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Aston Villa v Spurs, 20.10.13

(4 PM)

Townsend, 31
Soldado, 69

Attendance:- 35,391

Referee:- Mr. P. Dowd
Assistants:- Mr. H. Lennard & Mr. D. Bryan
Fourth official:- Mr. M. Jones

Aston Villa( 4-2-3-1):- Guzan; Bacuna, Vlaar (Capt.), Baker, Luna; El Ahmadi (sub Sylla, 72), Westwood; Weimann, Delph, Agbonlahor (sub Tonev, 79); Kozak (sub Benteke, 61)

Subs not used:- Steer; Lowton; Bowery; Helenius

Booked:- Westwood (foul on Holtby), Agbonlahor (foul on Walker), Delph (foul on Townsend)

Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris; Walker, Dawson (Capt.), Chiriches, Vertonghen; Paulinho, Sandro; Townsend, Holtby (sub Dembele, 73), Sigurdsson (sub Lennon, 66); Soldado (sub Defoe, 87)

Subs not used:- Friedel; Naughton; Eriksen, Lamela

Booked:- Paulinho (foul), Dawson (foul), Walker (time wasted over opposition throw), Lennon (foul on Weimann)

Townsend still shining!

Andros Townsend has had quite a week! To be accurate, one should refer to the last 9 days. First he was clear man of the match for England against Montenegro, and scored on his full International debut. He also played a full and successful part in England’s win over Poland on Tuesday. In a team where Andre Villas-Boas rang four changes, Andros not only kept his place, but is surely a strong contender for man of the match again. To cap it all, Townsend finally scored his first Premier League goal for his club, even though he scored from an intended cross that eluded two attempted scorers, and Brad Guzan in the Villa goal, who had to be alert to prevent Townsend from making it 2-0 before the break.

Those team changes by AVB were to give Vlad Chiriches his first Premier League start, shifting Vertonghen to left back; to play Sandro and Paulinho in tandem in front of the defence (and what a joy that was!); to give Lewis Holtby the nod over Christian Eriksen, and to play Roberto Soldado ahead of Jermain Defoe. Ultimately, all the selections proved correct and successful, with Lewis Holtby playing a big part in Spurs’ second goal, scored by Soldado, who had been so active throughout the game. Chiriches was fast and competent beside Dawson, and once the game opened up after the first goal, Spurs just got better and better, clearly dominating possession and chances over the home side.

Spurs have now won their last four games against Villa 12-0 on aggregate, and 9 of their last 12 games against “The Villans”, being unbeaten in those games.

Villa were hoping that Benteke would make the starting line-up, but had to be satisfied with half an hour as substitute for Kozak. The Villa team was stronger and more resilient than in the recent League Cup game, and the crowd was considerably bigger, although there were still plenty of spaces in a stadium that used to be filled so often.

The game started at a high tempo, with Spurs the first to show, trying to forge a chance with an attack that moved from left to right, through Soldado, Townsend and Walker. None of them quite managed a shot on goal though. Villa then had a half chance after what had appeared to be a handball in our area by Agbonlahor, who lifted his shot well over the target. Referee Phil Dowd was not slow to show his yellow card to players on either side, but he also seemed to let quite a lot of physical stuff go, particularly against Spurs. Villa fans would probably say otherwise.

The game became compacted and quite uneventful for a time. Both teams tried to play the high line. Villa used Agbonlahor on the left, behind Kozak, with Delph supporting from behind and Weimann busy on the right, but well managed by Vertonghen and Chiriches giving support.

Westwood got the first card of the game for a heavy challenge on Holtby. Sandro was winning plenty of challenges, and fairly too! He got Spurs’ next real effort on goal, after a move started by Vertonghen’s cross; Soldado’s pass back to Sigurdsson, and the final ball to the middle. Sandro’s shot was held by Guzan. Villa had a free kick on the left after 20 minutes, and Hugo Lloris was only able to palm the ball away to his left, where it was fielded by the Spurs defence, and cleared.

