An amble for the first 81 minutes and a nailbiter for the next 13.
It’s obvious why Poch would want to give Ryan Mason a run out but what happened after he replaced Moussa Dembélé and took his place alongside Eric Dier in front of the back four whilst Dele Alli moved forward to help out Kane should give the coach much pause for thought.
Post the substitution we managed to nearly turn an unspectacular but comfortable win into something far less tolerable. Aston Villa, having previously looked about as enthused as Wayne Rooney at a salad bar suddenly took control of midfield and, encouraged by the gallows ramblings of their fans, they came to life. They were restricted to pot shots but firstly hit a post and then scored after Mason gave the ball away and Ayew’s long range effort deflected off Vertonghen. Hugo misjudged a hopeful cross that Gestede got to first but that was the last scare and at the death Kane finished smartly to complete a fine flowing team move featuring Rose, Onomah, Eriksen and Lamela.
In the first half we didn’t play with any great rapidity or zest but Villa were bad enough that we sleepwalked into a 2-0 lead. After 2 minutes Dembélé shrugged off Ciaran Clark and was met with no other challenge before he rammed a shot through Guzan’s legs from close range. In injury time Alli kept his composure to force the ball home low and hard after a Rose cross was only half cleared. Rose could have scored himself before then and was the source of much of our best attacking momentum through the game. He looked hurt enough when he came off that we should worry about his availability for Sunday.
Others who played well include the excellent Dier and Walker and also Dembélé and the centre halves, which gives you an idea of where the strength of this performance lay. Lamela was his normal limited and patchy self however his work in taking the sting out of the game in the last few minutes shouldn’t be forgotten nor his unselfish pass for Harry’s goal. In what was quite a brave move at that point in the proceedings Josh Onomah was brought on for his debut by Pochettino during the last few minutes; he carried and moved the ball nicely – there was a huge amount of space available by then of course. Big things are expected by many of him, at least he’s not the midget so many of our youngsters appear to be when they first come through.
We had no bookings, which is a relief with both Alli and Lamela on four yellows.
So with the first proper NLD of the due on Sunday we find ourselves in okay but not perfect shape. We’re set up more to make things difficult for Woolwich than threaten them. Much will depend on the back four and Dier and the ability of Kane and Eriksen to shoot accurately when presented with opportunities. Am looking forward to it already. COYS.
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