Aston Villa (Away)
Premier League

Sunday 26th December 2010

Even though they are lingering down in 15th place, Aston Villa should not be under-estimated, as they have players capable of bringing off big results.

How many will be able to play is yet to be seen, with injury hitting Ashley Young, Stilian Petrov and Fabian Delph ... some of their most creative players.  There are still playmakers available in Stewart Downing and Marc Albrighton among them.  But there is unrest in the camp, with veteran Gooner Robert Pires brought in, while a number of players - Steve Sidwell, Richard Dunne, Emile Heskey, Stephen Warnock, John Carew, Stephen Ireland - have been linked with moves away from the Midlands club.

Some players have been given a new lease of life under Houllier, with former Spur Luke Young and Carlos Cuellar coming back into the side, while a number of youngsters, such as Ciaran Clark, Jonathan Hogg and Barry Bannan have been given opportunities in the first team.  Clark is a central defender who is strong on the ball and dangerous at set pieces, while Bannan is a tricky midfielder and Hogg a more solid worker in the engine room.

But much relies on Downing's wing play now, with Ashley Young out.  His crosses for the head of Heskey or Carew would be main supply line, but with Carew out of favour, Agbonlahor is also being overlooked as Heskey plays a lone role up front and Albrighton supports him with his energetic runs from midfield.  Nathan Delfouneso is a forward who Houllier likes and his direct running can cause problems, so he will have to be shackled to negate that threat.

Other midfielders who might feature are former West Ham United veteran Nigel Reo-Coker and youngster Chris Herd.  Petrov is a big miss, as his contribution is inspirational to the team and Ashley Young's pacy wide runs and crossing is a major factor in Villa doing well. 

The defence is in a bit of disarray, as Richard Dunne has been out of sorts and out of favour, while Stephen Warnock is rumoured to not be favoured by the new manager, leaving James Collins and Carlos Cuellar to form the central defensive partnership.  Another new face is Eric Lichaj and Spurs might chose to play on his recent introduction into the side.  Behind them, at the moment, is Brad Friedel, who normally has a good game against Spurs, but his future is up for consideration as he hits 40.  A sound enough keeper, his height is not always the asset it should be when coming for crosses.

Spurs should be ready to resume their league programme after last week's postponement against Blackpool and with players coming back to fitness, the competition should make them perform to keep their places.  As some Spurs players will be moving out in the January transfer window, it is an important opportunity for others to make Harry take notice of them.

There should be a good atmosphere with this being a late Boxing Day kick off, but Tottenham have to focus on getting the three points with a professional performance to keep in touch at the top during this busy time of league matches over the Christmas and New Year period.  It will be a tight game, but I reckon Spurs could just about nick the points ...

PREDICTION : -    Aston Villa    1      Tottenham Hotspur    2

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.


ASTON VILLA :  -  Ashley Young (out - knee); Steve Sidwell (doubtful - Achilles); Stilian Petrov (doubtful - knee); Fabian Delph (out - knee); Andreas Weimann (out - foot/ankle); - (-); 

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Ledley King (out - groin); Tom Huddlestone (out - ankle); Jamie O'Hara (out - back); Jonathan Woodgate (out - groin); Rafael van der Vaart (hopeful - hamstring); Jermaine Jenas (doubtful - calf); Younes Kaboul (doubtful - hip); William Gallas (out - hamstring); Wilson Palacios (hopeful - thigh); - (-);


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Aston Villa   1    Tottenham Hotspur   2      (Half-time score : 0-1)

Premier League
Venue :  -  Villa Park
Sunday 26th December 2010
Kick Off :  5.30 p.m.
Crowd :   34,911
Referee :  Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire)
Spurs kicked off and played towards the Holte End end in the first half.
Weather :  -  Cold
Teams : - 
Aston Villa :

  1  Friedel

  3  Warnock
24  Cuellar
29  Collins
30  Lichaj

  6  Downing
12  Albrighton 
16  Delph      (  8  Pires 74)
28  Hogg       (19  Petrov 46)

11  Agbonlahor     
18  Heskey (14  Delfouneso 46)

Unused subs: 
21  Clark
20  Reo-Coker
25  Bannan

Tottenham Hotspur :

  1  Gomes      

  2  Hutton       
20  Dawson

32  Assou-Ekotto

  7  Lennon  (  8  Jenas 88)
12  Palacios
14  Modric       (22  Corluka 90+4)
  3  Bale

11  van der Vaart     (15  Crouch 74)

18  Defoe      

Unused subs: 
19  Bassong
21  Kranjcar
  9  Pavlyuchenko

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of
Aston Villa

  Tottenham Hotspur
Scorers : -  
Aston Villa

Albrighton  82

Tottenham Hotspur

van der Vaart  23
van der Vaart  67

Cards : -  
Aston Villa

Hogg  (foul) 35
Delph  (foul) 56  
Agbonlahor (dissent) 88   


Tottenham Hotspur  

Hutton (foul)  79
Modric (foul) 90+3
Gomes ()  90+3    

Defoe (elbow) 27 

Match Report : -  
A game that had almost everything, but in the end it was the three points that Tottenham took back to North London that was the most pleasing thing, especially as they had to play for well over an hour with ten men after the harsh sending off of Jermain Defoe for an alleged elbow on James Collins.

