The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium acted as the host to a game with immense European implications, between Tottenham and Aston Villa. Both sides are undergoing an exciting revolution led by two world-class managers, and the mood pre-match was high in both camps.
TOT: Vicario; Udogie, Davies, Emerson, Porro; Lo Celso, Bentancur; Gil, Kulusevski, Johnson; Son
AVL: Martìnez; Digne, Torres, Carlos, Konsa; McGinn, Luiz, Kamara, Cash; Watkins, Diaby
Intense, frantic and highly entertaining – the game certainly began at a furious tempo. The atmosphere was vibrant, and the players matched the passion produced by those in the stands. Only three minutes into the match, the first clear opportunity fell Tottenham’s way. Pedro Porro received the ball on the right-hand side and lifted a perfectly weighted pass over the high defensive line of Aston Villa. He found a surging Destiny Udogie bursting through the middle, but the left-back could not keep his shot down, and the ball sailed over the bar.
Seconds later, Tottenham created an incredible opportunity to take the lead once again. Their high press helped them rob the possession away from Aston Villa, and Heung-Min Son played a delicate pass to Dejan Kulusevski in behind the visitors’ defence. The Swede showed an abundance of composure to beat his defender, however his shot struck the upright, and Aston Villa managed to scramble the ball clear.
While still in the first five minutes of the game, a third dangerous opportunity was generated, as Aston Villa almost punished Spurs for wasting their early chances. A beautifully curled free kick from the left side of the pitch found Pau Torres unmarked in the Tottenham box. Unchallenged, it looked to be a definite goal – his header missed the target, however.
After a plethora of close calls and 20 minutes of domination, the home side finally managed to break the deadlock. An out-swinging corner was missed by those in the middle, but it eventually found Giovanni Lo Celso on the edge of the box. He stepped up to the ball and struck it cleanly towards the Villa goal. The box was still a crowded scene from the recent corner, and the ball flicked Diego Carlos’ thigh and flew past a helpless Emi Martinez.Embed from Getty Images
The home fans erupted in elation, almost unable to process that their depleted squad was able to take the lead against such tough opposition. However, the Villa players seemed to cut their celebrations short. Another inch-perfect cross from Lucas Digne was whipped into the Spurs penalty area, finding Ollie Watkins, who headed the ball into the corner. The euphoria was sapped from the home supporters, but after a lengthy VAR check, the forward was deemed offside, and the goal was disallowed.
Emery’s men had to withstand a period of sustained Tottenham pressure, but they were rewarded for their resilience deep into additional time. In a similar scenario to his earlier chance, Pau Torres was found from a textbook free-kick delivery, this time from the right-hand side. The Spaniard made up for his earlier mistake by heading the ball powerfully into the corner of Vicario’s goal, meaning the first half finished level.
Heading into the second half, the action remained relentless, and the intensity just as extreme. Tottenham dominated the possession early on, but it was Aston Villa who complied the more menacing attacks. A devastating counterattack resulted in Bailey receiving the ball out wide. He cut inside, breezing past his defender, and struck a shot towards the far corner. Unconvincingly, Vicario managed to save the shot, parrying the ball onto his post before claiming the fortunate rebound.
Less than ten minutes later, however, Vicario and Tottenham’s luck ran out, as the Villans took the lead for the first time in the match. A period of gentle possession was ignited by Watkins, and a quick one-two with Youri Tielemans gave him a shooting opportunity. The England international wrapped the ball across the goal into the corner, sending the nearby corner of away supporters into delirium.Embed from Getty Images
The goal put an emphasis point on an impressive, gritty away performance from Aston Villa. Watkins had given them something to defend, and the whole team gave everything to do so. A pivotal pair of acrobatic saves from Emi Martinez denied Brennan Johnson and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg in quick succession, and a raised flag of the assistant denied a Son equaliser.
Ange Postecoglou and Tottenham threw everything they had at the Villa backline, but the injury-stricken hosts were unable to prevent their third defeat in a row. While there is still no reason to worry for the Tottenham supporters, the upcoming period will be crucial in determining their final standings.
On the other hand, Unai Emery and Aston Villa will be ecstatic with the result, as the three points they won take them above their opponents and into fourth. Their improvements have been exponential, and the possibility of UEFA Champions League football is growing stronger as each week passes.