Aston Villa 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
HEUNG-MIN SON scored a dramatic stoppage-time winner as Tottenham Hotspur edged out a dogged Aston Villa side in what was a thoroughly entertaining Premier League clash at Villa Park.
With the break behind them, both sides returned to their respective ‘bread ‘n’ butter’ struggles for vastly different riches. For Spurs, the pursuit of a top-four spot, while fourth from bottom would be an acceptable outcome to the campaign for struggling Villa.
Jose Mourinho insisted league positions meant very little: “Look, they’ve come to the Premier League through Wembley, the play-offs, and a few months later they are going back to Wembley for a cup final. I think that’s obviously remarkable,” he explained.
“Are they fighting to stay in the Premier League? Yes, they are, but how many are? I think probably 10 clubs are – the table is a little bit like that.
“They are a good team, they are a difficult team, it’s always difficult at Villa and I’m expecting a Premier League match – and every Premier League match is very difficult, as you know.”
The filthy conditions lead to a scrappy opening to the contest. Anwar El Ghazi’s early dead-ball attempt fizzed over after Serge Aurier had checked Jack Grealish. However, Mourinho’s pre-match prediction of a tough encounter was about to get a whole lot harder.
Toby Alderweireld stuck out a leg, diverting El Ghazi’s troublesome centre beyond Hugo Lloris and into his own net.
Villa already appeared to have Tottenham on the ropes. Grealish sent a curling effort the wrong side of an upright. In response, Lucas Moura and Dele passed up half-chances as the North Londoners continued to struggle for a foothold.
Ben Davies somehow diverted over when Douglas Luiz looked set to double Villa’s advantage following a dash down the left from the busy Grealish. Then Mbwana Samatta nodded over after El Ghazi orchestrated another decent opening.
Villa were opening up Tottenham at will. But completely out of the blue, it was the Lilywhites who were next to strike. This time Alderweireld made up for his earlier error, rifling high into the net after the West Midlanders had failed to clear a corner.
Dele fluffed his lines after cutting in from the right – the England man scuffing an angled attempt horribly wide. Meanwhile, the busy El Ghazi tested Lloris from outside the box as the sides exchanged opportunities.
Villa survived when both Dele and Steven Bergwijn had snapshots rebuffed – the second strike subject to a VAR call for handball. However, another revisited decision minutes later lead to a spot-kick after Bergwijn was adjudged to have been felled by Bjorn Engels.
The home crowd expressed their disapproval – their agony compounded when Son followed up to prod home after Pepe Reina had saved his initial kick.
Frederic Guilbert’s timely intervention denied the pacy Berwijn a third for Spurs immediately after the restart – El Ghazi warming Lloris’s palms as Villa swiftly responded.
But Villa’s persistence was commendable. Engels rose the highest to meet a pin-point flag-kick from Grealish – the home side were back on level terms.
Reina pushed out Son’s low strike, with Berwijn was halted by substitute, Marvelous Nakamba, as Spurs looked to re-establish their advantage. Reina was again called upon to block from Del and then twice from Son as the visitors continued to waste clearcut openings.
Villa continued to slam the door shut on Spurs. The inspired Reina saved from Giovani Lo Celso deep into added time. But with the games final action, Spurs won it. Engels horribly misjudged allowing Son to race clear and neatly beat Reina with a controlled finish.
It was harsh on the Spanish keeper, who had performed brilliantly. Spurs won’t care about that. They move into fifth place with an eagerly anticipated trip to Stamford Bridge to come.
Spurs now turn their attention to the UEFA Champions League, facing RB Leipzig at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Wednesday, February 19 (8pm). The Lilywhites return to Premier League action on Saturday 22 when they take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (12:30pm).
Aston Villa: Pepe Reina, Bjorn Engels, Ezri Konsa, Kortney Hause, Frederic Guilbert, Danny Drinkwater (Marvelous Nakamba 60’), Douglas Luiz, Matt Targett, Anwar El Ghazi (Trézéguet 70’), Mbwana Samatta (Borja Bastón 83’), Jack Grealish (Capt) Subs not used: Neil Taylor, Conor Hourihane, Ojan Nyland (GK), Ahmed El Mohamady
Booked: Frederic Guilbert (foul), Marvelous Nakamba (foul)
Goals: Toby Alderweireld (own-goal) 9’, Bjorn Engels 53’
Tottenham Hotspur: Hugo Lloris (Capt), Serge Aurier, Davinson Sánchez, Toby Alderweireld, Ben Davies, Harry Winks, Eric Dier (Giovani Lo Celso 60’), Lucas Moura, Dele Alli (Gedison Fernandes 83’), Steven Bergwijn, Heung-Min Son Subs not used: Jan Vertonghen, Paulo Gazzaniga (GK), Tanguy Ndombele, Oliver Skipp, Japhet Tanganga
Booked: Harry Winks (foul)
Goals: Toby Alderweireld 27’, Heung-Min Son 45+2’, 90+3’
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistants: Daniel Cook and Stuart Burt
Fourth Official: Anthony Taylor
Reaction to follow…