Tim Sherwood enjoyed a dream return to White Hart Lane as his Aston Villa side beat Tottenham 1-0 on Saturday afternoon.
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Ahead of the game, all the discussions focused on whether Villa’s Belgian striker Christian Benteke could maintain his fine form that had seen him score seven goals in his previous five games, and in the event it was 24 year old’s goal that proved to be the difference.
Villa went into the game knowing a win was vital to give themselves some breathing space over the sides battling relegation, while Spurs knew a win would temporarily put them fifth, ahead of a Liverpool side who don’t play Newcastle until Monday evening.
Tottenham made two changes from the side that drew 0-0 away at Burnley last Sunday, with Federico Fazio replacing Kyle Walker in defence and England hero Andros Townsend coming in for Paulinho in the midfield. The visitors were unchanged, as Tim Sherwood put his faith in the same eleven which drew 3-3 against QPR on Monday evening.
The first half was an uninspiring affair for the opening half an hour. Villa started brightly and looked to put Spurs under early pressure, but there was a lot of industry without much end-product. With the exception of Michael Vorm flapping at a couple of crosses, neither goal was seriously threatened.
The first save of the day didn’t arrive until the 28th minute, when Danny Rose was played in by Cristian Eriksen, only to see Brad Guzan easily block his tame effort.
The shot proved to be a turning point, and the game became more open for the final fifteen minutes of the half. The deadlock was eventually broken by a Christian Benteke header in the 34th minute, as the 6 foot 3 Belgian beat Federico Fazio in the air to power home a fine Leandro Bacuna cross.
Spurs responded brilliantly, as Harry Kane and Cristian Eriksen both went close; Kane saw a decent header stopped by Guzan and Eriksen blazed over from twenty yards when he had options available.
Despite Spurs’ response, it was Villa who came closest to getting the second of the game on the stroke of half time. A beautiful combination between Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor on the left flank saw the striker cut in onto his favoured right foot and smash a rasping shot against the foot of the post from the edge of the area.
The pace of the game dropped off again at the start of the second half, with Spurs probing intently but the Villa’s defence standing firm. Harry Kane was the only Spurs player to come close when he flashed a shot just over the bar from a tight angle in the 58th minute, but Villa also wasted good chances as Ron Vlaar fired over from close range after a corner.
Aston Villa were dealt a blow with 20 minutes to go when Agbonlahor was forced off with what appeared to be a muscle injury, but Sherwood showed he wasn’t prepared to simply defend their lead as he sent on former England international Joe Cole in his place.
Delph could have put the game to bed in the 85th minute but saw Vorm make a fine save, while Sanchez was sent off for Villa in the 93rd minute for two yellows. Ultimately, neither incident made a difference and Villa held on for a vital three points.
The results puts Villa fifteenth but leaves Spurs in seventh, with their prospects of playing in next season’s Champions League looking all-but dead.
Next up for Aston Villa is the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool at Wembley, while Spurs will travel to the North East to face Newcastle United.