Football

Van the man sinks Villa in thriller: Match Review

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Tottenham's talismanic midfielder Rafael van der Vaart ensured that manager Harry Redknapp maintained his hoodoo over Aston Villa with a 2-1 win.

Despite a 27th-minute straight red card for Jermain Defoe, the Dutch midfielder scored either side of that to take his tally to double figures for the season, with Spurs unbeaten in each of the eight games in which he has scored.

Although Marc Albrighton pulled one back eight minutes from time, it was not enough to spare the home side, with Redknapp unbeaten in his last 10 Barclays Premier League games as a manager against Villa.

From the opening minute, the suggestion was that this was going to be an entertaining affair, as has often been the case between these two teams of late, and so it proved.

After just 50 seconds, Heurelho Gomes produced the first of a number of fine saves to deny Villa, initially from Albrighton who was then quick to pounce on the rebound, only for Gareth Bale to bravely block.

After Gabriel Agbonlahor had nodded a free header wide a minute later, there was perhaps the sense it was not going to be Villa's night.

That view was strengthened when Villa appealed for a penalty in the ninth minute when Emile Heskey was felled by Gomes, but it was such a tight call it was no wonder referee Martin Atkinson was unmoved.

It was a challenge that left Heskey needing treatment and ultimately led to his withdrawal six minutes from the break.

Earlier, Heskey and Agbonlahor had spread play from one wing to the other where Stewart Downing strode forward, cut inside and unleashed a low drive that was picked up by Gomes.

Then it was Heskey who played a delightful one-two with Agbonlahor, the latter eventually unleashing a stinging drive that bounced off a diving Gomes' knee. The ball looped up for Agbonlahor to nod goalwards, but again Gomes was on hand to push the ball around the post.

In between, a strike from Younes Kaboul was ruled out by an assistant referee as he deemed a pull back from Alan Hutton had crossed the deadball line, although replays suggested otherwise.

In the 23rd minute, however, Tottenham's frustration was forgotten as a sweeping move cut Villa apart, sparked by a raking cross-field ball from Bale into the path of Hutton down the right wing.

James Collins, serving as Villa's fifth captain of the season with Ashley Young out with a knee injury, failed to cut out the right-back's low centre and Van der Vaart was in behind the centre-back to fire home from 10 yards.

The visitors' joy was shortlived because just four minutes later they were contentiously down to 10 men for an elbow from Defoe in the face of Collins.

It appeared to be harsh because although Defoe led with his arm in jumping for a high delivery, his eyes were focused on the ball at the time.

It left Spurs facing the final 63 minutes a man short, and for the first 18 of those through to half-time they were rarely troubled.

They could have doubled their lead prior to the interval as Van der Vaart teed up Wilson Palacios for a 20-yard effort which Brad Friedel tipped into the sidenetting.

Apart from an early second-half strike from Heskey's replacement, Nathan Delfouneso, which stung the fingers of Gomes, Spurs easily held out until breaking with devastating effect in the 67th minute.

That was sparked by an 80-yard run down the right from Bale, who found Aaron Lennon in space on the left. The winger played a simple pass into Van der Vaart's path for a first-time left-foot shot beyond Friedel.

After Gomes had produced his save of the game from Agbonlahor nine minutes later, an 82nd-minute cross from Albrighton floated past the Spurs goalkeeper, who was arguably distracted by a diving Collins in front of him.

There was no late reprieve for Villa and manager Gerard Houllier, though, who departed the field to a chorus of boos from the home fans.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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Topics:
Tottenham Hotspur
Football
Premier League
Aston Villa

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