After the previous week's high scoring match, this was always going to
be a tighter affair, with Villa out to prove that they can match
Tottenham's ambitions for a fourth place finish and so it was to be
confirmed, with the points shared after each team taking one half of the
game apiece too.
With a sloppy
performance in the first half, Tottenham were punished in a way they
weren't last week. Some loose control and under-weight passing had
already seen Tottenham struggle to hold onto the ball before a set-piece
brought Villa a home goal. A high percentage of the Midlands
club's goals have come from corners or free-kicks, with Young's pacy
delivery into the near post seeing Cuellar get to the ball first and his
header was blocked by Benny Assou-Ekotto's chest on the goal-line.
The ball bounced off into the six yard box and while Wilson Palacios and
Michael Dawson tried to hold off Gabriel Agbonlahor, the Villa striker
was strong-arming his way between them to get the vital touch that
bundled the ball over the goal-line to give the home side a 10th minute
Even before that though, despite Spurs'
lackadaisical passing, they went close in the fourth minute, as the ball
was laid back into Kranjcar's path by BAE and the Croatian struck a
fierce shot as a tackle came in and the force of his drive knocked
Friedel off balance, as the keeper tipped it over the bar.
Following their goal, the quick ball wide seemed designed to earn corner
after corner, with Crouch and Huddlestone being the prime headers away
of the ball.
But a 20th minute free-kick almost
brought Tottenham back into the match. Huddlestone's effort
bounced into the penalty area off the wall and Jermaine Defoe missed a
good connection on the volley, but the ball came off Friedel to Michael
Dawson, whose first time shot was slid off the line by Carlos Cuellar.
Then seven minutes after, a patient spell of passing saw Tom Huddlestone
shoot, but a deflection off Reo-Coker made the Villa keeper hurry back
to tip the effort over the top before a minute later and following some
more good possession on the right, Palacios played a ball in for Jermain
to strike on the turn but his volley flew inches over the top.
Kranjcar fired goal-wards from distance
after his free-kick came back to him off the wall, but Friedel was right
behind it and Dawson tried to loop in a header from a corner, but once
more the Villa goalie saved comfortably. So, although it wasn't
the greatest half by Spurs, they still had more clearer chances than the
home team, but did not look that likely to score.
The rain started falling in the second
half and as the raindrops fell, so did the ball to Tottenham feet.
The second period saw Spurs dominate possession and create most of the
meaningful chances. Just three minutes in, Kranjcar played a hard
pass up to Crouch, who flicked the ball back through his legs in the air
for Kranjcar to smash a shot towards the right hand side of the goal,
until Friedel flung himself full-length to push the ball wide.
While Villa did get forward in the second
45, their crosses flew across goal with nobody on the end of them and at
the back, they were desperately throwing themselves in the way of shots
to prevent Tottenham getting back in the match.
In the 66th minute, some good inter-play
opened up a shooting opportunity for Niko Kranjcar again and Richard
Dunne got just enough on it to take it wide for a corner, which was
played in and Sebastien Bassong tried an overhead kick, which went too
high. With 18 minutes left, the ball was engineered through to Hud
in the box. He took a touch, turned and side-footed a shot to
Friedel's left and he saved, but as the rebound was headed away by
substitute Sidwell, Defoe ran in charged the ball down and slotted home.
However, referee Phil Dowd saw it was Defoe's arm that brought the ball
down and disallowed the goal.
But still Tottenham poured forward and
the Villa closing down, which had been so effective in the first half,
ebbed away with the waves of rain that lashed Villa Park. With
Carew taken off and Heskey brought on to try to keep the ball at the
Tottenham end, Spurs equalised within a minute. A corner was
knocked on at the near post by Crouch and Defoe got on the end of it
only to see Dunne stop his shot on the line. Play continued and
Benoit played the ball back in, with Dunne clearing, but it only went as
far as captain Michael Dawson, who chested the ball down and rifled it
into the top of the net past Friedel's despairing dive. It was a
fine finish and one not usually associated with Daws, but it was a goal
that had been coming and one which sparked a late charge for all three
With Keane on for Kranjcar, Aaron Lennon
was getting into the game more and with just four minutes remaining, he
ghosted past Luke Young on the right wing and played in a cross low to
the waiting Defoe. Like last week, the striker got their first,
but a challenge by Beye did just enough to deny him another goal.
Into added time, all the good work
Tottenham had done was nearly wiped away, as a cross from the left by
Ashley Young was flicked on by Heskey and the ball headed towards the
far top corner, with Gomes not looking like he would get it, but the
ball went six inches over the bar and Tottenham drew a breath of relief.
Play switched straight to the other end and Jermain Defoe found some
space to turn away from his marker and crack a low drive that went
inches wide of Freidel's left hand post.
The final whistle signalled an end to the
game and a soggy 22 players trooped off knowing that they had kept up
their challenge at the top, but ruing the fact that three points would
have given one of them a major step up. With the way Tottenham
played in the second half, it is a marked improvement in the way the
team had operated away from the Lane, so gives a lot of hope for future
points being collected in away games against lesser sides than Villa.