Villa were undone by a recurring move from Tottenham and the defences inability to cope with the aerial threat of Crouch as well as not tracking star man, van der Vaart lead to an eventual, deserved defeat at White Hart Lane. Lack of composure and confidence in front of goal was a main issue for Houllier which he will be looking to resolve and another lead was blown again today with the game ending, Tottenham 2 – Aston Villa 1.
A patient start saw the first action come from a Tottenham corner on 4 minutes after Collins and Friedel showed a lack of communication and the Welshman headed behind.
The resulting set piece was knocked back in to Pavlyuchenko at the back post who should have done better with a free header.
Marc Albrighton slid into keeper Heurelho Gomes after 6 minutes and was a bit too eager and crashed into the Brazilian’s shoulder.
Quick thinking from Luke Young saw his cross find Emile Heskey who claimed for a penalty against Hutton but the striker went down to easily, nothing doing.
A good start from the visitors saw them counter and after Downing claimed for another penalty the ball broke to Warnock on the edge of the box. His shot was travelling wide but was blocked and Tottenham cleared.
Goal for Villa on 16 minutes after fantastic work from Heskey saw him out-muscle Bassong and deliver a sliding pass to the back post for the oncoming Marc Albrighton to tap home. The 20-year-old’s first senior goal.
The home side looked to bounce back and a Pavlyuchenko chance struck the arm of Dunne but a penalty would have been a harsh decision. The ball broke to Hutton who fired into the side netting when he should have scored.
Some tough challenges had gone unnoticed by Mark Clattenburg but the first yellow card came in the 29th minute. Ashley Young looked to break into the box but the referee spotted a deliberate handball from the winger.
The impressive van der Vaart raced into the box but went down far too easily to win the penalty he was looking for.
Villa looked to break but a poor pass from Young held up Heskey and the attack was broken down.
A big moment came on 35 minutes when the rejuvenated Emile Heskey had to come off after being injured in his involvement in the goal. Carew replaces the big man.
Petrov fired well wide from outside the box with his partner in midfield Reo-Coker controlling possession.
Tottenham’s best chance fell to Pavlyuchenko once more who dragged wide from a Gareth Bale cut back.
Carew’s first touch saw him blaze horribly high after a decent cut back from Stewart Downing.
Ashley Young then won a free kick in a great position on the edge of the box but his effort curled wide of Gomes’ left hand post.
The game was picking up pace and a van der Vaart drive was spilt wide by Friedel.
Albrighton then went into the book for a foul on Alan Hutton on 45.
A Carew flick found Young in the box but his shot on the turn went straight to the Tottenham keeper.
Midfielder van der Vaart began to really impose himself on the game and his deflected shot curled just over. The same man then equalised for the hosts on the stroke of half time. The Dutchman headed home a Crouch knock down at the back post with the last action of the half.
A second half of missed opportunities on the break and few attempts on goal was Villa’s undoing. 2 minutes in from the restart John Carew had a golden chance to pick out Downing in acres of space and failed to spot him. This proved an omen of what was to come for the visitors.
Downing then squandered a chance at the back post, tamely striking wide from a Young corner.
The much improved Petrov denied van der Vaart his second goal with a last ditch tackle in the box.
Another wasted opportunity by Carew after good work from the Norwegian wasn’t ended with a good cut back and the ball ran free.
Crouch headed way over from a Bale corner in Tottenham’s first shot on goal in the second half after 56 minutes.
It was then the turn of captain Petrov to squander a chance on the break as he failed to pick out a pass to Albrighton who faded in the second period.
Ricahrd Dunne was warranting his recall at the back with some heroic defending and he made a fantastic tackle to deny van der Vaart once more from a Crouch knock down. A pattern occurring there which Villa failed to deal with.
Tottenham were now putting Villa firmly on the back foot on the hour mark but the away side were keeping them at bay.
Villa then looked to get back into the game through a couple of somewhat ambitious attempts through Reo-Coker and Petrov.
They then carved out a better chance which Carew failed to connect properly with, dragging his shot across goal.
The visitors then came so close to regaining the lead after a wicked cross from Ashley Young marginally evaded the oncoming Carew and Albrighton but also the post.
Carew was beginning to get involved but his finishing was off as he flashed a header wide from Albrighton’s corss.
Former Villa man Crouch then should have scored after heading over from a Tom Huddlestone flick.
Dunne was again to the rescue throwing himself in the way once more, this time from a Lennon shot. The England winger was brought on at the break for Pavlyuchenko and was causing problems.
Carew again dallied on the break and his hesitation resulted in failing to find the run of Young on a 2 on 1 break and also failing to find a shot on 74 minutes.
Villa were punished for their hesitance in front of goal a minute later when van der Vaart once more charged on to a Coruch knock down after a good Lennon cross. The summer signing stepped past Dunne and fired home from close range to give Spurs the lead.
Villa couldn’t react to this blow and Houllier looked to refresh the team bringing on Ireland and youngster, Barry Bannan for Petrov and Albrighton on 81.
Crouch then slipped in the box after Friedel had spilled a Bale drive, the conditions were really affecting the game today on an extremely skiddy surface.
Collins was then booked for a cynical foul on Lennon and could consider himself lucky to escape a red on this occasion.
Man of the match van der Vaart was again in action from the resulting free kick but his effort sailed just over.
With Villa failing to create and out of ideas it was Tottenham who ended the game brighter with a final chance falling to Hutton whose shot was blocked by, you guessed it, Richard Dunne.
A decent first half performance was cancelled out by a poor second half showing with Heskey’s injury proving a turning point. A lack of confidence in front of goal from Carew is evident and the big man seems to be sitting on his ‘favourite’ status a little too often.
Villa Player Ratings
Brad Friedel – 6 – little to do, spilled on occasion in difficult conditions
Luke Young – 6 – dealt with Bale fairly well
James Collins – 5 – failed to deal with Crouch threat and lucky not to be off
Richard Dunne – 8 – influential on return, back to his body-on-the-line best
Stephen Warnock – 6 – quiet, struggled after Lennon introduction
Marc Albrighton – 7 – first Villa goal, great energy early on but again faded 2nd half
Nigel Reo-Coker – 7 – impressed again, tenacious as ever with good ball retention
Stiliyan Petrov – 6 – much better defensively but offers little the other way
Stewart Downing – 6 – not much involvement
Ashley Young – 6 – bright at times but not enough effort
Emile Heskey – 7 – goal was all his making and his injury was a massive blow
John Carew – 6 – worked a few good chances but hesitant and short of confidence
Stephen Ireland – 6 – no time to impress, sits too deep
Barry Bannan – 6 – again no time for the youngster but a good experience nonetheless
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