France are through to the 2018 World Cup final after a 1-0 victory over Belgium in a tense semi-final encounter in St Petersburg. Both sides fashioned great chances, although the deadlock was finally broken after the interval where Samuel Umtiti leaped above Marouane Fellaini from a corner before heading beyond Thibaut Courtois at the near post.
In a real battle, Les Bleus came out on top and have plenty of players to thank – namely the goalscorer, his centre-back partner Raphael Varane for immense displays at the back, as well as goalkeeper Hugo Lloris for a string of impressive saves to keep the scores goalless in the first-half. Continue reading
Goals from Moussa Dembele, Dele Alli and Harry Kane condemned Aston Villa to a seventh straight league defeat, as they went down 3-1 to Tottenham Hotspur.
Moussa Dembele barged down the left wing before cutting inside to net with just 140 seconds played, before wonderkid Dele Alli doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time.
With Spurs cruising, Villa getting back into the game came as a shock, but they did. Jordan Ayew scored thanks to a deflection on 79 minutes, but it wasn’t enough, and Harry Kane sealed the win in added time.
MacDonald selects strange team
Despite Garde having been unveiled as manager hours before kick-off, interim boss Kevin MacDonald was on the touchline and picked the team.
Surprising a few by dropping Jordan Amavi in place of Kieran Richardson once more, there was a very experienced look to Villa’s starting XI, with the likes of Carles Gil only making the bench.
At the other end, Mauricio Pochettino had the easy decision of staying with the same 11 who dismantled Bournemouth by five goals to one a week prior.
Spurs take an early lead
It was indeed Tottenham who started brightly, and were consequently rewarded for their fast start. Just two minutes in, Mousa Dembele shrugged off the advances of Ciaran Clark in-and-around the penalty area, before neatly flicking the ball past Guzan at his near post. Villa had started slowly and were punished to devastating effect, their limp attempts to defend were exposed quite clearly, and they looked out-of-sorts in the early exchanges.
However, it was not all doom and gloom. Despite an unfortunate facial injury to Ashley Westwood in the dying embers of the first 45, Garde would have taken positives from his new side’s display. Ultimately, they should have created more in-front of goal, and been more fierce with their pressing out of possession, because they’d given their hosts too much space to roam through midfield and virtually pass the ball around them.
This meant for uncomfortable viewing and although they had a few half-chances of their own, the Villans surrendered too much of the ball to warrant a good team performance. Gabriel Agbonlahor should have been more patient when, on a counter attack, Grealish looked to slip him through past Toby Alderweireld. Instead, he was too eager to get in-behind the Spurs backline and ended up being penalized for a needless challenge on the Belgian.
Alli keeps his cool to double the lead
Dele Alli doubled Tottenham’s lead with a well-struck effort which nestled into the far corner, and it was deserved – both for the player, who was energetic throughout – and his teammates. But even still, the game was far from over.
As the second-half began, Spurs continued with the same pressing intensity that they’d finished the first with. Villa initially had rare spells of possession, but a loose ball or lapse in concentration saw a turnover in play, where the hosts were able to attack with both speed and purpose too.
Guzan watched on thankfully as Rose’ effort flashed over the crossbar, after a teasing ball towards the back post by Erik Lamela, getting the better of Richardson on the edge of the area.
Carles Gil was introduced with twenty-five minutes to play, in place of Jack Grealish – who was uncharacteristically quiet at times, apart from his well-struck effort which swerved narrowly wide of Lloris’ near post in the first 45. Richardson saw his name in the referee’s book for a late, cynical challenge on Lamela, who’d already skipped past him with audacious ease down the flank – and the chances started to dry up with the clock ticking down on the evening’s affair.
Christian Eriksen had two free-kick efforts: the first, cannoned back off the wall, the second, swerved wide of the crossbar – but an improved strike from the Dane’s first. Even though they were two-nil up, they were also far from plain sailing. Rudy Gestede, on at the break for an ineffective Agbonlahor, should have taken his opportunity at goal with more composure. Instead he watched on with frustration as his effort sailed over the bar and towards the supporters behind the crowd, as it seemed it was probably not going to be Villa’s night.
Ayew gives Villans hope, but it’s in vain thanks to Kane
But, football can change in a blink of an eye. It did so with just ten minutes to go, after Leandro Bacuna‘s stinging effort from range hit the post and ricocheted off the back of Lloris, Spurs failed to clear the ball convincingly enough, with Ayew profiting from a fortunate deflection to halve the deficit in dramatic style.
At two-one, the momentum was firmly in Villa’s favour and Tottenham could have easily seen their lead disintegrate. Instead, they were cautious and intelligent enough to slow the tempo of the game down, making the visitors chase the ball as time was ticking away.
The icing was sealed on the cake though, as a quick exchange of passes in the final third firmly put Villa to the sword, as they pushed men forward in search of a late equaliser. Eriksen evaded the challenge of Joleon Lescott on the counter before squaring the ball to his right to accomodate Lamela’s run, and Harry Kane’s sweetly-struck effort flew into the top corner to ensure they took all three points in an intriguing fixture.