EPL news: Aston Villa versus Tottenham Hotspur (Part I)
Ashley Young missed out with a knee injury .Aston Villa manager, Gerard Houllier was forced to alter his midfield, handing a surprise start to Fabian Delph. More predictably, Gabriel Agbonlahor returned to the starting line-up after
a spell out through injury and partnered Emile Heskey.
Tottenham’s, Rafael van der Vaart returned for the first time since going off injured against Liverpool, in November. Younes Kaboul came in. Sebastian Bassong and Roman Pavlyuchenko, were the players left on the bench by Harry. Inside
the opening couple of minutes, Villa had opportunity to open the scoring. James Collins’s knock-down from a deep free-kick fell to Marc Albrighton but the youngster’s initial shot was tame and his second blocked by Gareth Bale. Gabriel Agbonlahor went close
with a header from around the penalty spot and Tottenham’s vulnerability under the high ball and with crosses, was exposed 90 seconds into this match. The Londoners were a small outfit.
Tottenham worked brilliantly around the edge of the Villa area and Aaron Lennon’s sublime flick from Luka Modric’s pass, found Jermain Defoe in behind the Villa defence. Brad Friedel got out well, to smother the diminutive striker’s
attempted clip, straight home. Aston Villa had a penalty shout, as Heurelho Gomes flied in at Emile Heskey, inside the box but referee Martin Atkinson was having none of it. Replays suggested that the Brazilian just got a touch on the ball, so it was a good
decision. Jermain Defoe looked dangerous playing on the shoulder of the defence and it took a fine block from Stephen Warnock, to prevent his shot getting at goal from Rafael van der Vaart’s pass. A fine Aston Villa break, saw Stewart Downing beat Alan Hutton
on the left and cut inside but his right-footed shot was a touch tame and Spurs keeper, Heurelho Gomes saved easily. A long ball from deep was prodded back in play by Alan Hutton by the touchline and Younes Kaboul slammed home, what he thought was Tottenham’s
opener but the linesman ruled the ball had gone out of play. Gabriel Agbonlahor marched through on goal, on the back of an Emile Heskey flick, outpacing the Spurs backline but Heurelho Gomes got down to block the Villa striker’s shot.
Spurs broke the deadlock as they worked the ball around Villa and Alan Hutton galloped down the right, before crossing low into the box for the onrushing Rafael van der Vaart. It wasn’t the greatest of crosses from Alan Hutton and James
Collins would kick himself for failing to cut it out. It was a Big decision from the referee, as Spurs were down to 10 men. Jermain Defoe got up for a header with James Collins and the Villa defender came off worse, after being caught by the striker’s elbow.
Referee, Martin Atkinson consulted his linesman and brandished a straight red.
Spurs were a man down but had a terrific break. Wilson Palacios strolled through Villa’s midfield, exchanging passes with Rafael van der Vaart and then smashed a shot that Brad Friedel excellently tipped round the post. Martin Atkinson
missed the keeper’s touch and a goal-kick was given. Aston Villa had to make a forded substitution as Emile Heskey limped from the field to be replaced by Nathan Delfouneso, who had a bright start to proceedings as the Villa striker danced around Michael Dawson
to create half a yard on the edge of the Tottenham box, but the youngster’s subsequent shot flied over the bar.
It was an entertaining first-half and Aston Villa might consider themselves unfortunate to be behind. Luka Modric provided a moment of genius en route to Rafael van der Vaart’s opener but Villa responded with spirit and will hope to
make their numerical advantage count soon.