Tottenham scored four second half goals to heap more misery on Aston Villa at Villa Park in the Boxing Day game. Jermain Defoe opened the scoring with almost an hour played and then Gareth Bale completed a 23 minute hat-trick to secure the points and lift Tottenham to fourth place in the Premier League with 33 points.
Aston Villa 0 Tottenham Hotspur 4
Scorers: Defoe, Bale (3)
Team: Lloris; Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Naughton; Lennon, Sandro, Dembele (Parker), Bale (Townsend); Adebayor (Sigurdsson), Defoe Subs: (unused) Friedel, Dawson, Caulker, Livermore
The Tottenham team showed three changes, one positional, from the side which drew with Stoke City on Saturday. William Gallas and Jan Vertonghen were in central defence with Kyle Naughton at left back. For almost an hour, the match was almost a re-run of the Stoke game as Tottenham dominated possession and chances but were unable to find a way through on goal.
Not surprisingly, following their heavy defeat at Chelsea, Villa were determined to defend in depth and deny Spurs any scoring chances. This they succeeded in doing by restricting Spurs to only three goals scoring opportunities in the first half, two by Bale and one from Defoe. Spurs had all of the early pressure with Villa getting blocks in on efforts on goals as the Tottenham corner count quickly mounted. Bale was a constant threat to Villa and he brought the first save from Brad Guzon after ten minutes with a curled shot from twenty yards which the goalkeeper tipped away for a corner. Bale then got in a run and cross but Guzon dealt with it easily.
Tottenham pressed Villa in midfield which enabled Defoe to play in Aaron Lennon but his cross was cleared for a corner which was taken by Kyle Walker and provided Gallas with an opportunity to head at goal. A minute later, Spurs gained possession and Emmanuel Adebayor played Defoe in but a combination of goalkeeper and defender put the ball out for another corner.
It was almost half and hour before Villa mounted a serious attack, coming after a misplaced Spurs pass by Gallas with the ball going back and forward across the Spurs area without anyone getting a touch. Sandro then won a corner from which Adebayor headed over. Good play between Naughton and Bale on the left ended with Adebayor’s shot being blocked.
Spurs gave the ball away after 34 minutes, allowing Villa to break from half-way but they were unable to take advantage when as a cross from the right was hit into the side netting at the back post. Bale continued to be Spurs most dangerous player as his cross was cleared for a corner from which Vertonghen and Adebayor combined to create a shooting opportunity for Lennon but it was blocked. Five minutes before the interval Guzon saved a shot from Bale and then good work on the right between Lennon and Walker saw the full-back’s cross blocked for a corner. Villa won their first corner in the 45th minute but it was claimed by Lloris who had had a quiet first half. So dominant were Tottenham that in the first half they had 70% possession, 11 shots on goal and fifteen corners to Villa’s 1 shot and one corner.
After the interval Villa introduced Albrighton and in the opening stages showed more ambition and threat, attempting to take the game to Spurs. His run and cross was cleared by Gallas and the Spurs captain again was there to head clear from another cross. The home side followed this up with a shot that went wide but the pressure was short lived. Lennon played Defoe in but Villa recovered to clear. The game became more open and end to end as Ireland got the better of Vertonghen to play in a cross towards Benteke. On 55 minutes, Benteke got behind the Spurs defence and brought a great save from Lloris but he was flagged off-side. Two minutes later Sandro won possession and Spurs worked the ball forward to the Villa area through Bale and Defoe but they were closed out. Spurs retained possession and when the ball came back to Naughton, he played a perfect pass to Defoe who scored on his 400th Premier League appearance.
Three minutes later, Villa created a dangerous situation whenBenteke had the chance to cross from from the right but Spurs cut it out and counter-attacked through Defoe. The striker was dispossessed but the ball fell to Bale who took it into the area and past the goalkeeper to score Spurs’ second. A minute later, Bale hit a free-kick against the defensive wall after a foul on Lennon.
Scott Parker replaced Mousa Dembele with 25 minutes to play and with the game more open they added a third through Bale when Lennon played him in after 72 minutes. Lennon was again involved when he gave the ball to Walker and his cross found Defoe but his shot went over the bar. Spurs continued to press and on 83 minutes, Walker played the ball forward to Gylfi Sigurdsson who had replaced Adebayor. Running into the area Sigurdsson played the ball back to Bale who completed his hat-trick.
At this point, Bale was replaced by Andros Townsend and Spurs played out the rest of the match without any alarms to claim fourth place ahead of Everton on goals scored, as Spurs four goals put the two teams level on goal difference. Spurs had 68% possession and had 20 attempts on goal (16 on target) to Villa’s four.
Villa defended stoutly for the first hour but once Spurs had scored, Villa had no response. Tottenham head to the north-east to face Sunderland on Saturday with Reading at home next Tuesday. Sunderland have had a recent improvement in form and won their last two games – winning at QPR on Saturday and following it with a home win over Manchester City. Spurs will be hoping to bring that to an end.
Andre Villas-Boas and Steffen Freund were clearly pleased with the result at Villa Park and the manager spoke enthusiastically after the match.
“It was very good from start to finish. We fully deserved it. It didn’t happen for us in the first half but we kept our concentration and came on very strong in the second half. If one team was going to win it, it was us and overall it was a very good performance.”