Up until the 78th minute this was a comfortable Spurs performance. The home side hardly had to break stride to go two goals clear of a Villa team in limbo.
Then Tottenham’s players switched off to gift the visitors possession and a sloppy goal. For ten minutes it was panic stations, until first Lamela helped calm down the game by holding onto possession in the Villa half, then Kane stepped up to put the game to bed.
I’ve been waiting for this match up since the drab 1-0 loss at the tail end of last season, one of the more depressing visits I’ve made to White Hart Lane. No Tim Sherwood but still the chance for some revenge.
The game started with a surprise. A goal for Dembele, again given the number ten role. The big Belgian used all his undoubted skill and strength to roll Ciaran Clark, then uncharacteristically made straight for goal and slotted the ball through the keeper’s legs. It was very impressive skill from Dembele but poor defending from Villa.
The rest of the first half was pretty comfortable for Spurs without them really extending themselves. We had to wait until the 45th minute for the second goal that our domination deserved. The ball flicked off Lescott’s head and dropped to Alli at the edge of the area. The young midfielder showed admirable calmness and deft skill to control the ball with one touch, then half volley a low shot into the corner of the net.
Dier and Alli had another great game in the middle as Spurs dominated possession, ending up with 62%. Villa’s pass percentage was as low as 67%, a testament to the pressure they were being put under. Alli was awarded man-of-the-match but Dier was almost as impressive, if more understated.
Kane toiled away up front with little joy. The Villa plan was to keep tight to him and crowd him out but he still had some nice touches and hold up play. Besides, now he is the focus of opposition defences, it opens up spaces for the likes of Eriksen and Lamela.
At half time on Sky, Gary Neville pointed out rather unkindly that Villa forward Agbonlahor had only had 8 touches all half, and two of those had been taking the kick off after Spurs’ goals. It wasn’t therefore a great surprise to see him not reappear after the break.
And so the second half continued until a lack of concentration let Villa in. Mason, a substitute for the tiring Dembele, gave away possession near his own goal. The defence were slow to close the dangerous Ayew down and his hopeful shot deflected into the Tottenham goal. What followed was ten minutes of panic.
Villa’s big chance came to Gestede. I for one had been glad to see him on the bench at the start of the match. Since the arrival of Alderweireld, last season’s problems against fast runners and balls in behind have largely been solved. If the defence has an achilles heal, it lies more in the air.
Lloris came for a cross when he shouldn’t have and Gestede, with the goal at his mercy, headed wide.
The crowd and players breathed a sigh of relief.
Now Spurs were kicking away possession whenever they got it, inviting pressure. It needed somebody to put their foot on the ball and calm things down. Lamela, who had a very good game both with and without the ball, was the man to do it. He kept possession down in the Villa half, first winning a corner, then a throw in, breaking Villa’s momentum.
Then came the knockout punch. Villa were caught with numbers downfield as time expired. A fantastic break saw Eriksen feed Lamela, who had the vision to square the ball to Kane. The England forward had time and space for the first time in the game, rifling his shot into the top corner.
Game over. A good start to a vital week.
Was this a deserved Spurs win? Which players stood out for you? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.