What was supposed to be a grand celebration of the 125 years of
Tottenham Hotspur history nearly ended in disaster, but in true Spurs
style, they grabbed something by giving most of the fans a nerve-racking
time. A 4-4 draw gave Spurs the label of entertainers, but perhaps
a dourer approach might be more successful, but that would not be
Tottenham. A point against Villa ended up feeling more like a
victory and heralded a second half turnaround that was most unlike
With Villa making changes to bring stronger
players into the side after their League Cup defeat by Leicester City.
Spurs had to replace the injured Jenas with Zokora and Defoe made way
The tone of the game was set in the first
move. Spurs knocked the ball about at the back and a short ball to
Chimbonda saw Agbonlahor touch the ball out, only for referee Dean to
give the visitors the throw. It was an obvious mistake and his
performance did not assist the flow of the game in my opinion. His
insistence in being in the thick of things saw him getting in the way
when players were trying to play and then he let Laursen pull his arm
back as one of his colleagues was getting booked ... something that John
Terry is facing a FA charge for.
Despite the lack of advantage played by
the ref, both teams played some good football, but both exhibited awful
defending under pressure. Teemu Tainio hit an early shot that
caught a Villa player that took the ball wide for a corner and a couple
of minutes later Berbatov dragged a shot outside the post when
well-placed. Two Aston Villa players received early bookings, with
Reo-Coker and Gardner seeing Dean raise the yellow card for wild tackles
on Tottenham players who burst past them.
The first Spurs shot on target came in
the 16th minute when Huddlestone unleashed a daisy-cutter that lacked
power, but Scott Carson needed to grab the bounce off his arms as the
ball might have spun back past him. The Spurs keeper was then
called upon to save well as he threw a timely hand up to beat out Ashley
Young's drive as he cut in from the left wing. Berbatov did better
with his next effort in the 19th minute, when he found room on the edge
of the area and hit a good shot, but straight at the Villa goalie.
When Spurs earned a corner, Chimbonda rose to head down and Carson
knocked the ball away with a man behind him on the post. However,
from the next corner, Dimitar Berbatov replicated the full-back's
header, but he was unchallenged and his header went away from the Villa
players and hit the net.
The lead only lasted a couple of minutes, as
a routine catch should have see Robinson hold the ball as he was under
no pressure. What actually happened was the England keeper dropped
it at the feet of Martin Laursen, who put the ball past him to equalise.
Kaboul denied Agbonlahor and Laursen's
face stopped a Lennon drive, but both defences stood firm (for a change)
as the half hour approached and then suddenly Spurs were behind to a
fortuitous Villans goal. Villa were given a cheap 33rd minute
free-kick by the ref and as Barry back-pedalled away from the edge of
the penalty area, no Spurs player picked him up, leaving him time to
pick out a cross, which was missed in the middle, but Zat Knight headed
it goalwards, only succeeding in putting it back into the six yard box
where it struck the unknowing Laursen on the chest and ricocheted past
Robinson, going through his legs on the way in. Although some
blame Robbo for the goal, there was little he could do in reality, as
the Villa defender did not know where it was going and he was so close
to the goal-line, it would have taken lightning reflexes to keep it out.
The birthday party was starting to go
from bad to worse and when Dawson and Agbonlahor were each pulling each
others shirts, the Villa youngster managed to get a yard and a half
between him and the Spurs central defender, which gave him enough space
to shift the ball and hit a shot across Robinson and into the net to
make it 1-3. Tottenham looked shell-shocked and played out the
remaining five minutes of the half unconvincingly.
The break saw the team booed off the
pitch and with Martin Jol left with the unenviable task of talking the
team into a comeback after they had given Villa the impetus to take the
Whatever he said, it didn't work straight
away. Young's free-kick was heading for the bottom corner until
Robinson dived to palm the ball away at the foot of his post.
