BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 6TH MAY, 2012
ASTON VILLA 1 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)
Adebayor, 62 (pen)
Referee:- Mr. Lee Probert
Assistants:- Mr. C. Breakspear & Mr. M. McDonough
Fourth official:- Mr. M. Dean
Aston Villa (4-3-2-1):- Given; Hutton (sub Collins, 53), Dunne (Capt.), Cuellar, Lichaj; Herd, Clark, Warnock; N’Zogbia, Ireland; Heskey (sub Weimann, 51)(sub Delfouneso, 70)
Subs not used:- Guzan; Bannah, Gardner, Carruthers
Booked:- Dunne (foul on Sandro, conceding penalty)
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Friedel; Walker, Gallas (Capt.), Kaboul, Rose; Lennon, Sandro, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (sub Parker, 89); Adebayor
Subs not used:- Cudicini; Nelsen; Livermore, Giovani; Saha, Defoe
Booked:- Kaboul (foul on Heskey), Sandro (foul on Herd)
Sent off :- Rose (49) – serious foul play, challenge on Hutton
10-man Spurs come back against defensive Villa
We arrived at Villa Park in an optimistic frame of mind, after Arsenal had surrendered a point yesterday at home to Norwich. All Spurs had to do was to win against struggling Aston Villa, and they would be in control of third place, and their destiny on the last day of the season next week. That optimism was heightened by the news that Villa would be led by 34 year old Emile Heskey, alone up front. Heskey has managed just one Premier League goal in 17 starts all season. We knew that Darren Bent was injured, but Villa’s next highest scorer, Agbonlahor, was also missing, along with midfielder Marc Albrighton.
Villa are a team low on resources, and low on morale. Two of their three mis-behaving players started today, as expected. The level of their sanction had to be pragmatic, as Alex McLeish desperately needed something out of this game. We knew that they would be likely to play a defensive game, and so it proved. Although their shape was a 4-3-2-1, N’Zogbia and Ireland were needed to support the defence more than they did Heskey. Spurs started with an unchanged team, and the only change to the bench was Scott Parker replacing Ledley King. The game was there for the taking, wasn’t it?
It didn’t work out that way, and in some respects, what could go wrong for Spurs went wrong. Firstly midfielder Ciaran Clark (actually really a defender, but along with Warnock, he was put in front of the back four) scored his first league goal of the season, but that was only thanks to a deflection off the top of William Gallas’s head that beat Brad Friedel. Then, early in the second half, Spurs lost left back Danny Rose, getting a straight red for a dangerous tackle upon former team-mate Alan Hutton, who then had to retire hurt, along with Heskey. Gareth Bale retreated to left back, and Spurs needed to make a come-back against a team that was more and more on the back foot. That they succeeded, after skipper Richard Dunne brought down Sandro on the edge of the box, when Adebayor converted from the spot, is to their credit, but despite territorial advantage, and attacking desire, Spurs did not test Shay Given nearly enough over the 97 minutes. A first half save from Gareth Bale is the best effort I can recall.
Despite their predicament; their history; and their alleged massive support, Villa could not sell out their ground, which holds 42,500+, with 36,000 actually making the effort. That figure includes the 3000 Spurs fans present, of course.
Adebayor had the first chance on goal, after the ball was fed from the right, and he got good strength on his shot from the right side of goal, with his right foot. However, he was wide of the mark past Given’s right-hand post. Kyle Walker was making two or three defensive errors, and I began to wonder if playing with a broken toe would affect his form. After one such pass, Heskey broke into the Spurs box, but Kaboul put in a clean and effective tackle. Spurs’ next decent attack came from the left side and the ball was passed across to the right via Modric, giving Walker a chance, which he fired over.
Kaboul got an early yellow card for another challenge upon Heskey after only 17 minutes.
After 19 minutes, the whole ground showed their support for Villa Club Captain Stiliyan Petrov, who was recently diagnosed with acute leukaemia. The applause was prolonged.
Walker started a good attacking move for Spurs after 24 minutes, and the ball was fed by Modric to Danny Rose, advancing down the left wing. His ball inside reached Bale, who had a shot blocked, before Walker himself hit a right foot shot just over the bar. Four minutes later, Bale broke out of his own half, and made a good run, feeding Van der Vaart who was left of centre. Van der Vaart passed to Adebayor, who was offside. Lennon got to the bye-line on the right a minute later, passing back to Rafa van der Vaart, whose chip to Bale was headed wide.
Spurs were putting Villa under considerable pressure, winning corners, but not getting close enough to scoring. They paid a penalty in the 35th minute, out of the blue, when Clark’s shot was deflected over Brad Friedel. The Villa TV commentator called it a “deserved lead” at half-time, but of course that was through claret and blue tinted glasses. Bale’s shot two minutes after the goal came courtesy of a good cross by Kyle Walker, but given was sharp to save at the foot of his right-hand post. After a short corner on 42 minutes, by Modric and Lennon, Van der Vaart had a shot pass wide.
In the first minute after the break, Bale got down the line on the left, but hit his cross just a little too far in front of Adebayor. Then came the drama of Danny Rose being sent off, and the need for Spurs to adjust, with Bale having to play a more withdrawn role. To be fair, the remaining Spurs lads gave it their all, but they were faced with a ten-man defence, which occasionally would threaten Friedel on the break, but rarely cause any danger.
Adebayor had a great chance in front of goal after 54 minutes, but his effort was neither a shot or a pass, and had no strength whatsoever. Lennon passed inside to Adebayor, who touched the ball back for Sandro, hitting a good shot, which got a slight touch by Given to win a corner. After the corner, Sandro was actually being chased away from goal on the edge of the box, when he was tripped by Dunne (who I suspect has conceded a disproportionate number of penalties in his career). Referee Probert pointed to the spot, and Adebayor gladly fired home convincingly to the left of Given.
Villa then had to substitute a substitute, with Delfouneso replacing Weimann, and later when N’Zogbia was struggling, I thought that Villa would also be reduced to 10 men. That didn’t happen though, but the story of the remainder of the game was mostly one of Spurs piling on the pressure, despite the manpower deficiency, but without forcing Given to make any hard saves. Twice Aaron Lennon got into shooting positions, but both times, his shot lacked power.
Villa had a corner after 75 minutes, which seemed to rebound onto Dunne’s head off a Spurs defender. The ball passed wide. From another Lennon cross, Adebayor made a half-hearted attempt at an overhead kick, then Bale and Van der Vaart combined before a shot passed wide. Adebayor got away from the defence after 81 minutes, and Bale managed to get in front of him for a pass, hitting a shot which Given held.
Scott Parker replaced Van der Vaart in the last minute of normal time, but we all knew there would be considerable added time (it turned into 7 minutes), and most of us would have liked to have seen another striker, namely Defoe. Maybe Harry Redknapp was happy to hold onto the point though, because with Newcastle losing, we have held onto fourth place, and do still have a chance of overhauling Arsenal if they slip up at West Brom next week. We do have to beat Martin Jol’s Fulham of course!
As for Villa, the point today has virtually assured them of Premier League football next season, but the Villa fans are not happy with McLeish, and they wait to see if Randy Lerner & Co will react to what has been a very poor season.
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