Villa came into the game off the back of their first win in five games and they were hopeful of getting something in this game to relieve the pressure building on new manager Gerard Houllier.  They way they started, it seemed as though that might be a possibility, but the lack of a cutting edge to their attacking is perhaps the underlying reason for the Villains lowly league position, which worsens by the week.  The attacking threat of a once fearsome Emile Heskey, who is now nothing more than a poor battering ram and the potential that remains unfulfilled in Gabriel Agbonlahor means that Villa are reliant on their midfielders to chip in, but when pushed back, they find it difficult to get forward.  The especially disappointing Stewart Downing must now be rueing the fact that he kept turning down Tottenham as a destination when he left Middlesbrough and ended up at Villa Park, where his career is rapidly moving into a siding that will not see him return to the England squad.

Twice within the first two minutes, Villa created openings, with Gomes being brave in coming to block a shot by Albrighton in the first minute, as the midfielder seized on Collins's header forma  free-kick and then Agbonlahor was unmarked ten yards out when he put a header from a cross from Fabian Delph.  The youngster who was at Leeds looked as though he might have a major influence on the game after being out injured for so long.

Luka Modric was usually at the heart at all that was good about Spurs' play and his pass into Lennon in the fourth minute saw Aaron turn the ball on for Defoe to run into the right hand channel and bring Friedel rushing from his goal to get a hand on his shot and the loose ball was hacked away.  Within a couple of minutes, an almost identical replica of the penalty claim against Chelsea was made by Villa.  A ball ran loose away from goal near the dead ball line, with Gomes running after it with Heskey and the Spurs keeper jumped forward to punch the ball away at waist height and the former England forward, in his usual fashion, hit the deck as though he had been hit by David Haye.  Referee Atkinson, who had an disappointing game overall, waved play on and TV replays did show that the goalie had got the ball first and Heskey was doing nothing more than simulating ... for which he didn't get booked.

Gomes had a comfortable shot to make from a weak Downing shot just before Spurs had a goal ruled out unfairly on the quarter hour mark.  A long free-kick from the left from Rafael van der Vaart missed out everyone in the middle, but Alan Hutton was alive to it and volleyed the ball back into the near post area, where Younes Kaboul pounced to hit home a shot similar to the one he scored against Werder Bremen on the Champions League.  However, the eagle-eyed linesman wrongly decided that the ball had wholly crossed the line and gave a goal kick.  Once more, TV replays showed that the ball was still in play when Hutton met it and thus one more strong argument for video replays is made.

The game was quite open and end to end, leaving Spurs to defend a long ball, where Heskey headed on the ball and then held off Dawson, allowing Agbonlahor to run at goal and from just inside the box shoot, but Gomes got down to it and when the ball spun up into the air to the right of the goal, the Villa striker got there first, but Gomes once more dived to his left to push  the ball away as it looked like it might sneak in at the near post.  It was easier for the Brazilian goalie in the 22nd minute, when Albrighton escaped Kaboul, but couldn't find power or accuracy in his shot to beat Gomes and this effort typified Villa's play in making good chances, but failing to make anything of them.

As it turned out, it was a costly miss, with Spurs breaking away and Modric picked out a diagonal pass from the left side of midfield that cut through the Villa midfield and defence to release Alan Hutton on the right wing.  He took the ball on before pulling it back low to the edge of the six yard box, where Rafael van der Vaart ran into take the ball of Defoe's toe and side-foot it into the bottom corner of Brad Friedel's net, leaving the giant American with no chance.  23 minutes in and a clinical finish to a flowing move had put Spurs into the lead, with the return of the Dutchman seeing him return to goal-scoring form.

Unfortunately, the next major talking point was somewhat more controversial.  As a long ball was pumped forward, Jermain Defoe jumped for it, with James Collins behind him coming in for the header.  As they went up, Collins went down holding his head as Defoe's arm was in the air.  Atkinson walked towards the Spurs man and reached for his shorts pocket to pull out the red card and Tottenham were down to ten men with just 28 minutes on the clock.  The loss of the one striker Spurs had started with meant that VDV had to move up front on his own instead of playing just behind Defoe and the rest of the team lined up the same.

