Looking Forward


Aston Villa  (Home)

Premier League

Sunday 1st May 2005

Both clubs will be seeking the three points to bolster their opportunities of obtaining the final UEFA Cup place in the league table by finishing seventh.  Therefore, it will be an "all or nothing" match for both sides, to be followed by another of the same for Tottenham if they win at Middlesbrough.

With the two sides finally finding a bit of form, it should be a close fought encounter and with Jermain Defoe having signed up for four and a half years on a vastly improved salary, Spurs might be up for it with their own fans behind them.  With Villa having had problems with their forwards scoring regularly this season, the firepower available to Tottenham must seem like an embarrassment of riches to Villa manager David O'Deary.

He has also had trouble with the goalkeeping position, with the Villa fans tearing their hair out at the gaffes made by Thomas Sorensen this season ... especially in the two derbies against Birmingham City.  Tall and agile, the Dane's decision making appears to be his downfall and he might be one who O'Deary wants to ship out in the summer.  With Stefan Postma knocking on the door to leave for his homeland of Holland, there could be a goalkeeping crisis at Villa Park in the close season.

The defence will miss the physical presence of Olof Mellberg, but they welcome back Liam Ridgewell, the England Under-21 central defender.  I must admit on the occasions I have seen him play, I find it hard to see how Peter Taylor rates him higher than the three Spurs players who could fill that position for his side.  Ridgewell appears to be at a loss in terms of his positioning a fair amount of the time and he is one of those players who likes to get involved in things away from the ball.  That explains his three match ban for head butting in the match with WBA.  He will line up there alongside Martin Laursen, who has been limited to nine appearances because of injury and while he is an established Danish international, he still seems to be settling in to the Premier League.  Outside him, he will most probably find Mark Delaney on the right and Jlloyd Samuel on the left.  Welsh international Delaney has been shifted infield to fill in at centre half in Ridgewell's absence and he has a bit of pace and is a strong tackler, so will be difficult to get past.  Samuel has lapses in concentration at times and with Spurs aiming to make chances wide, he might be the weak link that they can exploit.  Czech Drobny will be leaving the Midlands side too, so don't expect to see him playing on Sunday, while Ulisses De La Cruz could be on the bench as he offers cover in defence and in midfield too.

In midfield, Gareth Barry will lead the side and his left foot is a dangerous weapon.  He can hit pinpoint passes and also rasp in shots that will test Robinson if given the space.  He is strong on the ball, but sometimes it is easy for players to work around him and leave him in their wake.  Norberto Solano scored the spectacular goal that was the difference between the two sides earlier in the season and his prompting play is often the creative spark that sets up chances for the forwards.  He has been joined by Eric Djemba-Djemba from Man. U. and he is an industrious midfielder, who never really broke through at Old Trafford.  He hasn't been the sort of player that United needed and might not be the sort that Villa need either, but time will tell.

More likely to feature in midfield are Steve Davis and Lee Hendrie, with Thomas Hitzlsperger one who might come off the bench for the Villans.  Davis has broken through this season and the Northern Ireland international has vigour and effort in his game, but he might not be a midfielder who will provide some "fantasy" in their team.  Also available in midfield is Mathieu Berson, who is one for the future and Peter Whittingham, who is another youngster, who the club have high hopes for.

The players up front who have let the club down this season include Juan Pablo angel, who O'Deary seems to want to dispose of, even though he has scored a couple of late.  A talented striker, he has never clicked at Villa and the big money paid for him brought big expectations, which have not been fulfilled.  Darius Vassell has been struck by injury and has played only 14 games, finding the net twice, so, in his place, Carlton Cole came in on a season long loan to bear the brunt of the goalscoring duties, but his return of three goals in 18 matches has not been what the claret and blue supporters would have expected.  Youngster Luke Morre is the only other option and he is strong and goods on the ball, but might need a bit more experience before being relied on to shoot Villa to success.