Kaboul went on a strong forward run and found the ball at his feet, but
he rushed his shot and it flew well over the top. It was the
signal for Jol to bring on Defoe for the tiring Tainio and drop Keane
back into the hole behind the two strikers. Jermain's desire to
score saw him drag a shot wide, but when Villa broke away, Kaboul took
Agbonlahor down from behind and another free-kick was given. From
it, it looked as though Barry would curl it left-footed over the wall,
but instead Gardner crashed the ball through the wall and past Robbo to
make it 1-4 and lots of fans of little faith left the terraces and made
As far as they were concerned, their
night was over. with just an hour gone. But with a party, it
sometimes pays to stay until the end, because you never know what might
An indication of Tottenham's luck came in
the 62nd minute, as Berba slid a neat pass through the middle of the
defence and Defoe struck his shot early, only for Carson to stick out a
leg and the ball looped up and went wide. How many times have
Tottenham's defenders blocked efforts that then sail over Robinson's
Villa were feeling confident enough in
their lead to bring on a straight swap of Harewood for Luke Moore.
The lumbering ex-West Ham man might have seemed a good option to throw
on, as he has a physical presence which might have upset the Spurs
defence. there was only one thing Martin O'Neill forgot and that
was Harewood is crap. Conversely, Jermain Defoe is not.
Bale's low cross into the box from the left was smacked first time
against the near post and again, luck deserted Spurs, as it came out
into the penalty area. But Pascal Chimbonda was lurking at the far
post and slid a precision shot in between the post and the covering
defender to make it 2-4. it looked like a consolation, as the
players trudged back to their own half.
But it seemed to spur Tottenham forward
with Huddlestone drilling in a shot from 25 yards which Gardner threw a
block at and Darren Bent replaced Dimitar Berbatov to add a more direct
approach to the Bulgarian, while Villa looked to keep going forward, as
Stilian Petrov came on for Gardner.
The subs did not change the flow of the
game, with Tottenham pressing forward. Defoe fired a typically
short back-lift shot that went a yard wide with Carson looking anxiously
after it and the keeper was nowhere as Bale's cross sailed over his head
and Darren Bent could not force the ball in at the far post.
Harewood showed his large bulk can be useful, when Robinson had to
hurriedly kick out Keane's short back-pass and the Villa sub got in the
way and the ball bounced back towards goal, but luckily for Tottenham
(for a change) ballooned over the bar.
The lumbering forward's next involvement
saw him in his own penalty area, when he knocked Bent over near the edge
of the penalty box, with no real danger of him scoring from his position
and with his back to goal. 82 minutes on the clock and a
stuttering run for Robbie Keane sent Carson the wrong way and Spurs were
back to 3-4. Obviously Carson feared the comeback, as he kicked
the ball high into the East Stand and got a booking for his trouble.
White Hart Lane is not really a good ground for him, as he let five in
for Chalrton last time at the Lane.
Spurs were playing tight down the middle
and this deprived Aaron Lennon of possession and also made it difficult
for the type of passes Tainio, Zokora and Huddlestone were trying to
play to the forwards. As the three minutes of time to be played
for stoppages started, you felt it might have been a heroic failure by
Spurs, but two shouts for handball against Laursen were waved away by
the ref, while the linesman was better placed to see, but failed to give
Robbie Keane hit a dropping ball on the
volley and it spun off a defender for a corner. Robinson has come
up for a previous corner, but this time, Dawson and Kaboul headed the
ball around in the area before it fell kindly for substitute Steed
Malbranque. His low drilled effort hit Jermain Defoe and it looked
like that was that for Tottenham.
Younes Kaboul reacted the quickest and
the ball left his foot and rocketed into the roof of the net. Cue
jubilant scenes like we had won the league. Kaboul stripped his
shirt off and ran to the bench to celebrate, as the rest of the squad
Flags waved, those people who stayed
jumped up and down and the cheers rang around the stadium, while the
previously gloating Villa fans shrank like salted snails back to
Birmingham with the chants of "4-1 and you mucked it up" ringing in
The reason it might be significant is
that the team revealed some fighting spirit, which had previously been
dormant. Cutting out the individual mistakes to gift goals to the
opposition and with the players taking responsibility for their own
performances, which are controlling Jol's future, things might turn
around, although we have a tough run of Premiership games coming up.
This was a well-earned draw in the end, although it was all a bit
All this for a point against Aston Villa