At first glance a point away to a team fighting relegation when down to 10 men for 40 minutes would seem like a decent result. However, this could have been so much more for Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs had been given a second chance by rivals Arsenal when they dropped points at home to Norwich on Saturday. A win away to Aston Villa seeing Spurs leapfrog Arsenal into third and into pole position for next season’s Champions League.
Understandably, Harry Redknapp kept with the team and formation that had won the last two games. Spurs had the better of the first-half with the majority of possession and several chances but in the 35th minute Ciaran Clark unleashed a 30-yard effort that deflected and Brad Friedel stranded. Within five minutes of the second-half Spurs were down to 10 men, Danny Rose being sent off for a challenge on Alan Hutton.. The sending off though had little negative effect, seeming only to galvanise the 10 men. Spurs pressed for the remainder of the match but their only success was when the excellent Sandro was brought down in the box by Richard Dunne, Emmanuel Adebayor emphatically putting away the penalty to level the scores.
There were positives for Spurs. Overall the players performed well, controlled the game and responded positively to going a man down. However, ultimately the match was one of wasted opportunities. Spurs had 63% possession, 19 corners, 11 successful dribbles and 22 shots. Yet for all this only four shots were on target. Spurs lacked the capability to kill Villa off. For all the possession, and this has been a common trait this season, there would appear little done to rectify the lack of results from shots, corners and free kicks.
Anything less than a win at Villa and Spurs would be reliant on favours from other teams – West Bromwich Albion, Bayern Munich – to be guaranteed Champions League football. Considering this, the substitutions, or lack thereof, by Redknapp could be considered strange. Jermain Defoe was waiting to come on when Spurs won the penalty; Redknapp changed his mind on the substitution. Spurs kept on pressing – Scott Parker was due to come on. Redknapp again changed his mind. Finally Parker was introduced in the 89th minute.
Perhaps in scoring Redknapp thought the players would go on and take the game. Was consideration given to how Villa would have felt, fighting relegation, just conceding an equalizer and under pressure to see Defoe come on? Their heads may have dropped. What was the point of Parker – an excellent player but a defensive midfielder with yet to score for Spurs – coming on? To protect the point? A draw or a loss should make no difference as long as Spurs win their final game. Redknapp appeared undecided, uncertain on the touchline and showed a lack of leadership.
Bringing on Defoe may not have won the game; bringing on a defensive midfielder looked like not even trying. This appeared a wasted opportunity – hopefully one Spurs will not regret.
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