For Tottenham, the defence has been more reticent to let opponents pass this season, even though the goals have been leaking through slightly in recent matches.  This should ensure that Villa have to work hard for their goals and with the Spurs forwards ready to snap up chances, the midfield will need to make more openings for them to try and make the most of the keeper's dip in form.  A tight game with both sides nervy in not wanting to be beaten, but with home advantage, Spurs should have the upper hand, although Villa have been good away from their base.  I reckon it will be close with the edge being claimed by Spurs to end up ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur  2    Aston Villa  1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Noe Pamarot (knee); Pedro Mendes (toe); Michael Brown (foot); Anthony Gardner (foot); Noureddine Naybet (ankle); - (-)

ASTON VILLA :  Gavin McCann (knee); Olof Mellberg (knee); - (-); - (-)


TV :  
Live on Sky's Prem Plus (Pay Per View).
FOX Sports World Canada  8.00 a.m. ET/5.00 a.m.  Live
FOX Soccer Channel (US)  1.00 p.m. ET/10.00 a.m.  
FOX Sports en Espanol  5.00 p.m. ET/2.00 p.m. 

Radio :
BBC Radio Five Live  606 & 963 MW.
BBC London Digital Radio (Second half also on 94.9FM - London area only)

Internet :
www.spurs.co.uk   Live webcast  - subscribers only
Planet football - http://play.www.planetfootball.servecast.net/downloads/sky/spurs_match_new.ram (free - only available when match is on)



Tottenham Hotspur   5    Aston Villa   1      (Half-time score : 3-1)
Premier League Venue : White Hart Lane  
Sunday 1st May 2005 Kick Off :  13.00 p.m.
Crowd :  36,078 Referee :  Mark Clattenburg (Tyne and Wear)
Weather :  Warm, sunny, with light showers
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :

Robinson (Cerny 64)

King (c)


Kanoute (Mido 78)
Keane (Defoe 78)

Unused subs: 

Aston Villa :



Hitzlsperger (Hendrie 59)

Angel (Moore 59)

Unused subs: 
De La Cruz

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)
Tottenham Hotspur Aston Villa
Scorers : -  

Tottenham Hotspur

Kanoute 5
King 18
Kanoute 26
Reid 68
Kelly 90

Aston Villa

Barry (pen) 45

Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  


Davis (foul) 17


Aston Villa


Postma (dissent) 6
Solano (foul) 90


Match Report : -  

An opening salvo of goals from Spurs left Villa shell-shocked and although they pulled one back from a dubious spot-kick, the home side kicked on to extend their lead ion the second half to keep their European hopes alive.

The action was as hot as the early summer sun from the first minute, when Paul Robinson pulled off a low save when Steve Davis ran onto a Solano lobbed pass to deny the Irishman.  It proved to be a crucial moment in the match and one that has been a major contribution to the way Spurs have been able to rely on the big man between the sticks this season.  Play swung straight to the other end, as it would do throughout the 90 minutes and from a corner taken by Andy Reid, Ledley King thumped a header that Stefan Postma in the Villa goal blocked out.  Up to the Spurs goal and Delaney was put through into the area, but he was eased off the ball by Edman, with claims of a penalty being made by Villa players.  Referee Mark Clattenburg (yes, he of Old Trafford infamy) waved play on ... well, he owes us one, but we are still waiting (more of which later).

Robinson collected the ball from the Aston Villa attack and carrying on regardless of the shouts for a spot-kick, he launched a trademark huge kick upfield.  Fredi Kanoute jumped with Ridgewell and won the ball as the England Under-21 managed to jump underneath it and our lanky striker chested the ball down, took it on a stride and let rip with a shot that Postma got something on, diverting it onto the post, but it flew into the net off the woodwork.  Five minutes gone and Spurs a goal to the good was just what we would have predicted if we could have something like a flying start to the game.  Even better when Postma got booked for arguing about the goal (not sure what his point was, but it was the only one Villa had all day) and O'Leary was going ballistic at the linesman.

