SUNDAY 21ST MARCH, 2021
ASTON VILLA 0(0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2(1)
Kane, 68 (pen)
Referee:- Mike Dean
Assistants:- Darren Cann, Mark Scholes
Fourth official:- Robert Jones
VAR:- Simon Hooper
Assistant VAR:- Derek Eaton.
Villa (4-3-3):- Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings (Capt.), Targett; Sanson (sub Barkley, 66), Douglas Luiz, McGinn; Traore (sub El Ghazi, 60), Watkins, Trezeguet (sub Davis, 79)
Subs not used:- Heaton; Taylor, Engels, El Mohamady; Nakamba, Ramsey
Booked:- Cash (foul on Lucas Moura), McGinn (Dissent), Targett (Dissent after foul on Lucas Moura)
Spurs (4-4-2):- Lloris (Capt.); Tanganga, Sanchez, Rodon, Reguilon (sub Davies, 57); Lo Celso (sub Bergwijn, 66), Hojbjerg, Ndombele (sub Sissoko, 81), Lucas Moura; Kane, Vinicius
Subs not used:- Hart; Dier; Dele, Bale; Devine, Scarlett
Booked:- Lo Celso (Encroaching at free kick), Vinicius (foul on Douglas Luiz)
Spurs’ effort reaps its reward
It wasn't often pretty, but Spurs reaped the reward of 100% effort tonight, beating Aston Villa away for the seventh consecutive time (including one League Cup tie). Harry Kane scored his fourth goal in those games, which was his seventeenth league goal of the season, taking him to level top of the Premier League list. That's familiar ground for Harry, but more importantly this was a vital and very necessary win for Tottenham Hotspur.
The win, after two consecutive defeats and diabolical performances, took Spurs up to sixth place, one point behind West Ham and three points off the top four. As had been strongly rumoured Villa were again without talisman Jack Grealish, and clearly they missed him. For all their first half high pressing and possession they didn’t have a shot on target until the second half, and that was their only one.
Hours before the game, it had also been indicated that Jose Mourinho would be making some radical changes. It turned out that both Toby Alderweireld and Serge Aurier were ill (not Covid-related), so they were not being punished over Thursday night’s performance. Toby hadn’t got off the bench in Zagreb anyway. It would seem though that Matt Doherty and Harry Winks were victims of what would seem to have been a mini-purge as neither of them made the bench.
Japhet Tanganga performed competently at right back, and made at least one vital defensive clearance. Davinson Sanchez was done for pace a couple of times, but overall, he also performed well. Beside him was Joe Rodon, mysteriously absent even from the squad for weeks. This was Rodon’s first appearance since the disaster at Brighton at the end of January. Jose’s midfield was perhaps a little hard to divine formation-wise. Hojbjerg and Ndombele were in front of the defence, whilst Lo Celso and Lucas Moura were nominally on the right and left flanks respectively. It was Lo Celso’s first league start since December 20th. Gio had one or two good moments, but didn’t seem to settle in his position. Lucas Moura on the other hand was full of running, and created Vinicius’s first Premier League goal. Lucas won the Sky man of the match award. Spurs were missing the suspended Lamela and the injured Heung-min Son.
The reason Villa were able to press high for a lot of the first half was a lack of confidence shown by Spurs, passing sideways and backwards predictably for too much of the time. Villa often had five or six players in our half, but they didn’t have any end result. Spurs reversed that trend in the second half and managed their own high press at times, gradually taking full control of the game.
Villa kicked off and played towards The Holte End. Spurs might have turned them round from their traditional direction of play at the toss. Harry Kane tried a shot from 20 yards after 5 minutes, but this was blocked. Kane’s next move was to try and tee upon Vinicius with a long pass from the left to the right of the area, but Villa defended this situation. Kane sent Lucas Moura forward from the half-way line and Lucas passed out to Reguilon on the left whose cross was cleared.
