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Spurs v Aston Villa, 15.04.2000

FA CARLING PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 15TH APRIL, 2000
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (1) ASTON VILLA 4 (0)

Spurs scorers:-
Iversen, 15
Armstrong, 47

Villa scorers:-
Dublin 61 (pen), 68
Carbone, 69
Wright, 73

Referee:- Rob Harris

Attendance:- 35, 304

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Walker; Carr, Perry, Campbell, Taricco; Anderton, Freund, Clemence, Ginola; Armstrong, Iversen

Subs not used:- Baardsen; Scales, Young; Korsten, Etherington

Booked:- Anderton, Campbell, Taricco, Perry

Aston Villa (3-5-2):- James; Samuel, Ehiogu, Barry; Watson (sub Delaney, 46, sub Bewers, 90), Thompson, Merson, Boateng, Wright; Carbone, Dublin

Subs not used:- Enckelman(GK); Ghrayib, Walker

Booked:- Thompson, Boateng, Samuel

After 58 minutes, Spurs were two goals up, and seemingly in control of this entertaining game. George Graham must have been listening smugly in his hospital bed. However, The game was dramatically turned on its head when referee Rob Harris (no stranger to controversy of course, after his post Tranmere suspension), having at first given a goal kick, then gave a penalty against Spurs for a handball following a corner, after consulting his linesman. Personally, I don't dispute the penalty decision, as a close range shot seemed to be saved by a diving defender (possibly Clemence?). Spurs lost their composure, and there was a chaotic three minutes whilst the decision was contested. Dublin converted after 61 minutes, and Villa then scored three cracking goals in the next twelve minutes to seal the points. ( I do mean seal, and not steal!).

There were early forays by both sides, as Ginola hit his first shot wide of the goal, but it was Villa who had the best of the attacks, with Dion Dublin back to his best form, after a somewhat miraculous recovery from what could have been a life threatening neck injury. Merson and Carbone played supporting roles, and it was Merson's shot which was just outside Walker's left post, after Dublin headed on a Wright cross. Carbone was soon causing havoc, as he got within close range of the goal, but when the ball was crossed by Boateng, Spurs were relieved by an offside decision.

After the initial scares, Spurs seemed to get a grip on the game, and took the lead after a quarter of an hour. Freund won a free kick which was taken quickly and reached Ginola on the left. He ran the ball to the bye line near the corner flag, and from his pinpoint cross, Iversen rose to head home from close range. Ginola's game was pretty balanced today, as he released quickly on occasions, but inevitably went on several solo runs. Some of his passes went badly astray, but Spurs did not suffer through those lapses. Thompson was carded for a late tackle on Ginola, and James struggled to hold Anderton's curling free kick. Anderton was one of three central midfielders, leaving most of the right side attacking to Stephen Carr, and giving Ginola a free role behind the strikers. Ultimately I would have to say that Anderton and Freund under-achieved of all the Spurs side, as the central midfield lacked the necessary edge in strength and creativity.

Spurs then played some good one touch football, which culminated in a Taricco pass for Armstrong, who shot into James' arms. Armstrong had a superb chance to score when he collected a wonderful long clearance from Carr, only to dolly his one-on-one chance into James' arms again. After a period of domination, Spurs had some defending to do, and Walker did well to hold a deflected Thompson shot. The game fizzled out before half time, and the only other piece of excitement to report is another Armstrong overhead kick which landed on the bar after Ginola, then Clemence flicked on an Anderton corner.

Villa were slow making a substitution after the interval, but they did have eleven men on the field before Chris Armstrong increased the lead. Iversen battled well in the middle before Perry (I think) sent a long ball over the defence, and Armstrong this time managed to chip over James, run round him, and stretch to slide the ball over the line for an excellent solo goal. An Anderton cross field ball found Ginola, who cut in, and sent a low skidding shot across the goal, which James collected at a stretch, just inside his post.

Then followed that fifteen minutes of madness:-

58:- Taricco gets booked for protesting about a corner, which followed the officials' failure to give a throw-in when Villa put the ball out of play. Merson takes the corner, which results in a close range shot apparently saved by a Spurs defender in front of the visitors stand. The Villa fans bay for a penalty, but referee Harris gives a goal kick. Then he is attracted to his linesman, and eventually convinced to give a penalty, although he does not book the miscreant. Clemence seemed to lead the protests, and looked most worried about the question of remaining on the pitch, so I surmise he was the offender. MOTD pictures will make the situation clear!

61:- After much delay, Dublin coolly sends Walker the wrong way, and races into the net to collect the ball. Soon after this the officials seemed to miss another clear throw-in decision, and Walker was forced to save a shot which followed another Merson cross.

68:- Carbone crosses from the right, and Dublin spectacularly beats Walker with a bicycle kick at the back of the defence, when perhaps Stephen Carr should have covered the situation better.

69:- Suddenly, Villa have the lead, as Dublin returns the compliment for Carbone, as he heads down a long ball, for the little Italian to send a dipping shot into the top corner of the goal to Walker's left. This is the one goal that I would attribute some blame to Walker, as he seemed rooted to the spot, and surely could have moved towards the ball.

73:- Diminutive Alan Wright gets in on the act, as Dublin heads down for him to send a first time cracker high into the net from at least 25 yards. Delaney had been the provider from the right this time.

The Spurs crowd demanded a goal decision after James struggled to hold another Ginola shot. The ball trickled very close to the line, but I think the goalkeeper just prevented it from going over. Spurs tried to get back into the game,as Armstrong ran across the edge of the box, and Clemence chipped a ball, which James just tipped over the bar.

Some people around me were getting very angry about events on the pitch, and TAG led a 100 strong protest outside the main entrance after the game. Personally, with nothing riding on the game, I felt that Villa had a purple patch similar to that we had against Southampton several years ago which was almost impossible to defend against, and the quality of their goals was excellent. Stewart Houston made no substitutions, which could lead to two conclusions:- a) He was satisfied with the efforts of those on the pitch, or b) the substitutes were no better than those playing.

Yes, of course Spurs season has faded into nothingness, but let me finish with two points to put things into perspective:-

1) The game kicked off at 3.06 p.m after a one minutes silence (well observed) in memory of the Hillsborough disaster on Saturday 15th April, 1989.

2) John Gregory, the Aston Villa manager will run the London Marathon tomorrow in aid of Alzheimer's Disease. This is a cause close to my heart as my father sadly was a sufferer. I make no apology for asking you to support this cause by sending any donations to John Gregory, c/o Villa Park.

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