Spurs were really on the ball for this match and when Davis nipped in front of Hitzlsperger to take a throw-out from Postma, he looked on for his first goal for the club, but dragged it wide with his left foot.  Then Kanoute was set up with a shooting chance and he drilled it a long way wide when he should have hit the target with the right hand top corner asking to be filled.  There were some areas of concern in the Spurs defence, especially the pace of Vassell, but he was well marked by King and when Ledley got between him and a through ball Clattenburg ignored a push in the back of the Spurs skipper that saw Stephen Kelly provide a saving header when the cross came in aimed at Gareth Barry at the far post.  Strangely, Sean Davis was booked for his first offence - a foul on Hitzlsperger - when others seemed able to breach the laws a number of times without caution from the match official.  How he can be considered one of the better refs we have, I am at a loss to understand.

Anyway, in the 18th minute, the free-kick awarded for the foul saw Villa pile ten men forward and when the kick was cleared to Simon Davies inside his own half on the right, he beat Hitzlsperger and raced away, pulling the ball back for Kanoute, who stepped over it and Andy Reid was just denied at the far post at the expense of a corner.  Carrick's corner was knocked away, but Reid played it back in, with Davis getting a back-heel on it to take it onto the post and as it bounced back into the six yard box, Ledley King reacted quickly and got a foot to it to net the Spurs second goal from a couple of yards out.

Spurs looked pumped up and Villa paled at the onslaught they faced, so when Robbo threw the ball out to Edman and then got it back under pressure, Angel managed to get a block on his kick, but the ball landed back in the keeper's arms.  Even when we gave them a chance they couldn't take it.  From this Spurs worked the ball to Kanoute on the right wing.  His step-overs worked in fooling Samuel and his ball into the near post was met with a diving header by Davis and Postma did well to palm the ball away from close range for a corner.  

Another corner, another goal !!  26 minutes gone and a short corner to Davies was crossed in and Solano headed it back into the heart of the penalty box, with King underneath it.  The skipper controlled the ball, knocked it over his head back into the danger area, where Robbie Keane got it under control.  He tried to jink past Ridgewell and Laursen, but the ball ran invitingly into Fredi's path just wide of the left hand post from where he shot high into the net to make it 3-0.

An early goal and a 3-0 lead after 26 minutes are two different things, but the breathless Spurs fans were not complaining ... apart from the fact that 3-0 is a dangerous lead for Tottenham to hold.  But still the chances stacked up.  Kanoute's cross from a Carrick pass (when it looked a better option for him to have a shot as he was on the edge of the D) was headed a couple of feet wide by Laursen and then from a centrally placed free-kick, Keano did a Redknapp and flicked up for his own volley that went over the top.  The tireless worker Simon Davies had a shooting effort which flew over from 20 yards out.

Then out of the blue, Mr. Clattenburg does it again.  A goalmouth scramble, an Angel shot goalwards and with Dawson five yards away, the ball hits his arms as he turns away from the ball and what does the referee see ?  Deliberate handball and a penalty is given.  No booking though, so it couldn't have been stopping a goalscoring opportunity or it should have been a red.  Enough that the two points we were robbed of at Old Trafford, so why another decision that puts our progress at risk ?  Lucky we are used to playing against fourteen.  Up steps Barry and buries his spot-kick down the middle to bring it back to 3-1.  

But the controversy was not yet over.  Spurs attack from the kick off and a ball into the box is headed out sideways and as Edman collects the ball to play it back in, the ref blows his whistle.  The goal was scored in 44 minutes and 46 seconds.  There was one minute of time to be added.  The ball was not slowly moved forward, so I guess there would have been at least another 15 seconds to play after the whistle blew for the break.  What was it that Brian Clough once said about it only taking a second to score a goal ??

Perhaps that decision was one that ended up working in Tottenham's favour, with the need to stay focused and the decision going against Spurs might have helped the side bond against the ref.  The opposition were always going to come out fired up at the start of the second half to try and make inroads into the Tottenham back four, but the requirement for a solid ten minutes after the restart was never more urgent.

