Aston Villa 0-2 Tottenham Post Match Review

From the moment that Andros Townsend’s cross ended up in the back of the Aston Villa net, there was a sense of inevitability that the day was going to work out well for Tottenham Hotspur and English football’s new kid on the block.

Apart from a brief period in the second half, when Christian Benteke’s introduction roused a subdued Aston Villa side, Spurs looked comfortable and thoroughly deserved the victory that was sealed when Roberto Soldado scored his first league goal for the club from open play.

By that stage Townsend was growing in confidence, tormenting the Villa defence with those penetrative, pacy runs down the right flank that were such a breath of fresh air at Wembley during England’s victories over Montenegro and Poland. He came close to adding a second goal of the afternoon in the 75th minute, but a vicious drive from the edge of the area skimmed the roof of the net. Five minutes later Paulinho was agonisingly close to touching in Townsend’s cross after more fine play on the flank.

It was another exciting performance from the 22-year-old, in particular in the final 30 minutes, when he looked like a player performing at the top of his game and imbued with the belief that he could make something happen every time he touched the ball.

These are early days, of course, but there are shades of Arjen Robben about Townsend when he sprints with the ball at speed and drops his shoulder before coming inside and shifting it on to his left foot. He did that time and again against the Spaniard Antonio Luna, the Villa left-back, who coped well initially but must have been sick of the sight of Townsend come the final whistle.

For Spurs, this result was the perfect riposte to the hugely disappointing 3-0 home defeat against West Ham United a fortnight ago and ensures the league table looks much more satisfactory. A fourth consecutive away win – Tottenham’s third here in the space of 10 months – lifts André Villas-Boas’s side up to fifth place and within three points of Arsenal, the Premier League leaders.

Although Paul Lambert, the Villa manager, was entitled to believe that the complexion of the game would have changed had Benteke not squandered a glorious headed chance three minutes after coming on as a substitute in the second half, there was always a feeling that Spurs, for whom Christian Eriksen remained on the bench throughout, had the ability to go through the gears if the need arose.

Townsend’s display, which got better and better as the game went on, provided a case in point. It has not been a bad 10 days for the winger, despite the fact that there has been a fair bit of controversy – through no fault of his own – thrown into the mix. Even here, his opening Premier League goal for Spurs was overshadowed by a potentially dangerous incident off the field.

As Townsend celebrated, a flare thrown from a Spurs supporter stationed on the other side of the pitch in the Doug Ellis stand, struck David Bryan, the assistant referee, on the back of the neck. Several Spurs players, led by the captain Michael Dawson, together with the referee, Phil Dowd, went over to Bryan to check that the official was able to continue.

It was an unsavoury moment in a soporific first half that only came to life through Townsend’s fortuitous goal. With Villa’s defence standing off, Townsend checked inside and whipped a left-foot inswinging cross that eluded both Soldado and Lewis Holtby and skipped beyond Brad Guzan and into the Villa net.

Playing with more conviction, Spurs had a couple of chances to double their lead before half-time as Gylfi Sigurdsson headed a Jan Vertonghen cross wide and Townsend, drilling left-footed from the edge of the penalty area, was denied by Guzan.

Villa were poor in the opening 45 minutes – Andreas Weimann’s effort that skimmed the side-netting was about as much as they could muster – and although Benteke engendered an improvement, Lambert was being a little generous when he said that there was not much to choose between the two teams by the end. Spurs looked much more accomplished, enjoyed 63% of possession and made 220 more passes than a Villa side that struggled until Benteke replaced the ineffective Libor Kozak.

That substitution, met with huge cheers from the Villa supporters, looked like paying off in the 64th minute when Leandro Bacuna escaped in space on the right flank and delivered an inviting cross that picked out the Belgium international. Completely unmarked and only six yards out, it seemed there would be only one outcome. Yet Benteke, returning from a hip injury that has sidelined him for four weeks, headed powerfully over the bar. Lambert was unable to conceal his disappointment on the touchline and the Villa manager’s frustration would soon deepen.

After some tenacious pressing from Soldado deep inside the Villa half, the ball broke for Holtby, who picked out Paulinho. A lovely cushioned first-time pass from the Brazilian released Soldado, who nudged the ball out of his feet with his first touch and swept it past Guzan with his second. Restored to the starting lineup in place of Jermain Defoe, Soldado dispatched the chance with the confidence of a man who never had any doubt that he would score. For Villa, there was no way back.

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