SUNDAY 26TH NOVEMBER, 2023
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1(1) ASTON VILLA 2(1)
Lo Celso, 22
Referee:- Rob Jones
Assistants:- Tim Wood, Wade Smith
Fourth official:- Tim Robinson
VAR:- Jarred Gillett
Assistant VAR:- James Mainwaring
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Vicario; Pedro Porro, Emerson Royal, Davies, Udogie; Bentancur (sub Hojbjerg, 32), Lo Celso (sub Veliz, 86); Johnson , Kulusevski, Gil (sub Skipp, 71); Son (Capt.)
Subs not used:- Forster, Austin; Dier, Dorrington; Donley
Villa (4-4-2):- Martinez; Konsa, Diego Carlos, Pau Torres, Digne; Cash (sub Bailey, 46), Kamara, Douglas Luiz, McGinn (Capt.) (sub Ramsey, 90+2); Diaby (sub Tielemans, 46), Watkins (sub Duran, 90+2)
(Armband to Martinez)
Subs not used:- Olsen; Moreno, Lenglet, Dendoncker; Iroegbunam
Booked:- Cash (foul on Bentancur), Kamara (foul on Lo Celso), McGinn (foul on Udogie), Watkins (impeding Vicario)
It was all going so well - until Spurs scored.
On a day when we mourned the passing of Terry Venables, fourth-placed Spurs went toe-to-toe with fifth-placed Aston Villa. Despite all our injuries and suspensions, Spurs came out of the blocks rapidly playing clever, quick football. They created excellent chances, hit the woodwork and took a deserved 22nd minute lead, but Villa were never out of the game and came back to beat us and take our fourth place.
Pape Matar Sarr, who had played in all our league games so far, returned injured from international duty and didn't pass the fitness muster. Postecoglou chose to leave Dier on the bench, replacing him with Emerson Royal. With no recognised centre-backs in the side, "Big Ange" played with four full-backs, including Destiny Udogie, who was returning from suspension, and an injury which had kept him from international commitment.
Rodrigo Bentancur made his first start since February and was influential until Matty Cash did for him with a high tackle after half an hour, for which he was shown a yellow card, seen as lenient in many quarters. Bentancur had to be replaced by Hojbjerg. Villa had already got away with a forearm smash on Gil by Diego Carlos.
Postecoglou was only able to name eight substitutes, two of whom were goalkeepers and another two were youngsters. I certainly cannot remember a time when Spurs were so weakened by injuries and suspensions.
The full house began the applause for Venables while Paul Coyte was still introducing the event which was prolonged and heartfelt. Venables was the last man to lead us to FA Cup victory and the man who lifted that cup - Gary Mabbutt – was present to lead the applause. Villa fans joined in too, recognising "El Tel"'s England achievements when almost leading the nation to glory in the 90s. Terry's financial pitfalls were properly cast aside in this moment. I have a famous picture of Venables the sixties Spurs player, as he arrived on the scene of the famous Dave Mackay-Billy Bremner contretemps.
As for the game, Villa must have often been kept wondering about the Spurs formation as Udogie could be found in the number nine position soon after kick-off. Indeed, he had the first chance for Spurs receiving an excellent long ball from Pedro Porro, but sadly skying the opportunity to score. Vicario had already had to shepherd out a dangerous cross by McGinn and Villa keeper Martinez was often to be found in positions outside his area in those opening stages.
More good attacking play led to a chance for Kulusevski, whose shot rebounded off Martinez's right post before Johnson's attempted follow-up was blocked. At the other end Pau Torres headed wide from a Villa free kick. This was not going to be a goalless game!
Kulusevski teed up Gil with a clever pass inside the area. Martinez parried Gil's shot and Pedro Porro's reactive header was over the bar. After clever play by Kulusevski and Johnson, Son skied a shot, but a delayed offside flag was raised in any case. Another offside flag was raised against Spurs after more Kulusevski-Son interplay.
Pedro Porro was onto a great ball by Bentancur, and he tried to tee up Son, but Villa defended that situation. Gil crossed from the left with Son just failing to make headed contact and a corner ensued. After a second Spurs corner, the ball reached Lo Celso, lurking towards the left of the area. He hit a powerfully driven shot which beat Martinez with the aid of a deflection. It was Lo Celso's first Premier League goal since November 2020 against Manchester City!
Villa soon had the ball in the net via Watkins header from a Digne cross, but after a lengthy VAR review the decision was offside. Spurs had had a reprieve, but they would ultimately succumb to a Villa side that is in good form and for whom no less than 8 players have been regular participants.
Spurs seemed to lose momentum with the departure of Bentancur, who may face another period on the sidelines. Kulusevski hit a shot just wide of the far post. Matty Cash, who a couple of years ago did for Matt Doherty what he did today for Bentancur, was now being booed with every touch by the home fans.
Villa weren't getting any softer either with Kamara next into referee Jones' book for chopping down Lo Celso. Next up was skipper McGinn for a foul on Udogie. Son made a solid run from midfield before "scoring", but he had been offside. Son had three "goals" disallowed today.
There were seven minutes of added time, towards the end of which Villa equalised. Gil had put Vicario under pressure with a poor back-pass and after the keeper's clearance and a Spurs foul, Douglas Luiz floated in a free kick from which Pau Torres headed powerfully into the net to the left of Vicario.
Unai Emery took off the yellow-carded Cash at half-time (for Bailey) and also replaced Diaby with Tielemans. After an early Pedro Porro free kick, Lo Celso's shot was deflected wide and after another Spurs corner, Son headed over the target.
Vicario was grateful to pick up Bailey's shot after the ball rebounded off his right post into his hands. The Spurs keeper had managed to push the ball onto his right post in the first place.
Lo Celso led a counter-attack after another Villa attack, but after a cross from the left Johnson was squeezed out at the keeper's right-hand post. Son had a couple of chances blocked or saved. One followed a corner won by Kulusevski. The other followed combination play by Lo Celso and Gil before Son's shot was held. There was probably another offside anyway.
Son "scored" again from a Johnson cross, but the flag was raised, and VAR confirmed the decision. Vicario was caught outside his area after running out to head clear. McGinn tried to lob him from distance, but thankfully the shot passed wide.
It wasn't long though before Villa took the lead. Watkins exchanged with Tielemans and hit a well-placed shot from 20 yards beyond Vicario's right hand.
Pedro Porro received Son's ball from the left and his shot hit the ground before Martinez saved. Vicario raced out to clear from the feet of Watkins as Villa sought to counter again. The Spurs keeper made a great save, diving to his left to push Digne's free kick around the corner.
Martinez was being hailed by his fans as "World's Number One" after he made a double save from Johnson and Hojbjerg. Martinez also held a right-footed shot by Kulusevski.
Vicario was called into action again after an Udogie error in midfield, saving from Kamara. Watkins then just failed near the post after a cross from McGinn. The Spurs crowd urged their team on, but sadly to no avail. Pedro Porro's shot rebounded off the bottom of the post and Son followed-up, but he was (you guessed it) offside.
Another six minutes were added, but Spurs could not get back on terms. Villa had beaten us for a third successive time, and Spurs had now lost three games on the trot. With an unenviable trip to Manchester City next week, things are going to get worse, before they improve. At least we'll have Bissouma back. He'll be needed!
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