In fact, both keepers were in agile action in the opening exchanges of the half.  Reid made a good run through the middle and hit a shot that Postma tipped wide, even though it did not look like it was going in on the replay.  Then Robinson was called upon to make a fine save as Barry's ball over King's head was seized on by Vassell and his early shot with the outside of his foot was well turned over the bar in the 50th minute.

Kelly's break up the right wing saw Samuel clear for a corner when he pulled it back low with Keane wanting the ball played across the six-yard box.  This prompted O'Leary to bring on Moore and Hendrie to try and spice things up a bit.  It certainly made them a more physical presence, with both subs making a number of fouls, including one cynical trip on Reid by Hendrie that went unpunished.  But the moment that might have turned the match came just after the hour.  Solano slipped a pass through the Spurs defence and as Vassell closed in on it in the area, Robinson flew out to block the England striker.  Both players stayed down and required treatment, with Robbo getting up, but limping and having trouble kicking.  Unsurprisingly, he had to make way two minutes later for Radek Cerny to come on for his unexpected debut.

With no Premier League experience, Cerny might have been put under some pressure, but Villa seemed incapable of that.  Indeed, five minutes after his entrance, Spurs extended their lead to three goals once more.  Dawson, who had an outstanding match, broke up an attack, played it to Simon Davies and he moved it onto Sean Davis.  The move found Reid, just inside his own half, who moved forward with purpose before cracking a 25 yard shot that beat Postma all ends up and bounced down into the goal off the underside of the bar.  The former Forest man's first Spurs goal was really one to remember.

There is no exaggeration to say that Tottenham could have had ten goals today.  Keano latched onto Reid's cross when everyone stopped thinking he was offside and tried to lift his header over the goalie, but failed.  Simon Davies had another long run that ended with a shot, but it was a tired one that was easy for Postma to take.  With the strike force replaced by strike force number two, Laursen messed up a headed clearance and the ball went up in the air, to be controlled by Defoe and an instant shot flew off a defender's leg to loop the ball onto the crossbar. From the corner, Carrick pulled the bal back to Davies 25 yards out and his volley was met crisply, but it flew a way wide.

As Villa tried vainly to get back into the game, Davies, who worked hard and with skill throughout the match, picked off another loose pass and moved the ball onto Defoe quickly, with the Jermain hitting a low shot that Postma stopped on the line with five minutes remaining.  This was not the end for Spurs, as they saved the best for last.

A Kelly throw-in saw Davies chip the ball to Davis wide of the penalty area on the right.  As the ball was coming down, he threw up his right leg and back-heeled the ball into the path of Stephen Kelly, running into the box.  He took the ball down on his chest, moved on past Jlloyd Samuel and as Postma faced him, imperiously flicked the ball past him and into the back of the net to make the final score 5-1.  It was a very skillfully created goal and surely must be a contender for goal of the season.

There was time for Clattenburg to even up things by finally booking Solano for his umpteenth foul and for Defoe to smack the free-kick over the top by about a foot.

But the team deserve a lot of the credit here, as it was a team performance.  All added their bit to the win and from Robinson and Cerny right at the back to the four forwards, they all tormented Villa all afternoon.  It was one of those afternoons that you didn't want to end.  Dawson was outstanding and looks like he should have been in our defence for years and hopefully he will be for years to come.  Reid had his best game since joining from Forest with his former team-mate.  But one player was right bang on form and that was Simon Davies.  Much maligned, for what reason I do not know, he showed that he has overcome some serious injury and illness setbacks and is ready to play an important part in our future.  Whether that is in Europe will be determined by our next two games, but with the ability to perform like this, that might be just where we end up.


