The Villa Match Report – Aston Villa 2 Spurs 1
In a Word
McGinn: ‘A stocky, bulldozing, midfield force of nature capable of reducing opposing players to rubble.’
The Carter Report
By Rob Carter
As claret & blue streamers cascaded from the Upper Holte End amidst perfect blue skies, the Villa faithful were in celebratory mood before this game had even kicked off. Despite a stumble in the last two games, with narrow defeats at Old Trafford and Molineux, this was a chance to get back into the European mix and end a run of dismal form against Tottenham at Villa Park (eight straight defeats).
Unai Emery made one change to the starting line-up, with Leon Bailey coming in to replace Bertrand Traore. That change paid off within eight minutes, as Bailey danced into the penalty area and delivered a perfect pass for the onrushing Jacob Ramsey to sweep into the net. Tottenham have been slow starters this season and so it proved again. What had already been a superb atmosphere in the ground now kicked up a notch.
With Villa controlling the key midfield battle, the first half settled into a pattern of domination from the home side, albeit with the odd scare. Villa’s high defensive line was providing opportunities for Tottenham to get in behind, which culminated in the first of several farcical situations created by the officials. Harry Kane’s pass through to Son Heung-Min saw the South Korean frontman through on goal, and despite being clearly offside, he was allowed to continue his run, before rounding Emi Martinez and hitting the post. This was to remain a theme for the rest of the afternoon and was met with incredulity from the stands. Surely this rule needs to be looked at in the off-season.
As is Emery’s blueprint, Villa’s threat was mostly coming down the left hand side, with the superb Alex Moreno continually providing the out ball before advancing with menace towards the penalty area. A weak Bailey effort, saved by Fraser Forster, and a clipped Emi Buendia strike which rattled the crossbar showed that this was one-way traffic. Tottenham simply could not get to grips with the pace of the home side’s play
Despite missing a few chances and only being one up at half-time, the mood in the concourse was positive at half-time. If Villa continued to perform as well as they had in the first 45 minutes, surely it was only a matter of time before the second goal arrived.
Despite not registering an attempt on goal in the first half, Tottenham were soon offered a chance as a rare Douglas Luiz mistake allowed Kane through on goal. However, Martinez made a crucial save to deny the England captain, with Villa eventually managing to clear. This served as a wake-up call that this game was not done yet.
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Villa were still dominating the middle of the park, with the magnificent McGinn owning the space. From dumping Kane on his derriere in the first half, to demonstrating his trademark ‘bum into the defender and roll’ move on several occasions, the Scotsman was producing one of his finest displays in a Villa shirt.
A double change from the home side on 68 minutes saw Jhon Duran and Boubakar Kamara replace Emi Buendia and Leon Bailey. Kamara in particular went on to produce an assured cameo, breaking up Tottenham’s play and putting himself in the right place at the right time, as is his way.
On 72 minutes, Villa were awarded a free kick outside the box. The gentleman sat next to me said ‘this is going over the bar,’ before Luiz swept an imperious, curling shot over the wall and into the back of the net, despite Forster’s best efforts in the Tottenham goal. Cue pandemonium and hugging of random strangers once again. The Brazilian has enjoyed a stellar season, convincing Villa fans that it was the right decision by the club to deny Arsenal’s overtures when the North London club tried to sign him.
Kane’s consolation penalty on 90 minutes was a mere fly in the ointment; make no mistake, this was a dominant Villa performance, worthy of a bigger winning margin.
Another ludicrous ‘wait and see’ offside flag moment tested the nerves of the Villa faithful in injury-time, with Son slotting home before being flagged.
The final whistle brought roars of delight and relief as Villa made it six home wins in a row, completing the first league double over the visitors since the 1995/96 season. Emery has delighted in ending several unwanted Villa records this season, and he had done so again.
With Villa now level on points with Tottenham and ahead of Brighton (despite the south coast team now having three games in hand), an exciting end to the season awaits.
Value rating: £35 (out of £35).