After 17 minutes, Spurs were struggling to clear their lines and just about managed to clear a diagonal ball by Traore. The defence was generally not convincing at this stage of the game, and with low confidence levels were hardly getting into the Villa half. They did break out though and scored a goal against the run of play. Martinez raced out to the edge of his area to challenge the advance of Vinicius. The goalkeeper’s clearance was poor and Lucas battled for and won the ball just inside the Villa half, racing forward. He exchanged passes with Kane whose return was to Lucas towards the left of the area. Lucas crossed low and Both Lo Celso and Vinicius were close in. It was “Vinny” who scored his first premier League goal in only his second such start.
Cash got past three Spurs defenders at the other end but his cross was cleared. Villa had a free kick after a foul by Sanchez on Trezeguet. Targett took the kick and Lucas Moura headed the ball clear over the bar for a corner. Lo Celso and Lucas then led a Spurs attack, again from just inside the Villa half. Lucas fed the ball to Reguilon, whose cross reached Vinicius, but his shot was blocked. Spurs had another corner, taken by Lo Celso, but Harry Kane could not get strength upon his header. After another corner, Ndombele improvised a shot from just outside the area, and this landed on the back of the net.
Spurs started the second half with clear attacking intent. Lucas was fouled and Reguilon’s free kick came to nought. In a subsequent move, Reguilon was fouled but had already hit the ball to Lucas who then teed up Harry Kane, whose shot was deflected by Tyrone Mings to win a corner. Lo Celso took the corner but this was held by Martinez. Reguilon never truly recovered from the injury he had sustained in that challenge, but it was a while before he was replaced by Ben Davies.
There was a bit of pressure in the Spurs area after Hugo failed to hold a cross by Targett. The Spurs goalkeeper, who had been frank in his criticism of the team on Thursday, was then fouled by Watkins who was trying to reach a return ball. After 51 minutes, Lucas was to the left of the box and hit a cross intended for Kane, but Mings cleared well.
After a cross by Sanson, who had got to the bye-line to the left, Trezeguet’s shot was well blocked by Rodon. Hugo Lloris held a follow-up shot by McGinn which was Villa’s one and only shot on target. Sanchez defended well against Sanson and managed to clear, but this was not a good pass and substitute El Ghazi hit a shot into the back of the side netting to Hugo’s right. This was always going wide.
Tanganga made a good clearing header following a Villa free kick by Targett. Lo Celso was replaced by Bergwijn, who took over on the left, with Lucas moving to a more central position. Ndombele passed the ball and Lucas continued the move feeding it to Harry Kane who got deep into the left side of the area where he was rashly challenged by Cash. The ball was running out of play, but still in play and Mr. Dean’s decision to give a penalty was supported by VAR. Harry made no mistake from the spot hitting a powerful right-footed shot to the right of Martinez, who went the wrong way anyway. It was Kane’s fourth penalty in Premier League games this season.
Villa tried, but failed to close the gap. McGinn passed to Trezeguet whose left foot shot passed wide of Hugo’s right post. Spurs now pressed high again. Bergwijn passed to his right and Hojbjerg, although nearly falling, managed to recover and hit shot which Martinez saved, but could not hold. The ball fell to Vinicius, but he could not get a shot. Davies was getting forward as much as Reguilon and combining with Bergwijn. Davies hit a close-range low cross which went for aa corner off Konsa.
Villa substitute Davis got away from Sanchez and crossed for another sub – Ross Barkley – but Tanganga blocked his shot with strength and confidence. Bergwijn made a good run from halfway all the way to the Villa box, but then the attack fizzled out as he failed to either shoot, or get a pass to Kane, who was available.
Spurs “managed” the remaining time with Lloris holding a Watkins cross. Our next game in two weeks’ time is away to struggling Newcastle.
As a footnote I thought I would mention that Mike Dean has now refereed us 73 times. His first game was on 21st October, 2000. I found two instances of Mr. Dean refereeing Spurs on 21st March. These were in 2009, when we beat Chelsea at home, and 2015 when we beat Leicester 4-3, when Harry Kane scored his first Premier league hat-trick. Despite his refereeing longevity, I doubt that we will see Mr. Dean in 6 years time on this date!
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