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Aston Villa v Spurs, 29.12.99


Villa scorer:-
Taylor, 74

Spurs scorer:-
Sherwood, 44

Referee:- Graham Barber

Attendance:- 39,217

Aston Villa (3-5-2):- James; Ehiogu, Southgate, Barry; Watson, Taylor, Boateng, Merson, Wright ( sub, Stone, 73); Carbone ( sub Vassell, 65), Joachim

Subs not used:- Cutler(GK); Calderwood; Draper

Booked:- Taylor (81)

Spurs (4-4-2):- Walker; Carr, Perry, Campbell, Taricco; Nielsen ( sub Young, 84), Clemence, Sherwood, Ginola; Armstrong, Iversen

Subs not used:- Baardsen; Vega; Gower; Dominguez

Booked:- Iversen(81)

A bumper holiday crowd ( Villa's equal highest of the season) saw Tim Sherwood score a cracking 30 yard goal just before half time to take the lead against the run of play. Spurs held out with some magnificent defending until Taylor's equaliser 15 minutes from time, but until then, it looked as if the visitors would snatch all three points.

Spurs could so easily have been two down before they scored, and it was only thanks to a magnificent save from Walker, and a superb clearance in front of goal by Carr, that they were not trying to come from behind. In my view, both Carr and Perry were marvellous tonight. On the odd occasion that one of them did make a mistake, or get beaten, the other was on hand to sweep up. Whilst Sol Campbell was powerful as ever for most of the game, it was surprising how often little Julian Joachim got the better of the big man.

Spurs fans will be pleased to hear that Ginola played the whole 93 minutes, and George Graham described the Watford game as his best performance of the season, and this match as his best away effort, including some tracking back.

Spurs were on the back foot for much of the game, and will envy the movement, pace, and passing ability displayed by the likes of Merson ( Yes, I know), Taylor, Barry, and Boateng. These players found Watson, Wright, Joachim, and Carbone with consistency, and whilst the home side clearly miss Dion Dublin, the team showed potency tonight.

Watson and Wright were finding a lot of space on the flanks, and Taricco in particular was under some pressure. An early pass from Watson to Wright was sent to the middle for Joachim to have his shot tipped over by Walker, the busiest of the keepers by a country mile. Joachim got a second shot soon after, with no challenge in the middle, but he was well over the target this time. On the quarter hour, he flew into the box beating Taricco, his shot was parried by Walker, and Carr cleared Taylor's shot in front of the goal, to the great delight, not to say relief of the visiting fans!

Carbone, who used to hog the limelight at Hillsborough, had a lower profile here, but he hit a good long shot into Walker's hands after 25 minutes, at which stage Spurs had not made a real threat on James' goal. Merson was allowed space after 37 minutes, finding Wright on the left, whose pass was fired over from long range by the impressive Barry. Two minutes later, Ginola conceded a free kick about 25 yards out; Merson lofted the ball over the defence; Taylor headed back, and Walker dived low to his right to save Joachim's header, and for Carr to perform the final mopping up routine.

Then, one minute before half time,came the Spurs goal. Iversen came deep to pick up the ball from Taricco. He carried the ball into the opponents' half, passed to Armstrong, who fed Ginola. Ginola's cross field pass reached Sherwood in acres of space, and the Spurs midfielder had time to line up, and crack home his best goal of the season, being his seventh league goal, and ninth of the season, in all, from fully 30 yards.

Villa continued to dominate possession early in the second half, without causing real pain, and Iversen had a chance to increase the lead, when he collected a long ball, turned and shot into James' arms. Merson, on the run, rounded Perry for once, but his shot was laughably weak and off target. The atmosphere was hotting up, and the Holte End was having a telling effect upon the game. With such a full house, this ground can be as intimidating as any in the Premiership for a visiting team, and Spurs did well to hold out for as long as they did.

There was some exciting end to end football, with few stoppages, and a left wing cross from Ginola was headed low by Iversen to force James' most difficult save of the night. Southgate went on a solo run, and his shot forced a dive to the left by Walker, to turn the ball round for a corner. Carbone was replaced by the pacy Vassell, who combined well with Barry to give Joachim a flicked chance on goal, which went wide. Merson got away from Sol Campbell, but again went high and wide with his effort.

Spurs lost their concentration as Wright was replaced by Steve Stone, and within a minute, Merson's ball into the 6 yard box was slotted home by Ian Taylor, leaving Sherwood in his wake, and to the delight of the home fans.

Spurs tried to respond with attack, as Ginola picked up a long Sol Campbell clearance, making a good piercing pass for Iversen to shoot just wide, with Sherwood following up. Taylor and Iversen became the only entries in referee Barber's book, as Taylor clung on to Iversen unfairly, and Iversen responded too keenly.

Luke Young replaced the ineffective Nielsen ( who in my opinion was the source of most dissipating Spurs attacks), and Joachim had two more efforts on goal before the final whistle. One was a header from a Stone cross, an the other was a close range effort following a Barry cross, to force yet another fine save from Walker.

Spurs end the Millennium in sixth place, but there is a six point gap between them and Liverpool in fifth. Next Monday will see a chance to close that gap in what should be another entertaining fixture.

In wishing all readers a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year, I would like to mention that I hope to present a succinct review of the 1999 calendar Year for our team over the next few days.

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