Siao Mates Feb 17

Aston Villa 2 Spurs 3 (incl. match highlights) - Making hay while the Son shines


 

As I wrote on Friday, Aston Villa was a potential banana skin, and boy, were they indeed. Yet again, whether by intention or not, Tottenham Hotspur came out victors with their rope-a-dope tactics. 

 

Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s hotline must be tired of hearing my family calling them each time Spurs is playing, and to be fair to the hospital, my family members should by now recognise that my one-minute spasm when Spurs score is not a sign of stroke or a heart attack.

 

Admittedly, my inability to breathe after Son Heung Min slotted home Spurs’ winner in the 94th minute will probably make my cardiologist recommend that I stay away from watching Spurs games until they start learning how to dominate games.

 

Had Son, who otherwise had a pretty poor game except for his brace, not scored the winner, most of us Spurs fans would have lamented yet another slip-up, but grudgingly admitted that a draw was a fair result.

 

Aston Villa, especially Jack Grealish, played with a swagger that betrayed their league position while Spurs continued to look like those gongfu masters in the Ip Man movies that generally serve as warm-up before Ip Man steps in to kick the villain’s ass. You know, the ones that are hyped up to take on the bad guy but eventually get pummelled senseless.

 

Had the Villans not displayed a masterclass of wayward finishing, the home team could easily have been three up in the first 30 minutes, though admittedly, Dele Alli did his best to show that he’s a master at missing gilt-edged chances as well.

 

In the end, though, it was Son’s inexplicable habit of scoring despite playing badly in recent times that got Spurs over the line, combined with a good VAR decision in awarding Spurs a clear and obvious penalty which the referee clearly and obviously missed.

 

In a week which could make or break Spurs’ season, it’s a good thing that the team is making hay with the intermittent Sonshine.

 

Here’s how the match went.

 

0 min: Line-up announced

It is utter disbelief from this Spurs fan that the most in-form players of recent times, Giovani Lo Celso and Japhet Tanganga, are left out of the starting line-up. What’s even worse is that instead of replacing Lo Celso with the equally gifted Tanguy Ndombele or hard-working Gedson Fernandes, Mourinho opted to go with Eric Dier. You just know that the customary giving the ball away in a dangerous area under no pressure is coming with Dier in the team. 

 

1-8th min: Villa bossing it

Serge Aurier and Toby Alderweireld take turns in inviting Jack Grealish into their house for tea and cookies. All the play is in Spurs’ half and the visitors can’t hold onto the ball. Eric Dier looks lost and, as expected, gives the ball away in a dangerous area under no pressure. Thankfully, Villa don’t capitalise on his sloppiness.

 

9th min: GOAL! Villa scores, no one is surprised

Anwar El-Ghazi, not for the first time, gets the better of Ben Davies and sends in a cross. Hugo Lloris comes out for it but changes his mind half-way and stops. Toby Alderweireld, probably surprised by Lloris’ hesitancy, gets to the cross late and pokes it past his goalie and into the goal. No more than Villa deserved.

 

12th min: Grealish fires just wide

Grealish continues to torment Alderweireld, cuts in from the left and shoots just wide. Toby is having a bad day in the office.

 

14th min: Spurs show signs of life!

El-Ghazi shows why Villa are where they are with a loose ball that Lucas Moura pounces on. He lays a perfect pass to Alli inside the box and he steers it right into Kortney Hause. Big let-off for Villa but Alli would have been expected to do better. 

 

17th min: Moura almost levels it

Bjorn Engels keeps backing off from Moura, allowing the Brazilian to shoot. The ball goes just wide and suddenly, it looks like Spurs are clawing their way back.

 

18th min: Nope, false dawn. Villa back at it

Grealish again carves the Spurs defence up like a hot knife through butter down the left and rolls the ball into the box. It finds a wide open Douglas Luiz and he puts his boot through it. Davies somehow gets in the way of a certain goal and the ball goes out for a corner. At this point, I am considering watching the final episode of Crash Landing On You on Netflix instead, which is probably better than watching Crash Landing on Spurs’ Defence.

 

22nd min: There’s only one team in it

Mbwana Samatta gets across Davinson Sanchez to meet El-Ghazi’s cross from the right and narrowly misses the goal. My hand reaches for the TV remote. 

 

27th min: GOAL! Spurs equalise out of nowhere!