Despite falling behind in the number of players, Spurs defended well and even looked as good going forward, as when they were at full strength.  Kaboul hit a free-kick that Friedel couldn't hold onto and then Spurs broke out with van der Vaart and Wilson Palacios linking to run through the Villa defence and the Honduran got to the edge of the box when he let go a shot that Friedel touched round the post, but once more the officials were not sharp enough to see it.  Things might have changed in the 39th minute when Heskey limped out of the game, much as he had graced it with his limp performance and he was replaced by another young Villa talent, Nathan Delfouneso.  However, while there are a number of young talented players coming through into the Midlands side, seemingly, there is no plan as to how the team shape up and this leaves them without a direction to play to.  The youngster did show a bit of spark in trying a 20 yard curler, but it went over and the rest of the half was played out without much more incident, which was probably just as well, as there was enough in the first half to keep us all talking about at half-time.

One of the bright young Villa stars failed to appear for the second half, with Stilian Petrov coming on to add some experience in the midfield and he steadied the home side's ship, with his neat passing and movement.  He almost opened the half with a goal, as he stole in at the near post to get his head on a cross, then Delfouneso exchanged passes with Agbonlahor to find a shooting opportunity, but he hit it straight at Gomes.  A better chance came when a cross from the right was almost overhead-kicked by Delfouneso, but he mis-timed it and missed the ball, but it ran to the far post and was knocked back in, only to be cleared to Delph on the edge of the box.  The youngster's volley was struck well, but about five yards wide.  That was within the first five minutes of the second half, with nothing much notable happening until 58 minutes in, when Cuellar rose to head Downing's cross well wide, when he really should have tested Gomes.

Delfouneso got a shot in after turning away form Michael Dawson, but the Spurs keeper was there to push the ball wide, before Downing crossed for Cuellar again to get his head on the end of it, but this time he tried to pop it back over Gomes and ended up putting it a long way wide.  When the next Villa attack broke down, the ball came out to Rafael van der Vaart, 25 yards form his own goal.  Facing his own goal, the Dutchman touched the ball to his left, where Bale was breaking out of defence and his pace took him more than half the length of the pitch to the edge of the Villa box, where he passed to the left side of the area to Lennon.  Taking one touch and looking up, Aaron found van der Vaart supporting just inside the penalty box and as the ball rolled into his path, he adjusted his footing to sweep a low left footed shot across Friedel an into the opposite bottom corner to double Tottenham's lead ... even though it wasn't necessarily despite the numerical disadvantage.  it was a fine piece of counter-attacking that left Villa's players shocked by the pace of the move and Rafa once showed a finesse in his finishing to give Spurs a little breathing space.

It took Villa five minutes to get any sort of response with an effort on target, with Agbonlahor headed a cross straight at Gomes, who held onto the ball and Houllier tried to shake things up with the last throw of the dice, as Pires came on as the third Villa sub, but the ex-Gooner's major contribution was a spat with Redknapp on the touchline after he had been fouled.  I still wouldn't have fancied Pires' chances, even though he had 20 years on Harry !!  For the Spurs manager's part, he brought on Peter Crouch for the tiring VDV, who got a great ovation and he stood by the bench, anxiously watching proceedings.

With 15 minutes to go, the Tottenham goal came under pressure and Gabriel Agbonlahor brought a low save from Gomes, as he turned and shot, with the follow-up corner coming in for Gomes to punch out.  However, the ball did not go far and Eric Lichaj was there as the ball dropped, but unaccustomed to finding himself in such an advanced position, he put his volley wide.

Villa got luckier in the 82nd minute, as Albrighton made progress on the left side and swung a cross into the heart of the penalty area.  As Collins went in for it, pulling Kaboul as he went, the ball evaded him and with Gomes covering the potential of a header, the ball slipped past him and into the net at the far post.  It was another soft goal to concede, but it left Villa sniffing the outside chance of a point with only a short time left in the game and only facing ten men.

in the remainder of normal time, Spurs put in a stoic rearguard action to restrict Villa to one shot from Petrov that went way over and Gareth Bale had the opportunity, from a free-kick, to make Friedel scamper across his line to cover his goal and make sure that the ball was always going narrowly wide.

Late in the game, Albrighton, probably the most impressive Villa player out there, slung in a deep cross that fell to the feet of the the American Villa full back, Lichaj, who had been pushed up in an attempt to steal late equaliser and he shot at goal from close range, albeit a narrow angle, and put his effort wide, although he didn't have much of the goal to aim for. 

