Van der Vaart 45+2, 75
ASTON VILLA 1
Spurs’ new signing Rafael van der Vaart took centre stage as Tottenham battled back from a goal down to defeat Aston Villa 2-1 in an entertaining Saturday afternoon clash in North London.
Aston Villa arrived hoping to take advantage of a Tottenham side suffering from the so called ‘European hangover’ having played midweek in the Champions League. Villa started the brighter of the two sides. A triumvirate of Marc Albrighton, Stuart Downing and Ashley Young threatened early on, thriving on the space created by lone front man Emile Heskey.
The Villans’ goal was a result of this. Heskey outmuscled Sebastien Bassong, powered into the box and squared the ball for Albrighton, who duly finished from close range. This served as wake up call for the home side who began to take control of the game, with van der Vaart at the hub of most of Spurs’ best football.
As the half progressed Villa’s direct threatening attacks looked less and less effective as Spurs began to create opportunities of their own. Villa, it seemed were content to sit back having taken the lead in the hope of launching counter attacks against Tottenham. However as the half progressed, the Villans looked more and more overwhelmed by Spurs who attacked with increasing menace, eventually forcing an equalizer just before half time.
The second half saw Tottenham switch from a 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1/4-4-1-1, with van der Vaart coming in from the right side to play behind Peter Crouch, while Aaron Lennon replaced the wasteful Roman Pavlyuchenko and took over at right wing. This system resembled that of Villa, however Tottenham operated it more effectively on Saturday afternoon.
Van der Vaart was pulling the strings for Spurs; he was a constant threat, seemingly creating chances at will. Playing in the hole behind Crouch and ahead of the midfield, Aston Villa struggled to pick up the Dutchman whose clever movement and distribution constantly troubled the Villans.
As the game stretched in the second half, Villa again began to look dangerous Ashley Young playing close to John Carew, who had been brought on for Heskey during the first half, created a couple of good opportunities for his strike partner. However it was Spurs that took all three points, van der Vaart scoring his second, smashing the ball home from 10 yards having evaded the lunging block of Richard Dunne with a deft feint.
Aston Villa played well and on a different day the result may well have been better in a open game of high quality. Though in truth it would have been grossly unfair had van der Vaart not finished on the winning side. If the former Real Madrid man continues in this form, the £8m Harry Redknapp paid for the Dutchman could prove to be the bargain of the season.
2 L. Young – 5 Dunne– 29 Collins – 3 Warnock
12 Albrighton – 20 Reo-Coker – 19 Petrov – 6 Downing
7 A. Young
35- 10 Carew on for 18 Heskey
81- 25 Bannan on for 12 Albrighton
81- 9 Ireland on for 19 Petrov