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Spurs v Aston Villa, 21.11.11

(8 P.M.)

Adebayor, 14, 40

Attendance:- 35,818

Referee:- Mark Halsey
Assistants:- Mr. S. Child & Mr. R. Ganfield
Fourth official:- Mr. L. Probert

Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Friedel; Walker, Kaboul, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Lennon, Parker, Modric (sub Sandro, 90), Bale; Van der Vaart (sub Defoe, 69); Adebayor

Subs not used:- Cudicini; Gallas, Bassong; Giovani, Pienaar

No Bookings

Aston Villa (4-4-2):- Given; Cuellar (sub Bannan, 63), Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Hutton, Petrov (Capt.), Herd (sub Delph, 87), Heskey; Bent, Agbonlahor

Subs not used:- Guzan; Clark; Ireland, N’Zogbia, Weimann

Booked:- Herd (foul on Bale), Petrov (foul on Bale)

Okay Spurs, that’s third, now go forth!

In a much anticipated Monday night game, Spurs fulfilled the hopes of their fans by completing a much-deserved win against Aston Villa, taking third place in the Premier League, and in so doing, became the top team in London (statistically) for the first time at this stage of the season for many years. Spurs delighted their fans and surely the watching world-wide audience with the sort of dominating and stylish football played by a top four side. Spurs have been there before, and want to do it again. They have the ability to not only hold that third place, but perhaps to go even further. To overhaul the richest club in the world – Manchester City – would surely be a task too far, but there is no reason why Spurs should not aim higher than this third place. They can and should go forth from this position!

I find it impossible to find fault in any of our team last night. In a team (when fit) that currently picks itself, and was unchanged in every regard, including used substitutes, from that which beat Fulham two weeks ago, there were great performances and much to admire in every man-jack of them. I said before the game that Adebayor was due a goal, and he fulfilled that wish not once, but twice. O come, O come Emmanuel indeed (my favourite Advent hymn) Adebayor could have had a hatful of goals, and arguably should have had five goals. He missed an open goal minutes before he did open the scoring, and then in the second half spurned at least another two golden opportunities.

Then, once again, there was the tigerish, terrier-like persistence, athleticism and efficiency of “Super Scotty Parker”. Scott even had room for a couple of mistakes last night, but what he did throughout the game was once again to demonstrate why he is one of England’s best players at this moment. Once, when Spurs had to chase back, I swear that Parker nearly overtook Kyle Walker, even after giving the pacy right back 5 or 10 yards start! Parker nicked the ball off any opponent who dared to think he could attack the Spurs rock-solid defence. One such steal off Agbonlahor was a delight, but it was one of many efforts where Parker made that extra half-yard of effort, reach and determination to win the ball.

Parker and Adebayor have yet to play in a losing Spurs side. Their team is now unbeaten in 9 Premier League games, and has won 8 of those. They had lost two points in 8 games but that record has now been superceded.

One could extol the virtues of each of our players in the same manner as Adebayor and Parker. The work ethic and achievement of the whole team was terrific. Benoit Assou-Ekotto must surely be the best left back in the league at this moment in time. Ashley Cole was embarrassed by that Johnson goal on Sunday, and Evra’s form has been a bit patchy this season. The amazing Ledley King was supreme, with one delightful moment of skill to thwart Agbonlahor who had to stand back in sheer admiration of Ledley’s skill, to put the ball behind Agbonlahor, then clear. Younes Kaboul continues to dominate and astound. Modric perhaps looked relatively quiet, but he still displayed brilliant ball-winning and passing skills. Bale was turning up all over the park. Lennon hit his best form again. Rafa van der Vaart had moments of sublimity.

One of Spurs’ greatest assets at the moment is the fact that their players can confuse opponents by turning up in any position. Adebayor’s work rate was astounding. He appeared not just in the middle but on both flanks at times. The work rate of he and Van der Vaart was terrific.

Villa had to cope with the twin-pronged flank attacks of both Spurs wingers and full backs. That was why right back Alan Hutton turned up on the right of midfield, ahead of Cuellar. Bale just went round both of them – often. On the other side Emile Heskey played on the left to give Warnock a hand with the threat of Walker and Lennon. Villa’s only moments of real danger to the Spurs defence came early in both halves, and both times, Friedel’s handling skills were superb, while he was never seriously threatened.

