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No way through in tense affair

Posted on 6 February 2010  - 12:00

The deadlock remained bolted to the door as Aston Villa came to the Lane and took a hard-earned point away from N17 in a game the home side dominated.

No way through in tense affair

The deadlock remained bolted to the door as Aston Villa came to the Lane and took a hard-earned point away from N17 in a game the home side dominated.

Both teams are well in the hunt for a place in next season's Champions League, and although we were undoubtedly the better side over the two games against the Villains this season, both encounters ended in draws - a measure of how tight this particular race is going to be over the coming months.

But the fact that centre-halves James Collins and Richard Dunne were the outstanding performers here on the night, as well as the ever-reliable Brad Friedel in goal, was a telling sign.

Harry Redknapp made three changes from the side that beat Leeds in the FA Cup during midweek, with Ledley King, Wilson Palacios and Luka Modric all returning to the side in place of Sebastien Bassong, Jermaine Jenas and Niko Kranjcar.

They all dropped to the bench, where they were joined by new signings Younes Kaboul and Eidur Gudjohnsen, as well as young Kyle Walker, who was recalled from his loan at Sheffield United earlier in the week.

It was a tight and tense first half as one would have expected of such an important game, but we had the better of it.

Our first opening came after four minutes when perennial target man Peter Crouch knocked down a high ball for the on-rushing Modric, whose shot from the edge of the box was not powerful enough to trouble Friedel.

The American goalkeeper was a thorn in our side throughout the opening 45 minutes - although he was beaten on one occasion 10 minutes in, when David Bentley fizzed a shot inches wide.

Aside from this, Friedel was on top of his game. He stopped a close range header from King, who found himself unmarked at a corner, four minutes later.

The 38-year-old then got down to his near post well to prevent Crouch opening the scoring on 18 minutes after the striker had been slipped in by Modric.

On 24 minutes, Friedel parried out a fierce 25-yard Tom Huddlestone strike, and defender Carlos Cuellar was in quickly to deny Modric on the follow-up.

But the former Blackburn man's best save of the half came four minutes before the break when King turned the ball goalwards after Crouch had nodded down a Bentley free-kick, and the stopper defied his years with an acrobatic save at full stretch. Jermain Defoe could only put the rebound over the bar from a tight angle.

At the other end, Heurelho Gomes was far less busy, although he did make an important double save midway through the half, beating out James Milner's 20-yard drive and getting back on his feet to deny Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Although Villa were a little more attack-minded after the break, without creating a great deal, Friedel still had to be at his best on the hour - Huddlestone once again sending in a rasping drive that the keeper had to stop low at his right.

But he was rescued somewhat by an outstretched leg of Dunne 13 minutes from time, which diverted a Bentley shot past the post with Friedel appearing wrong-footed.

And he was well and truly beaten 10 minutes from the end when a Crouch shot from the edge of the box took a wicked deflection off Collins but spun agonisingly wide.

We went hell for leather looking for the winner in the closing stages, with Crouch putting a header wide, Friedel saving from Defoe, and Vedran Corluka stabbing inches past the post during a late goalmouth scramble.

We also had a penalty shout turned down when Stiliyan Petrov appeared to upend Defoe in the box three minutes from time.

However, credit overall must go to a fantastic Villa rearguard action, and two good teams for producing a captivating game - although little was decided here in the race for fourth place.

Spurs (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, King, Bale; Bentley, Huddlestone, Palacios, Modric; Crouch, Defoe
Subs not used: Alnwick, Bassong, Kaboul, K Walker, Jenas, Kranjcar, Gudjohnsen

Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Cuellar, Collins, Dunne, L Young; A Young, Milner, Petrov, Downing (Sidwell, 86); Agbonlahor, Heskey (Carew, 22)
Subs not used: Guzan, Beye, Davies, Delph, Delfouneso