Villa 0-2 Spurs
Report from Villa Park
20 October 2013|Tottenham Hotspur
Victory was secured at Villa Park courtesy of goals from Andros Townsend and Roberto Soldado.
It was ultimately a convincing performance and well deserved three points for the team. It took a little while to establish a rhythm and to snuff out the initial promise shown by the home side, but it turned out to be a controlled and effective display in which the destiny of the points was not in doubt for too long.
Gabriel Agbonlahor was a lively early threat for the home side on a skidding surface as we got back into domestic affairs after the international break.
Andre Villas-Boas made several changes to the side that suffered a setback against West Ham last time out, with Vlad Cheriches drafted in for a first Premier League start, meaning a switch to the left for Jan Vertonghen in place of Kyle Naughton.
Sandro came back to form a Brazilian midfield combination with Paulinho - his first start in the Premier League since his serious knee injury back in January - while there was also a place for Lewis Holtby and a return for Roberto Soldado.
Holtby was the victim of a poor challenge from Ashley Westwood on 10 minutes that saw the Villa player booked and the German international hobbling for a little while. Westwood later dispatched a devilish free-kick from the left that you felt a touch somewhere along the line would have led to a goal, but the ball skimmed no heads and it was left to Hugo Lloris to smartly foil low to his left or the net would have been rattled.
A Holtby set piece at the other end just cleared the head of Michael Dawson and foot of Vertonghen at the far post after Sandro was felled, before Andreas Weimann unleashed an ambitious drive over Lloris' crossbar.
It was a disjointed first 30 minutes, with neither team really getting to grips with the conditions or offering any sustained threat in the final third. This changed seconds after the first third was over when Townsend arrowed in a centre in the direction of Holtby and Soldado.
Either by accident or design, both players did not touch the ball and it bounced up and flew past the despairing dive of Brad Guzan.
Gylfi Sigurdsson could then have added to the tally with a header from a Vertonghen cross, but this time Guzan was not troubled.
Four minutes before the break a speedy move resulted in Weimann shooting just past Lloris' left hand upright, but the keeper's position was such that it would have been unlikely to be beaten were shot on target.
Guzan produced a superb save to prevent a doubling of the advantage in first half stoppage time when he stooped low to deny Townsend.
Townsend then fired over in the opening moments of the second half after being teed up via Soldado and Sigurdsson. Soldado then cleverly lobbed in the direction of Paulinho, who shot low and goalwards, with only the outstretched hand of Guzan preventing a second.
Control was increasing as the half progressed and the influence of the superb Sandro was growing. The home fans were singing for Christian Benteke to make his entrance, while Christian Eriksen, Aaron Lennon and Mousa Dembele were warming up along the sideline for us.
Benteke's arrival on the pitch was greeted like the scoring of a goal by the Villa fans in a crowd of 35,391 and this could well have come on 63 minutes when a Leandro Bacuna cross was headed over from an unmarked position by the big Belgian.
Our first change was made on 66 minutes with the return of Lennon in place of Sigurdsson. Villa were visibly buoyed by the arrival of Benteke and the wind needed taking out of their collective sails.
This was duly achieved on 69 minutes when Holtby and Paulinho combined to set up Soldado in front of goal. The Spaniard was clinical in his execution and steered past Guzan with calm authority.
A second change was made on 73 minutes with the introduction of Dembele for Holtby.
Townsend crashed a curling shot narrowly over three minutes later as the team sought to take any tension out of the closing stages by chasing a third. This should have arrived with another Townsend sortie and delivery just clearing the head of Paulinho right in front of goal.
After a sluggish beginning with some additional attention from his markers, Townsend got stronger and stronger, growing into a powerful exhibition of wing play that will most likely ensure that he remains in the headlines, but just as welcome was the return of Lennon to add options and a return to goalscoring by Soldado, who looked a menacing presence in attack once his confidence was boosted by his fine finish.
He took a break for Jermain Defoe three minutes from time, allowing him a deserved ovation from the travelling thousands.
Villa: Guzan; Bacuna, Baker, Vlaar, Luna; Agbonlahor (Tonev, 79), Delph, Westwood, El Ahmadi (Sylla, 73), Weimann; Kozak (Benteke, 61). Subs not used: Steer, Helenius, Bowery, Tonev, Lowton.
Spurs: Lloris; Walker, Chiriches, Dawson, Vertonghen; Paulinho, Sandro; Townsend, Holtby (Dembele, 73), Sigurdsson (Lennon, 66); Soldado (Defoe, 87). Subs not used: Friedel, Naughton, Eriksen, Lamela.
Yellow cards: Villa - Agbonlahor, Delph, Westwood. Spurs - Dawson, Lennon, Paulinho, Walker.
Goals: Spurs - Townsend (31), Soldado (69).
Referee: Mr P Dowd.