That first half threat from Villa came soon after the kick off, when Heskey had a header half-cleared then Bent skied his effort on goal, much to the delight of his former fans. Spurs were soon demonstrating their skills and abilities at the other end, with Lennon tricking and running before passing to Van der Vaart, who tried to thread the ball through the middle to Adebayor, who couldn’t quite get a shot on goal. Bale was looking dangerous, swinging in good crosses consistently. After 10 minutes, Ekotto sent a great ball across the field to Lennon who got to the bye-line then chipped his cross for Adebayor, who should have headed home, but glanced his effort wide across the goal.

After a short corner, and a half-cleared cross, Kaboul had a shot deflected and put out for a corner, taken by Van der Vaart, and clipped from the edge of the box by Bale. Adebayor scored a great goal with a deft bicycle kick in front of the Park Lane stand. It was his first goal since September 18th, when he scored twice against Liverpool.

A poor ball by Van der Vaart led to a Villa intervention and attack. However, Van der Vaart and Adebayor chased back with gusto to battle back for the ball. A superb intervention by that man Parker gave Bale a run, making a bee-line towards the Villa area, where there may have been a handball, but referee Mark Halsey waved play-on. Mr Halsey was determined to let play flow, and if at times that was at the cost of one or two decisions, it was good for the game, and good for the spectators in the stadium and at home.

Van der Vaart hit a shot into the side netting after a short corner mid-way through the first half, and soon after he sent a great through ball to Adebayor, who tried the sensational, but sensationally failed! Spurs then showed some lovely play from the back, starting with Friedel’s quick clearance to Ekotto, who sent a great ball down the middle to Adebayor, who in turn fed Van der Vaart, who fired wide. Villa did have another chance after a break, but luckily it fell to Heskey, who from the left side of goal curled his shot well wide of the far post. The break came after an uncharacteristic slip by Parker. Even Van der Vaart was supporting the defence, and he led another counter attack with a ball to Modric, whose superb ball so nearly sent Bale clear. Spurs got a much-deserved second goal five minutes before the break, when Bale crossed low and hard, and there was a mix up between Collins and Given, allowing the ball to reach Adebayor, who simply had to tap in. Herd got a booking after unfairly halting Bale, who had left Cuellar on the floor.

That early second half chance for the visitors came after a good cross by Herd from the right channel, but Bent headed it straight at Friedel. Villa’s contingent of 1700 then saw so little from their own team that they saw fit to regale Harry Redknapp with jibes about his impending court case. Spurs fans responded with “Are you West Ham in disguise?” and “Harry Redknapp’s Blue and White Army”.

Walker and Lennon combined with defenders at close quarters near the corner flag, before Walker sent a good ball to Van der Vaart, whose cross/shot was held by Given at his near post. Modric picked out Adebayor’s run, which beat the offside flag, but Adebayor spurned the chance when he was almost one on one with Given, firing wide. He also had Bale in a good position. Fantastic work by Adebayor and Van der Vaart, led to Spurs regaining possession on the right touchline inside the Spurs half. An attempted ball to send Lennon away just failed though. After a corner taken by Bale, Van der Vaart got a touch and Walker hit a good shot just wide of the mark.

Now Bale was turning up in the middle and he set up Adebayor for a great chance from the left of Given’s goal. Adebayor hit the shot wide across goal, Heskey style.

Villa’s ex-Birmingham manager replaced Cuellar with Bannan, and now Hutton reverted to his full back position, with Bannan on the right side of midfield. It didn’t make any difference, although by now, Spurs played in a more relaxed and perhaps controlling fashion. Scott Parker and Gareth Bale enjoyed some close interplay, before Bale’s effort was comfortably held by Given. Then Bale hit a deep cross beyond the back post, where Lennon was lurking, but could only put the ball out of play.

Van der Vaart was replaced by Jermain Defoe. Modric hit a low hard cross from inside right and Given parried. Defoe tried to score with a back-heel, but was blocked, before Given saved Adebayor’s follow-up attempt. Petrov deservedly saw yellow for a cynical foul on Bale just outside the right side of the area. Spurs’ last effort of note came after Adebayor won a header, and Bale set the ball up for Parker, whose shot passed well wide. Sandro was a late, late replacement for Luka Modric, and will be eager for a decent chance to play, really soon. However, that may be next Wednesday against PAOK, after probably an unchanged team faces West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns on Saturday. Yes, Saturday at 3 o’clock! See you there!

It really is good to be a Spur these days. Sometimes, the quality of our play makes you want to pinch yourself to make sure it is not a dream. We fans need to truly savour these times, whilst hoping for even more blessings to come!

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