Tottenham Hostpur 1 – 2 Aston Villa
Aston Villa’s 999th game in the Premier League came at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium, and with home fans in attendance. The Villans haven’t had a lot of luck against Spurs in recent times, with the London side taking all three points in the last five league meetings.
Dean Smith made three changes to the side that lost to Palace. The biggest selection news came as it was confirmed that Jack Grealish would start and make his full return as captain. The previously injured Tyrone Mings came in for Ahmed Elmohamady, with Ezri Konsa shifting to right-back, and Marvelous Nakamba replaced Douglas Luiz. The extra defensive solidity provided by Nakamba and Konsa at right-back against Spurs’ fire power was presumably the reasoning.
After an uneventful opening to the game, a mistake from Nakamba let Steven Bergwijn in. The pacy winger emphatically finished to put Spurs in front, and it seemed as if it would be another rough day for those in claret and blue. However, Villa turned it on after going behind, and with the threat of Grealish, they took the game to the home team.
VAR Kevin Friend did his best to spoil the party by not giving a penalty, when there was obvious contact on Ollie Watkins. Villa kept going though.
Spurs imploded for the rest of the half, and like music to the ears of Villa fans, boos rang out at half-time.
Nakamba made up for his error by setting up a magnificent finish from Sergio Reguillon past his own ‘keeper. If you listened carefully you could hear him shout ‘pick that one out!’ as he gave Lloris no chance. Then the Spaniard’s nightmare continued as he was closed down by Bertrand Traore twice, who deflected the ball to Ollie Watkins. He finished after holding off Eric Dier, and the Villans had the lead.
Villa definitely had some hairy moments in the second-half. Bergwijn tested Martinez a couple more times, and Harry Kane saw a shot deflected and saved. Dean Smith’s men were maybe guilty of sitting deep at times, but they looked lively on the break, and on balance the more likely to get the games’ fourth goal.
Watkins, El Ghazi and Traore all had chances to extend the Villa lead. Then enter 17-year-old Carney Chukwuemeka. The attacking midfielder picked the ball up just outside the box, took a touch and fired a shot on goal. He had Lloris beaten, but the post would deny a fairytale end to the game.
It’s impossible to work out just what kind of performance this team is going to put in each week; going from conceding three against Palace, to holding out against Spurs, even if they aren’t at their best. Villa show glimpses of the team they can be, they just need to show more than glimpses.
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Emiliano Martinez – 8
Emi Martinez showed some cat like reflexes to get his hands to some powerful shots. There wasn’t much the Argentine could do about Bergwijn’s opener, it was hit with such power and placed so high in the net, that no keeper could have stopped it. On top of this, his distribution was generally spot on. One pass to pick out El Ghazi on the counter was sublime.
Ezri Konsa – 9
Heung-Min who? Ezri Konsa made the hard-working and skilled winger anonymous. There were questions before kick-off about Konsa playing at right-back. The last time it happened was during the restart to last season. What he did was prove he’s defensively solid, wherever he plays. The 23-year-old was positionally aware, certainly more than Elmohamady has been, and wasn’t a slouch on the front foot.
Kortney Hause – 8
Bar one questionable clearance, Kortney Hause put in a sturdy display after having a torrid time against Palace last time out. He was composed with the ball at his feet, aided by the lack of press at times from Ryan Mason’s men. He also led the team in clearances, making four.
Tyrone Mings – 8
After being missed at Selhurst Park, Tyrone Mings showed exactly why he’s such a valuable player to have. The defence looked so much more organised, its leader was back. Mings was holding the defensive line, barking orders, and making key tackles and interceptions. He came out of the game with a pair of Tackles, Interceptions, Clearances and Blocks. A complete performance from the towering defender.
Matt Targett – 8
Matt Targett was consistent as ever at left-back. He got forward to make a couple of crosses and dribbles, but didn’t over extend so that either Bale or Bergwijn could exploit space in behind. If Targett is this good after two seasons in the Premier League, fans won’t be able to wait to see what he’s like after three.
Marvelous Nakamba – 8
One big error marred a determined performance from Marvelous Nakamba. His touch let him down, and he paid the price for it. Apart from that, he had a good game. He tried his hardest to make up for his mistake, and he somewhat did with the ball that set-up the sliced own-goal from Reguillon. The Zimbabwean was crucial in screening the defence, and allowing John McGinn to burst forward. He led the team in tackles with three.
John McGinn – 9 MOTM
What is there to say other than, this was John McGinn at his best. His performance had it all, tackles, quick feet… and even a trademark long shot off target. The Scot pressing and linking up with Jack Grealish, allowed Villa to batter Tottenham for such large periods of the match. His hard work just before half-time to rob Eric Dier shouldn’t have gone unrewarded.
Bertrand Traore – 7
Bertrand Traore was the ultimate dynamic attacking threat, until he got to the final shot. His end product let him down after he’d done all of the hard work in dribbling past a couple of players, or putting himself in the right position. Seven dribbles, four key passes, but zero out of five shots on target. He did pick up an assist for the Watkins goal though.
Jack Grealish © – 8
Villa looked a more complete team in attack with Jack Grealish in the side. There was a gutsy dimension to his game also, with three tackles while on the press helping to win the ball back. He drew Spurs players towards him, which allowed others like Traore to find space and drive at the defence. Four key passes and five free-kicks won, just another day at the office for the Villa skipper.
Anwar El Ghazi – 7
There were a couple of times when fans would have been screaming ‘SHOOT!’ at the TV, as Anwar El Ghazi sprinted through on goal. For some reason, he decided to hold off shooting till the chances were almost gone. That being said, the Dutchman had 100 per cent crossing accuracy, three key passes and generally looked like a real threat.
Ollie Watkins – 8
Ollie Watkins, could and probably should have had at least two goals. His work rate was immense, and helped to panic the opposition back line into mistakes. The chance he did take, he was alive to the potential rebound of the ball of Traore, and held off the incoming Dier very well.
Off the Bench
Douglas Luiz (72) – 8
The team did take a step back after Jack Grealish came off, but it would be unfair to expect Douglas Luiz to do exactly what the number 10 was doing. Luiz was very good in his twenty minute spell, providing threat on the counter as well as a sturdy defensive presence in the midfield.
Carney Chukwuemeka (88) – n/a
What a debut it almost was for Carney Chukwuemeka. the 17-year-old looked the real deal in his short cameo. He passed the ball well, even if he did misplace pass to El Ghazi. The youngster looked full of confidence, and not far away at all from first team level. His strike on goal was almost placed to perfection, and showed how he wasn’t going to shy away on the big occasion.
Jaden Philogene-Bidace (92) – n/a
There were only four minutes for Jaden Philogene-Bidace to show off what he has to offer. The young winger looked quick and good on the ball, and much like Chukwuemeka, composed and confident. It’ll be great to see how both the youngsters continue to develop, they look like they could be the real deal.
Dean Smith – 8
To put in this performance after blowing it against Palace is very admirable. For once when a team was there for the taking, as Spurs were, Dean Smith made the most of it. If Villa can put in something a bit more like this against Chelsea, in front of fans at Villa Park, then maybe the downward trajectory of the second half of this season can be negated. A couple of positive results against decent opposition will have Villa heading in the right direction for next season.