Tottenham return to winning ways at Aston Villa
Goals from Carlos Vinicius and Harry Kane secure 2-0 win that sees Spurs move up to sixth in the Premier League table
21 March, 2021 — By Dan Carrier
ASTON VILLA 0
SPURS 2 (Vinicius 29, Kane 68 pen)
CRISIS – what crisis?
Under pressure Spurs manager Jose Mourinho ended a week that saw his team put in surely the worst back-to-back performances he has overseen in his long career with a heart warming away win at Aston Villa – and the doom-lifting 2-0 result moves Tottenham up to sixth, and three points off the top-four.
Defeats by Arsenal and Dinamo Zagreb, which halted Tottenham’s Europa League run, saw the odds tumble on Mourinho being the next Premier manager to be given the heave-ho.
But the old schemer came out swinging, going bold in selection and giving his side a shake.
In came Carlos Vinicius alongside Harry Kane to give Spurs a sledge hammer of an attack – both would score – while Joe Rodon and Japhet Tanganga were handed rare starts at the back.
After the match, Mourinho said: “A good result, and total credit to the players for their attitude and effort. They gave everything.
“Our next challenge is not to play like this as reaction to an awful performance, but to play like this, with this state of mind and soul, as a permanent thing. That is our next challenge.
“Attitude, team spirt, empathy – they are not negotiable. We need to be permanently in this state of mind.”
Mourinho said that he saw his players walk off the Villa Park pitch having proven an important point to themselves.
He added: “They gave absolutely everything. We saw cramp and fatigue, all the things connected with a performance where you give everything.”
Such was Mourinho’s sticky position, he had little to lose by selecting Davinson Sanchez with Rodon as centre-backs – starting for the first time together, they were their coach’s fifth different combination of the season. And as Villa settled better and built up some pressure, the pair had some quick learning to do.
The same applied to Tanganga at right-back, an issue Mourinho addressed tonight with some success. It has been a problem since Kyle Walker left for City and winners medals. Kieran Trippier was not forgiven for one poor season, while Kyle Walker-Peters never enjoyed a real chance.
For all of Serge Aurier’s good games, a penalty, red card or general match-losing brain freeze always appears to be on the horizon. Poor Matt Doherty, feted as that missing cog after a couple of early promising games at the beginning of the season, has recently looked miles off where he needs to be.
With Mourinho’s patience in Doherty and Aurier stretched, this was Tanganga’s chance. And he was absolutely solid.
It took the back four about 20 minutes to get in tune, and then they grew in stature. For all of Villa’s first half possession, the home side did not muster a single shot on target – and had to wait until the 58th minute to register an effort in the direction of Hugo Lloris’s goal.
Whoever it was that captain Lloris suggested was not pulling their weight after Thursday’s Europa League disaster, it certainly isn’t Lucas Moura. In another display of artistry matched with industry, he was at the heart of everything positive Spurs did.
This was Moura’s 150th game for Spurs, and his balance on the ball frightened Villa every time he got motoring. It was his speed and anticipation that made the opener: on 28, a long ball for Vinicius to chase was semi-cleared by Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez.
Moura reacted first, nicking back possession and then setting off. He played a one-two with Kane that got him into the box, and as the Villa defence descended he squared the ball for Vinicius to finish.
It was against the run of play in terms of possession, if not clear cut chances created – and with Spurs at such a low ebb in terms of confidence, this lead felt like it was built on shaky foundations.
Yet when Villa did try to nail a coffin lid down on Tottenham’s lifeless season, they found a midfield given extra bite by the returning Giovani Lo Celso and a defence invigorated by the enthusiasm of the skilled but inexperienced Tanganga and Rodon.
With Villa well-marshalled, Spurs could turn their attentions to snatching a second. Vinicius, his body language transformed by his goal, hustled the Villa back four, Kane dropped deeper to help create, and Moura’s direct running could only be stopped by increasingly cynical and yellow card worthy challenges.
Then came the vital cushion. On 66, Moura advanced, Villa’s players backed off: he saw Kane getting in behind, but his through ball was overhit. Kane reached it as it went out of play – but Villa full-back Matty Cash decided a chunky challenge was needed anyway.
Referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot, and Kane duly despatched the penalty.
Villa’s belief drained away and Spurs could now defend their lead with a measure of calm. Suddenly Tottenham were swishing the ball about with a winners arrogance – something that has been lacking in recent months.
Maybe, just maybe, there is more to come from this season after all.
Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett, Sanson (Barkley 66), Douglas Luiz, McGinn, Traore (El Ghazi 59), Watkins, Trezeguet ( Davis 79)
Substitutes not used: Heaton, Taylor, Nakamba, Engels, El Mohamady, Ramsey
Spurs: Lloris, Tanganga, Rodon, Sanchez, Reguilon (Davies 55), Moura, Hojbjerg, Ndombele (Sissoko 80), Lo Celso (Bergwijn 65), Vinicius, Kane
Substitutes not used: Hart, Dier, Alli, Scarlett, Devine, Bale