The Polyphant




With a blast of goals, Spurs took a valuable step up the table and condemned Villa to a big defeat that some of their woeful play deserved.  It was a surprisingly slack showing from the Midlands side, as usually they put up a fight and the games between us are close (even if there are a lot of goals).  But O'Leary's Babies were not up to the task on the day, when Spurs were rampant,

Before the game I said to someone before the game that it was about time we walloped somebody, but never thought it would be today.  The Good Doctor said to me after the game that the gap between us and the top teams might be great, but that between us and the teams around us was big enough today.

Powered by some fine performances, most notably that from Simon Davies, with excellent supporting roles played by Reid, Kelly, Dawson and Kanoute, Spurs ripped into Villa in a way we have wanted to see them play for a long time.  It was not just the way they finished off Villa, who were there for the taking from the kick off, but the way they worked hard for each other and that is the real key to prolonged success,  Look at the effort that the top teams put in and you will see that as well as having a number of other attributes, they work non-stop.

With the midfield looking as solid as they have done for a long time, the team had a solid base to work from.  Outside of them, none was so safe as Paul Robinson, who made what looked like a straightforward save in the first minute as Steve Davis ran beyond the Spurs defence.  Robbo's stop was a very good one.  A minute into the game, he had not touched the ball and the first save always gives confidence, but Davis' low shot was in an uncomfortable place for keepers to save and Robinson did it without fuss.  But that save along with the penalty claim turned down a few minutes afterwards were instrumental in Tottenham going on to win with the first goal coming from Robbo's kick after gathering the ball as Delaney went down in the box.

With only Ridgewell back, Kanoute out-jumped him and took the ball down on his chest before rifling it past Postma in off the keeper and post to put Tottenham one up.  It had been coming, with King testing the Villa stand-in keeper with a header from a corner.  And it was after a few shots whizzed wide that another corner produced a goal for captain King.  It came through to Reid outside the area just left of centre and he drove in a shot that bounced back off the post after going through Davis' legs.  With Sean trying to get the rebound, Ledley got a foot to it first and poked it home from inside the six yard box.  2-0 with 18 minutes gone.

Things did not go without some nervy moments.  When Robinson threw the ball out to Edman in the left back position, the Swede was pressurised and played the ball back to Robbo on his left (wrong) foot.  Angel closed him down and got in the way of the keeper's clearance, but fortunately, the ball popped back to Paul and he bawled out Edman for the back-pass.  Perhaps this showed Tottenham that they needed to be on their mettle a bit more, with a great break down the right taking the game back to Villa and Davis heading Kanoute's cross powerfully, but hit Postma and earned a corner.  The ball was swung in, but Solano (one of the shortest players on the pitch) won the header.  That header went across the area and Ledley King controlled the ball and dinked it over his head, where it found Robbie Keane.  He controlled the ball about six yards out and when he was upended by two defenders and appeals for a penalty rang out.  Whether this distracted the Villa defenders or not, it is hard to say, but Kanoute swept the ball into the roof of the net past two defenders and the keeper to make it 3-0. Whether Clattenburg would have given the penalty had the ball not gone in is questionable.  Knowing his apparent dislike for all things Tottenham, you might surmise that he would not have.  This feeling was reinforced when he gave a penalty as soon as Angel's close range shot hit Dawson arms.  When Barry put the ball into the net, it signalled thoughts of other lost leads, but back on the attack when the half-time whistle went, Spurs looked determined to keep the points in this match.

Jol's half-time words must have galvanised Spurs, as they went at Villa from the off and the visitors only really came back into the game when Spurs sat off them a bit and the pace of Hendrie and Moore was introduced in the 59th minute.  This led to Robbo's reflex save and a rush from goal both to deny Vassell.  In the second of the incidents, the Villa man hit Robinson's leg and after a lengthy bout of treatment, he got up, but following a few clearances, it was clear that he would be unable to carry on.  The look of frustration on his face was clear and Radek Cerny ran on for his first taste of Premiership action.  He must have wondered what all the fuss was about as he rarely touched the ball after his entrance.

