4:02pm Sunday 6th May 2012
By Anthony Matthews
Spurs have missed a big chance to go into one of the three automatic Champions League places after being held to a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa, despite playing most of the second half with ten men.
Harry Redknapp’s side went into the game knowing that following Arsenal’s 3-3 draw with Norwich City yesterday, they would go above the Gunners into third if they could win. As it was, they had to settle for narrowing the gap from two points to one going into the final Sunday of the season.
Villa might have been awarded a penalty before they made the breakthrough in the 35th minute when Ciaran Clark’s shot was deflected past Brad Friedel by William Gallas.
Spurs almost equalised soon after when Gareth Bale forced Shay Given into a fine save but their task looked to have got even harder within minutes of the restart when Danny Rose was rightly sent off for a nasty two-footed challenge on Alan Hutton.
However, if anything this galvanised Tottenham and Emmanuel Adebayor levelled from the penalty spot just after the hour mark after Richard Dunne had fouled Sandro.
Redknapp named an unchanged line-up for the third match running, but it was the hosts who had the first opening when some good work between Emile Heskey and Stephen Warnock saw the ball worked to Charles N’Zogbia on the right side of the area but his left-footed shot was deflected over.
Spurs though, were soon on the front foot and a patient build-up involving Sandro and Kyle Walker set up Adebayor on the right of the penalty box but he dragged his shot well wide.
But it was Villa who were having the better of the opening exchanges and they were nearly gifted an opener in the 12th minute when Walker sloppily gave the ball away to Stephen Ireland. He set Heskey away in the area but as the striker was preparing to pull the trigger, Younes Kaboul got in a challenge. Although the penalty appeals were mainly from the crowd, replays suggested Villa had a reasonable case for a spot kick.
Kaboul’s next involvement was to be rightly booked by referee Lee Probert for a foul on Heskey from behind but that let off appeared to spark the visitors into greater life and they began to enjoy possession in more threatening areas. However, Walker’s shot over from the edge of the area in the 25th minutes was largely typical of the chances Spurs were creating up to that stage of the contest.
But Spurs almost opened up the home defence in the 28th minute when Bale countered at pace and slipped the ball to Rafael Van der Vaart on the left side of the area. His cross was superbly intercepted by Carlos Cuellar, who diverted the ball over his own bar, as Adebayor prepared to pounce but the flag was already up for offside.
Next Aaron Lennon got to the byline before feeding Van Der Vaart, who stood up a cross to the back post where Bale got above Hutton but was unable to direct his header on target.
It was the hosts though, who were to make the breakthrough in the 35th minute.
Tottenham were guilty of standing off as Heskey slipped the ball inside to Clark, who took a touch before letting fly with a 25-yard left-footed strike that deflected off Gallas, giving Friedel no chance.
The lead was almost cancelled out within two minutes when Walker found Bale on the left side of the area and his left-footed shot was superbly clawed around his near post by Given.
Soon after, Van der Vaart’s driven corner from the right was flicked on by Gallas but a combination of Cuellar and Warnock managed to scramble away the danger.
The chances still kept coming Spurs’ way as the opening half drew to a close and following another corner, this time played short from the left, the ball was worked across and back to Van der Vaart, who fizzed a right-footed shot inches wide of Given’s left-hand upright from the edge of the area.
Tottenham almost created their next chance within 50 seconds of the restart when Van der Vaart released Bale on the left and he played in a lovely low cross but it was just too far ahead of Adebayor.
The visitors continued to press but the complexion of the game changed further four minutes after the restart when they were reduced to ten men.
The incident occurred directly in front of the dug outs when Rose slid in for a challenge on Hutton two footed and with his studs raised. Although the Spurs left-back clearly won the ball, he was fortunate that he didn’t break his opponent’s leg with his follow through and Probert had no hesitation in producing the red card.
Hutton was able to walk away, albeit with some assistance, and was replaced by James Collins, while Andreas Weimann had already been introduced at the expense of Heskey.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, Spurs were straight back on the attack and Adebayor really should have done much better when he broke into the area but his shot was tame and Given saved comfortably.
Sandro also fired into the side netting before Tottenham were gifted a route back into the contest on the hour when Dunne needlessly fouled Sandro, who was going away from goal, inside the 18-yard box. Probert immediately pointed to the spot and Adebayor made no mistake, sending Given the wrong way to make it 1-1.
Weimann’s substitute appearance was to last only 18 minutes as he had to be replaced by Nathan Delfouneso after sustaining an injury.
It was Spurs who continued in the ascendency though, and Lennon was the next to try his luck, coming inside from the left edge of the area before scuffing a shot wide of Given’s right-hand post.
If anything, Villa were looking the side a man down at times but they went close to retaking the lead when N’Zogbia’s corner from the right was headed narrowly wide at the far post by Dunne.
Van der Vaart sliced an effort wide at the other end before Bale turned away from three men on the right side of the area but stuck a right foot shot straight at Given.
Adebayor headed a Walker cross over as Tottenham continued to press before Redknapp decided on a change in the closing stages, bringing on Scott Parker for Van der Vaart.
They continued to press during six minutes of injury time but they closest they got was when Adebayor and Gallas couldn’t get enough of a contact on their attempted headers from a Walker cross.
Aston Villa: Given; Hutton (Collins 54), Cuellar, Dunne, Lichaj; N’Zogbia, Herd, Clark, Warnock; Ireland; Heskey (Weimann 52 (Delfouneso 70)). Not used: Guzan, Bannan, Gardner and Carruthers.
Tottenham Hotspur: Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Kaboul, Rose; Lennon, Modric, Sandro, Bale; Van der Vaart (Parker 89); Adebayor. Not used: Saha, Dos Santos, Defoe, Cudicini, Livermore and Nelsen.
Bookings: Kaboul for a foul on Heskey (17); Rose sent off for a foul on Hutton (51); Sandro for a foul on Herd (90).
Referee: Lee Probert.
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