With Modric getting al ate booking for a foul before he was substituted and Gomes picking up another yellow card for time-wasting, there was little more to worry about from the home team and when Jermaine Jenas, a replacement for Lennon, took the ball forward on a long run, it looked like things might even go further Tottenham's way.  A foul brought that hope to an end, but it used up vital time and took the ball well away from the Spurs goal.

The final whistle saw the players celebrate the three points and perhaps more than that, the new-found confidence and resilience to go away and win, whether the odds are stacked against them or not.  This was a performance that would not have come from a Spurs side a few years back.

With performances like this, another place in the top four is a realistic ambition.

Marc Spillane


Fan Reaction : -



With Defoe sent off, it was embarrassingly simple for Tottenham to pass the ball endless times before the half-time interval and the stat of 60% possession in the first half seemed a little unreal considering it made Villa look like they were the ones with reduced numbers.

With a goal to the good, Spurs showed confidence in taking the game to Villa and while they suffered periods of pressure, the belief that they could get the result with another goal proved true and while Villa huffed and puffed, they had to rely on a cross drifting in to get anything out of the game.  But they didn't get that close to a point and their side lacked imagination and any real threat.

When they did get through, their players looked like rabbits in the headlights, when faced by Gomes.  Lashing shots at goal proved not to be the best tactic and van der Vaart showed that a simple side-foot could be devastatingly effective as he twice used accuracy rather then power to get a result to the build-up work.

Palacios stuck to his task and did very well in the ball-winning department, with Benoit Assou-Ekotto putting in a very good performance at left back, while Younes Kaboul and Michael Dawson won most of the balls in the air today.  Gomes didn't look entirely convincing at times, but his fists came in useful in punching corners out and he dived to keep a few efforts out of his goal.

But among the VDV's and the Bale's, who usually take the plaudits, it was Luka Modric, who darted here, there and everywhere in prompting attacks and breaking up Villa moves, who was my man of the match.  A fantastic performer, who despises the more physical players who try to bully him out of games and gets the taste for running with the ball and bringing others into the play.  His pass that set up Hutton's cross for the first goal was nothing more than superb, as it cut through the home team's midfield and found space allowing Hutton to run onto it in his stride.

All in all, the celebrations of the players at the end indicated a great team spirit and one that has taken the team through the adversity of going a man down and still going on to take the victory.

Euen Oosarmi

It's a bit rich that a linesman is responsible for Jermain Defoe getting sent off, when the same official's eyesight cannot tell if a ball has wholly crossed the dead ball line and could not spot Friedel saving Palacios' shot nor see a flick off a defender when van der Vaart went for goal.

That linesman should surely use the same optician as a certain M. Wenger and my advice is that he change it for a reputable one and get there as soon as they are next open.

Such inadequate decision making would not be tolerate din other walks of life, so why is it in football ?

Benny The Ball




Other scores this Boxing Day and Bank Holiday Monday :
Blackburn Rovers 0 Stoke City 2 Sunday
Blackpool P Liverpool P Sunday
Bolton Wanderers 2 West Bromwich Albion 0 Sunday
Everton P Birmingham City P Sunday
Fulham 1 West Ham United 3 Sunday
Manchester United 2 Sunderland 0 Sunday
Newcastle United 1 Manchester City 3 Sunday
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Wigan Athletic 2 Sunday
Arsenal 3 Chelsea 1 Monday




League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 17 10 7 0 40 18 37 +22
2 Arsenal 18 11 2 5 37 20 35 +17
3 Manchester City 19 10 5 4 28 16 35 +12
4 Chelsea 18 9 4 5 32 15 31 +17
5 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 18 8 6 4 28 24 30 +4
6 Bolton Wanderers 19 7 8 4 32 25 29 +7
7 Sunderland 19 6 9 4 21 20 27 +1
8 Stoke City 18 7 3 8 23 22 24 +1
9 Newcastle United 18 6 4 8 28 29 22 -1
10 Liverpool 17 6 4 7 21 22 22 -1
11 Blackpool 16 6 4 6 24 29 22 -5
12 West Bromwich Albion 18 6 4 8 24 31 22 -7
13 Blackburn Rovers 19 6 4 9 23 30 22 -7
14 Everton 18 4 9 5 20 21 21 -1
15 Aston Villa 18 5 5 8 20 30 20 -10
16 Wigan Athletic 18 4 8 6 15 29 19 -14
17 Birmingham City 17 3 9 5 17 20 18 -3
18 Fulham 18 2 10 6 17 23 16 -6
19 West Ham United 19 3 7 9 19 32 16 -13
20 Wolverhampton Wanderers 18 4 3 11 19 32 15 -13


Position before the match :  5th
Position after the match :  5th
Position after the Boxing Day matches :   5th


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