A corner floated in plays pinball with Dier’s backside before landing at Alderweireld’s feet. He swivels and fires a bullet into the top of the net and Villa Park is stunned. I run around the house in celebration and my three dogs run after me thinking they are going to get treats.

 

36th min: Alli misses. Again.

Suddenly, Spurs look dangerous. Alli gets behind the Villa defence after good work by Son on the right and tries a fancy outside of his right boot curler when a side foot would have worked better. It would be a fantastic finish had it come off, but of course, given his current form, it goes yards wide of the far post. 

 

41st min: Bergwijn almost repeats City heroics

Quiet till then, new man Steven Bergwijn latches onto a rebound from yet another tame Alli shot and hits the ball with the anger of a man whose dog just ate his finest pair of shoes. Engels blocks it with what looks like his hand, but VAR correctly says it was his stomach. 

 

44th min: Bergwijn goes down in the box, no penalty!

Bergwijn breaks free again, this time on the right, and Engels slides in. The winger goes flying but the referee waves play on. Over in Singapore, 1,000 Spurs fans make the VAR gesture.

 

45th min: And so does the referee!

VAR checks and clearly sees Engels not touching the ball. The ref makes the VAR gesture and a loud cheer ripples through Balestier estate, though not as loud as in the previous match against City where the Police showed up. Sonny steps up.

 

45th min: … and he misses

Pepe Reina makes a great save to his right and I died a little inside.

 

45th min: … but Son scores on the rebound. GOAL!

I looked death in the eye and said, not today, as Sonny pounces on the rebound and pokes it past Reina. Spurs go into the break 2-1 up, and no one knows how Villa isn’t home and dry by now.

 

51st min: Villa bossing it again. What’s going on?

Samatta cushions a header to El-Ghazi free inside the box and his fierce drive goes straight into Lloris’ palms. Should have done way better and the lead looks increasingly slim.

 

54th min: GOAL! Engels makes up 

Grealish floats in a corner and Engels beats Alderweireld and heads it home from close range. Both defenders have now made one mistake each but made up for it with a goal. Both teams have missed gilt-edged chances and this has draw written all over it, which really helps neither team.

 

60th min: Lo Celso replaces Dier. The world is a brighter place.

OK, that was harsh. Dier wasn’t exactly the worst player in a Spurs shirt, but nonetheless, it’s a positive change which shows that Mourinho is going for the win. I start feeling a sense of renewed hope.

 

61st min: Son tamely misses

Moura does good work on the right and finds Son in the box. I jump and shout goal but the Korean decides to just tamely hit the ball down the centre for Reina to parry. 

 

70th min: Bergwijn blocked again

Aurier for once puts in a decent cross from the right, but Reina punches it clear. The ball somehow finds an unmarked Bergwijn. Marvelous Nakamba lives up to his name and somehow appears from nowhere to block a certain goal. Spurs now look in control.

 

84th min: Moura heads to the corner flag

Lo Celso’s corner is inch-perfect and finds Moura unmarked at the far post. I had visions of Moura’s header blasting past City defenders at Etihad early in the season but this time, he looks for the corner flag instead, and this was probably easier than the City one.

 

85th min: Reina shows he’s not over the hill

Villa sub Borja Baston’s first touch was to give the ball to Son inside the box. The Korean must score but a sprawling Reina parries it wide. OK, it’s not going to be Spurs day for sure now. And well, 2-2 is a pretty fair result. All we need now is for City’s ban to be upheld and cling onto 5th place because with this result, I’ve given up on fourth.

 

90+4 min: But the Fat Lady hasn’t sung. GOAL!

The match is being played out, and Spurs punt a hopeful long ball towards Son which Engels should easily trap … but he doesn’t! He makes a mess of it, Son gets the ball behind him and charges into the box. This time, he takes aim and sidefoots it beyond a diving Reina and into the bottom right corner! I hyperventilate and pass out.

 

What a match! It shouldn’t have been this hard for Spurs, but once again, Mourinho makes an easy game look hard and gives Spurs fans yet another cardiac arrest. Mourinho said post-match that Spurs deserved the win, but Villa didn’t deserve to lose. He was right. 

 

Both teams played with the passion of a cup final and in the end, football was the winner.

 

Now excuse me as I go dig up a Manchester United jersey and throw my support for them to give Chelsea a morale-sapping defeat at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday morning.

 

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