A cautious Aston Villa came to White Hart Lane determined to avoid defeat and in holding out for a nil-nil draw they achieved their goal. This is a result that Liverpool will be most pleased about of all the clubs chasing fourth place.
Spurs were the better team for the majority of this game but yet again we came up against some Horatio at the bridge of Rome type defending and a goalie taken over by the spirit of Lev Yashin for the afternoon. Why don’t we ever seem to get a keeper who fumbles or chucks things in their own net? Where is Almunia when you need him?
King, Palacios and Modric all came back into the team to replace Bassong, Jenas and Kranjcar. Gudjohnsen, Walker and Kaboul all made the bench and were given warm welcoming applause when their names were read out. All will have to wait for another day to make their debut though as Harry, for the second match running, stuck with his starting line-up for the whole 90 minutes. Maybe some of the flack thrown at him after the substitutions at St Andrew’s last weekend has gotten to him? Unlikely.
Spurs were on the front foot from the word go with chances and half chances falling regularly during the first quarter of the game. The best of them came to Ledley who put a free header from a corner straight at Friedel. Villa had barely been allowed out their own half but had a piece of good fortune after 22 minutes when Heskey limped off to be replaced by Carew. They now had an outlet who was capable of receiving the ball without falling over and Ledley (who was skipper by the way) and Dawson had a proper physical handful to deal with as Carew chucked himself around, most of the time with approval of ref Chris Foy. The game was more even but apart from a double save from Milner and Agbonlahor, Gomes had nothing to do. At the other end however Friedel was tested often most notably by a thunderbolt Huddlestone drive and when Crouch was poked through by Defoe. Crouch and Modric failed to get proper contact on efforts in the penalty area and just before half time Friedel saved from King again and from the rebound Defoe, from a tight angle, scooped over an empty net.
The second half started with Villa still getting their fair share of possession. They seemed intent on not losing shape however rather than attempting to break us down. Young and Downing swapped wings continually to little effect while Carew continued to barge around in the middle. For the last quarter though it was back to the Alamo efforts we witnessed against Stoke, Wolves and Hull as we piled forward, ultimately with no reward. Huddlestone, Crouch, Bentley, Defoe, Modric and Dawson all had efforts on goal blocked, deflected or saved by Friedel. What looked from the stands like an absolute stonewall penalty wasn’t given when Defoe was upended from behind by Petrov. O’Neill withdrew Downing near the end to be replaced by Sidwell so you knew where his priorities lay.
An entertaining game in a good atmosphere, as most of these 5:30 kick-offs are. Villa only took the small allocation in the corner but were well supported even if it was in a pub sing-along type way.Â The frustrated taunts of “boring boring Villa” rang round the ground at the end and their defensive attitude was disappointing given the speed and quality they have but there you go. Palacios, Modric, Bentley and Bale all tried to trick their way through and any number of balls to Crouch were knocked on and down but none were taken full advantage of. The encouraging thing is how well we played against one of the better teams around and how dominant were against them. We had 28 shots according to the BBC website. The team were applauded off which says much about how the crowd appreciated their efforts.
We’re fifth now and if Villa and Man City win their games in hand we’re seventh.Â One defeat in nine league games since we lost to Wolves in December is decent form, but that includes four draws which is why our league place is suffering. A run of wins is what we need, the return game against Wolves on Wednesday is a good place to start.
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