Sandro was fouled out towards the right after 25 minutes. Holtby took the free kick, and Michael Dawson just failed to make contact with his attempted header. Dawson had been failing with a couple of his long diagonal balls, which had been frustrating. At the other end, the ball fell for Weimann after a rebound off the Spurs defence, but he fired well over.

Spurs took the lead in unforeseen circumstances in the 31st minute. Townsend hit what was intended as a cross from the right, with his left foot. Both Holtby and Soldado tried to reach it with their heads; Paulinho was never going to get close; and the bounce deceived and beat Guzan.

It was after this goal that a smoke flare was thrown from the crowd, and hit the back of Assistant referee David Bryan’s neck. He was able to carry on, and I understand two Spurs fans have been arrested. The strange thing is that the flare seemed to be claret coloured smoke, which made me think it had come from the Villa section. The FA has already said it will have an investigation, and we must hope that no sanctions are imposed upon the club, and its loyal, well-behaved fans.

Sigurdsson had a header go just wide of the near post after Vertonghen’s cross, and then after Paulinho was booked, and Villa had a free kick from their left, Bacuna fired well over the goal. Another Villa low cross from the left passed to the back of the area, where Westwood turned it inside for Weimann to fire wide of Lloris’s left post. In added time, Townsend forced a fine save by Guzan diving low to his right.

Agbonlahor played more centrally at the start of the second half, and the game opened up considerably, because the home side were seeking to get level. However, Spurs started where they left off, and Holtby fed Soldado, who passed outside to Townsend. Townsend cut inside and hit his shot wide. After a Vertonghen throw, Soldado turned the ball into Paulinho’s path, and Guzan made another good save.

After Benteke had replaced Kozac, Villa had space on their right, and Bacuna’s cross was headed over by Benteke. Sigurdsson was replaced by Aaron Lennon, making his first appearance since the first day of the season. Lennon took Sigurdsson’s spot on the left. Most of his work was to track back and help Vertonghen in defence.

Spurs went two up and into the comfort zone with an excellent goal. I think it was Dawson’s ball forward from the Spurs half that Holtby won, controlled and turned towards Soldado, with strength. Soldado also had to be strong to keep the ball, then with a swift move, he created enough space for him to pass the ball backwards to Paulinho; pick up the quick return ball, and slam the ball into the net for his first Premier League goal from open play. Never mind some worries about Soldado’s ability to score. I’ve never doubted it, and he offers so much to the Spurs attacking game.

Spurs were well on top now, and Townsend seemed to gain more and more confidence and ability to run Villa’s left back Luna quite ragged, beating him inside and outside. Dembele replaced Holtby, and played strongly, and it was after a good win by Dembele that Townsend took the ball on, before hitting a good left footed shot not too far over the bar. Tonev, who had played well against us in the Capital One Cup game, replaced Agbonlahor, and featured in a couple of chances for the home side.

Another Dembele ball to Townsend gave the winger another great run down the line. He hit a good cross to the 6 yard box, where Paulinho somehow managed not to head into the back of the net, but simply glanced it wide. Then came Tonev’s two half chances. One was cross/shot that passed the far post from the left side. The other was a shot from a central position, held comfortably by Lloris.

Defoe was a late substitution for Soldado. There was a flurry of yellow cards. One was for Walker who took too long to give the ball back for a Villa throw (he didn’t like the decision anyway). Another was for Fabian Delph’s crunching challenge upon Townsend, and finally Lennon fouled Weimann deep in the Villa half, after Spurs had not been awarded a foul the other way.

Spurs moved back up to fifth place, behind Man City on goal difference, and only one point behind Liverpool and Chelsea. The final accolade must go to Townsend, who in the second half was lauded with “He was born to play for Spurs”! Unlike the previous recipient of that praise, Andros really was born locally, and whilst he is lapping up his current success, he is also keen to keep his feet on the ground. I think maybe he will be rested for Thursday night’s game in Moldova!

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