Even the second-half return of Christian Benteke was not enough for Aston Villa to end their dismal run against Tottenham Hotspur, a side they have not beaten home or away since September 2008. While there was, as usual, no shortage of effort from Paul Lambert’s team, they lacked the cutting edge to trouble their more expensively assembled opponents.
Villa began with a game plan of pressing Tottenham high up the pitch, and with the intention of catching them on the break, using their newfound defensive organisation. It was proving effective until they were undone by a freak goal. England hero Andros Townsend, rarely given space at all during the first-half, curled a cross into the penalty area which found its way into the far corner.
It meant a change of approach and unlike against Manchester City where they ruthlessly punished the visitor’s defensive frailties, Villa struggled to make an impact against a more disciplined Spurs backline. That did not stop players from taking plenty of shots at goal, but they invariably missed the target.
There were too many attempts from outside the box which went high and wide, with Andreas Weimann the main culprit. In the first hour, while the defence was holding its own, the forward play was poor, with not much creativity shown. Indeed, Villa struggled to force a clear-cut chance throughout the entire 90 minutes.
The hosts were given a temporary lift when Benteke was introduced on the hour mark to replace the ineffective Libor Kozak. The effect was immediate but short-lived, as Tottenham made the game safe shortly after Villa’s best spell of the match, an eight minute period which saw Benteke unsettle the away defence and head his side’s best chance over the crossbar.
Roberto Soldado met Paulinho’s stylish pass with a confident finish to make it 2-0, a goal which knocked the stuffing out of Villa. From then on, Townsend was allowed to dominate a previously solid Antonio Luna, and more challenges were beginning to be mistimed as Villa tired rapidly with nothing to show for their hard work.
However, Tottenham were not at their best, and just two shots on target at home in the Premier League out of 15 is a major disappointment that tells its own story. Hugo Lloris was given a very comfortable afternoon in the Tottenham goal, and too many goalkeepers are when they come to Villa Park at present, as the feeling remains that Lambert’s set-up is much better suited to when his side play away from home.
With another home outing, against Everton, coming next, Lambert may have to work on finding a more suitable formula for when his team play in front of their home supporters, something which he would hope would have similar results to the improvements that have been seen in defence, as the problem that occurred against Tottenham is becoming all-too familiar, though Benteke’s comeback should give them a healthy boost.
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