They left it late, but Tottenham managed to recover from a sluggish start and a goal down to snatch all three points – courtesy of Heung-Min Son in stoppage-time, capping a frenzied end to a crazy affair at Villa Park.
Tireless Son gets his reward in unlikely late twist
He had seven shots over the 90 minutes, was regularly denied by an inspired Pepe Reina and determined Villa backline. Having missed a handful of promising opportunities, the 27-year-old forward would have been frustrated and wondered whether those same chances would return to bite Spurs. A winnable fixture, the visitors struggled for large periods and couldn’t find the all-important winner in a second-half that could have gone either way.
Crucially, his head didn’t drop. Then in the fourth minute of stoppage-time, defender Bjorn Engels – who had atoned for an earlier error to head home Villa’s second-half equaliser – made another mistake to gift Son the best chance of the afternoon.
Davinson Sanchez’s hoof upfield saw the ball fall towards Engels’ path. High up the pitch, he took a risk to try and clear his lines back away from danger. Instead he miskicked the ball with his studs and watched helplessly as it flew and Son raced forward on his right.
Despite lashing at a few of his earlier chances, Son wasn’t going to miss on this occasion. Reina made seven saves – including a penalty Engels conceded just before half-time – to keep his side in with a puncher’s chance of snatching all three points.
Villa could have wrapped up the game in the first-half, such was their dominance. Alas, the experienced Spaniard could do nothing to stop Son from doubling his tally for the afternoon at a narrow angle, sealed with a deft finish for his 16th goal of 2019-20.
Engels endures forgettable afternoon
He wasn’t supposed to start. Dean Smith gave Tyrone Mings (tonsilitis) ample time to prove he’d be fit enough to feature from kick-off – but the influential centre-back wasn’t even fit enough to travel and watch the game personally, so Engels was given the nod.
Part of a three-man backline who played a high line against Spurs’ pace and purpose in the final third, the hosts were inadvertedly inviting pressure on their goal. When you consider the fact the 25-year-old Belgian hadn’t started a Premier League game since their 3-1 defeat by Southampton on December 21, nerves and lacking match practice are certainly factors.
Flat-footed and caught ball-watching for Alderweireld’s equaliser, he conceded the penalty – after VAR review – for a sliding challenge on Steven Bergwijn just before half-time. The manner of Son’s goal, missing the penalty then bundling home the rebound, gave Spurs a welcome morale boost heading into the interval, during a game they shouldn’t have been leading.
He went from villain to hero eight minutes after the restart, heading home Villa’s equaliser from a Jack Grealish corner. It also seemed fitting he jumped over Toby Alderweireld to lift into the bottom corner beyond Hugo Lloris.
His first Aston Villa goal, he replicated his compatriot in atoning for a first-half mistake. But no, this story didn’t have a happy ending. Instead, he turned villain again in stoppage-time – failing to intercept danger proving costly to gift Son a last-gasp winner.
Alderweireld survives sluggish start to prove pivotal
Post-match, the 30-year-old defender revealed to Sky’s Laura Woods that this week has been a difficult one for him personally – the birth of his child, not exactly the sharpest physically, but his teammates helped him through tricky moments while he made up for an early own goal with a thunderous strike at the opposite end.
Alderweireld made six clearances, three blocks and two tackles over the 90 minutes but won just two of his nine duels contested, was dribbled past thrice and at fault for both Villa goals too. (Stats’ source: SofaScore)
They’ll need him to be sharper with trickier tests to come in the weeks that follow, though he showed great character and resolve to come through unscathed during a game they had to dig deep in. Although they conceded two preventable goals, Jose will be satisfied.
Grealish watch as Prem’s top sides continue tracking him
Jack Grealish has been Aston Villa’s creative hub all season long and his stats speak for themselves – leading the team both in goals (7) and assists (6). That continued against a Tottenham side packed with talent, but one that remain shaky defensively in the Pochettino to Mourinho mid-season transition that has its fair share of positives and negatives.
The 24-year-old playmaker has long been tipped for a maiden England call-up and fitness permitting, Gareth Southgate is expected to select him in their next squad with friendlies scheduled in mid-March.
His display on this occasion deserved better than to be on the losing side, too. Here, he was a constant menace – too troublesome for Serge Aurier in particular. The returning Ben Davies made a crucial block to deny Douglas Luiz’ goal-bound effort, seconds after Grealish advanced down the byline unchallenged before teeing up the midfielder with a promising chance.
Minutes later, Eric Dier needed to commit a similarly important sliding interception to keep the score 1-0 as Sanchez played Grealish onside and he lurked dangerously near Lloris’ goal scanning for creative options. Eventually earning his assist after Engels headed home their second-half equaliser, Aurier made an important last-ditch interception to thwart an onrushing Trezeguet after Grealish – who else – delivered a great ball into the Egyptian’s path.
Match stats: A game-high five key passes, eight of 13 duels won, fouled on six occasions with two successful dribbles over the 90 minutes. A constant nuisance down the left-hand side, typically unafraid to take players on and create opportunities for others. His teammates let him down.
The result sees Villa remain 17th and are a point off the relegation places, while Tottenham themselves are now just a point behind fourth-placed Chelsea – who host Manchester United in Monday’s featured evening kick-off.
Spurs host Bundesliga side RB Leipzig in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday, before Chelsea (February 22) and Wolves (March 1) await in the following week. As for the Villains, they travel to the south Coast against Southampton next Saturday before their EFL Cup Final at Wembley up against defending champions Manchester City on March 1.