Saturday, 2 October 2010

Tottenham 2 - 1 Aston Villa

Rafael Van der Vaart scored twice to earn Tottenham a come-from-behind win that ended ended Gerard Houllier's 100% record as Aston Villa manager.
The visitors were rewarded for a strong start when Emile Heskey robbed Sebastien Bassong and squared for Marc Albrighton to slide in and convert.

But Van der Vaart headed in the equaliser just before half-time.
And after a flurry of chances for both sides, the Dutchman smashed in the winner with a shot from 12 yards.
It capped an action-packed week for Van der Vaart, who missed a penalty, scored and was sent off against FC Twente in Spurs' maiden Champions League win in midweek.
He started this match in a subdued mood - as did his team-mates - but once he found his rhythm he produced another performance that makes his £8m switch from Real Madrid look like the deal of the summer.
Yet it had seemed that one of the Premier League's old guard rather than one of its new faces was going to be the key influence at White Hart Lane.
The rejuvenated Heskey led the line brilliantly for Villa until he was forced off in the 35th minute, and it was once his threat was removed that the visitors noticeably lost their way.
But that is not to take anything away from Spurs - and their new Dutch idol - who shook off what was threatening to be a European hangover and secure a win that helped them leapfrog Villa in the table.


After the 4-1 thrashing of Twente in midweek, Spurs resumed their domestic campaign on a high and they made only one change to their
starting line-up with Jermaine Jenas replacing Ledley King. Tom Huddlestone was switched to centre-back and handed the captaincy.
Villa, too, made one defensive change as they brought in Richard Dunne for Carlos Cuellar.
The visitors had managed only one league victory at White Hart Lane in the last decade but buoyed by victories in Houllier's first two matches and facing opponents who had played in midweek they might have felt the time was right to address that record.
And it certainly seemed that way as Villa began at a high pace, utilising Heskey to good effect as they pushed forward.
They were almost caught out, though, when Spurs broke and Luka Modric crossed for Roman Pavlyuchenko, who should have got his header on target.
But Heskey's influence was soon on show again when the striker felt he should have had a penalty after tangling with Alan Hutton.
Then after a spell of crisp passing, Heskey created the opener when he outmuscled Bassong, got to the byeline and rolled the ball across goal for Albrighton to slide in ahead of Hutton and apply the finishing touch for his first senior goal.
Deservedly in front, Villa might have thought they would go on to dominate Spurs who were struggling to fire.
Instead, the goal sparked Spurs into life and with Van der Vaart driving them on, the hosts began to find their fluency.
It was the Dutchman who was the catalyst for a series of chances, first giving warning with a free-kick before Hutton blazed an effort wide and then Pavlyuchenko almost touched in Gareth Bale's cross.
Villa, now without Heskey and finding themselves pushed back, did break and create a good chance when Stewart Downing pulled the ball back for John Carew but the substitute's shot was abysmal.
That proved only a brief break from the Van der Vaart show and he was soon in the the thick of it again when he tested Brad Friedel with a low shot that the keeper spilled and was fortunate to see fizz wide.
And after having another shot deflected narrowly over, Van der Vaart finally got his reward when he headed in at the far post after Crouch had nodded back Pavlyuchenko's cross.
Soon after the break, he almost put Spurs in front but was denied by Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov, who did just enough to prevent the Dutchman tapping in from Crouch's header down.
Yet Villa responded and Carew burst through only to misdirect his cut-back and let Spurs off the hook.
Now it was end-to-end and the next chance fell once again to Van der Vaart - by now pushed forward in support of Crouch - but Dunne's superb block prevented the shot hitting its target.
With the game stretched, Villa surged forward and Ashley Young's cross needed only a touch to produce a goal but Carew and Albrighton were both inches away.
Carew then headed off target from a good cross while at the other end Crouch was unable to accurately direct his header from Huddlestone's knock-on.
Moments later, Aaron Lennon, on at half-time in place of Pavlyuchenko, forced a fine save from Friedel with a low shot before the winger was involved in spurs' winner when his cross was knocked down by Crouch and Van der Vaart took one deft touch before cracking home.
Van der Vaart missed a half-chance to get his hat-trick when he sent a shot high and wide, but on his late substitution he left to a standing ovation and it is unlikely to be the last one he receives.

source: BBC

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