such sequence ended with a good ball over the top aimed for Defoe, but retrieved by the ever-alert Friedel. Kranjcar was then fouled just outside the area by Reo-Coker. Huddlestone took the kick which fell for Defoe in front of goal. That man Friedel made a great reaction save, and Michael Dawson followed up. Scoring would surely have been easier, but the shot was blocked and the ball actually ran out for a Spurs throw. At the other end, Agbonlahor managed to get a shot on the turn, which did not bother Gomes.
After 27 minutes, Spurs showed more silky skills on the right. Corluka passed inside to Defoe, who fed Lennon. Lennon worked the ball to Kranjcar, who teed up Huddlestone for a shot which Friedel saved, happily conceding a corner. Following the corner, Corluka hooked the ball back into the area, where Defoe met the ball, and fired just over the bar. A minute before the break, and after more sustained Spurs possession, Corluka crossed, and Crouch headed down, but Villa feet were there first.
Spurs lifted the tempo in the second half, and made more use of Lennon. However the first chance came after a good move down the left. Defoe had passed to Palacios, who fed Kranjcar. Kranjcar hit a quite blistering shot that Friedel really had no right to save let alone nearly catch the shot, pushing it away for a corner. I was getting angry with this goalkeeper’s resistance! The game was being played mostly in the Villa half.
Palacios was replaced by Jenas midway through the half, and generally linked in well with shorter balls to Corluka and Lennon. Kranjcar had another shot deflected for a corner, after build up play by Lennon, Jenas and Defoe. After 69 minutes, referee Phil Dowd denied Spurs a penalty for a clear handball by Luke Young. Three minutes later, Mr Dowd decided that he had seen a handball by Jermain Defoe who had received a pass inside the box from Huddlestone, before hitting the net. I do wonder though why Defoe was not booked for such an (alleged) offence. Defoe had another effort blocked after a corner situation.
Spurs got a deserved equaliser in the 77th minute. I believe that Michael Dawson had his back to the referee, and funnily enough, I felt he handled the ball more definitely than had Defoe. However, the ball had reached Dawson inside the box after a half-cleared corner, before Michael hit a powerful rising shot into the net to become the 16th player to score this season for Spurs. Rather surprisingly, Kranjcar was then replaced by Keane, but it was generally one-way traffic in Spurs’ favour. Heskey nearly snatched a winner for Villa with a header over the bar from an Ashley Young cross, but Defoe came closer with a driven shot that whistled past Friedel’s left post.
This was an entertaining and exciting game to watch, and there was no doubting that Spurs were the better team, thus claiming a right to be regarded as a top four side with a display as good as any home team. Of course there is a long way to go yet, but despite the late equaliser, the fact that we were disappointed only to get a point against one of our main challengers is a good indication of the progress this Spurs side is making.
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