The Trainer's Sponge told me before the game that he fancied Andy Reid to score and his thought became reality when he ran from just inside his own half, with the defenders backing further off him as he got nearer goal and struck a left footer from 25 yards that beat Postma's dive and entered the net via the crossbar.  Reid had worked hard all match, tracking back and also being willing to take his man on to put the ball into the box.  Perhaps after Monday night's reserved showing, he wanted to show to the Spurs fans exactly what he can do.

With Keane (who, although not mentioned a lot in the report, did have a game where he worked for the side without getting any reward of his own) and Kanoute being replaced by Defoe and Mido, the threat to the Villa defence did not abate.  Defoe crashed a shot onto the bar off Ridgewell's toe, then brought a  low save from Postma just when it looked like the ball had got stuck under his feet.  Davies also had a couple of shots, but was more instrumental in the start of the fifth goal that gave Spurs a one goal advantage over Boro in the goal difference stakes.

He played the ball up the line to Sean Davis, who was wide right.  As the ball dropped, the midfielder produced a "donkey kick" back-heel right into the path of Kelly, who had advanced from his right back position.  He took the ball down and as Postma stood statuesque in goal, flicked it past him with the outside of his foot to wrap up a convincing win. 

With the whole team clicking at the same time this was an awesome display and the Villa side must have wondered what hit them.  It also demonstrates how far we have come from one of Jol's first matches at Villa Park, where we lost to more or less the same team.  But more than the result, it was the spirit about the team that shone through.  Not just working for each other, but the joy at the goals and the general camaraderie that runs through the side.  No pointing fingers.  No accusatory looks.  No moaning when a pass doesn't come off.  These are all things best left in the past (or at Newcastle), as Jol has got the team believing in themselves and working as one.

When the Spurs fans cruelly sang "Are you West Ham in disguise ?" and the Soccer AM inspired "Easy, Easy, Easy" it summed up the day.  Amusingly, the Villa fans seemed to agree with Spurs and joined in with the latter chant to reflect how they felt their team had performed.  Spurs will not find the game at Middlesbrough as easy and our paucity of away goals must be overturned to ensure that we get what we need from the Riverside.

The Funky Phantom


Other scores this weekend :
Birmingham City 2 Blackburn Rovers 1 Saturday
Bolton Wanderers 0 Chelsea 2 Saturday
Fulham 2 Everton 0 Saturday
Liverpool 1 Middlesbrough 1 Saturday
Manchester City 2 Portsmouth 0 Saturday
Newcastle United 0 Crystal Palace 0 Saturday
SCBC 4 Norwich City 3 Saturday
Charlton Athletic 0 Manchester United 4 Sunday
West Bromwich Albion 0 Arsenal 2 Monday
Fulham 1 Newcastle United 3 Wednesday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Chelsea 35 27 7 1 67 13 88 +54
2 Arsenal 35 23 8 4 76 33 77 +43
3 Manchester United 35 21 10 4 54 21 73 +33
4 Everton 35 17 7 11 41 36 58 +5
5 Liverpool 36 16 7 13 49 37 55 +12
6 Bolton Wanderers 36 15 9 12 45 41 54 +4
7 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 36 14 9 13 47 40 51 +7
8 Middlesbrough 36 13 12 11 51 45 51 +6
9 Manchester City 36 12 12 12 44 37 48 +7
10 Aston Villa 36 12 11 13 43 48 47 -5
11 Charlton Athletic 36 12 9 15 40 55 45 -15
12 Newcastle United 36 10 13 13 46 54 43 -8
13 Birmingham City 36 10 12 14 38 44 42 -6
14 Blackburn Rovers 36 9 14 13 30 40 41 -10
15 Portsmouth 36 10 8 18 42 56 38 -14
16 Fulham 36 10 8 18 43 59 38 -16
17 SCBC 36 6 13 17 42 62 31 -20
18 Crystal Palace 36 7 10 19 37 58 31 -21
19 West Bromwich Albion 36 5 15 16 33 60 30 -27
20 Norwich City 36 6 12 18 41 72 30 -31

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