Watkins fires Aston Villa into 4th as Spurs pay tribute to Venables
EPL

Watkins fires Aston Villa into 4th as Spurs pay tribute to Venables

Nov 27, 2023

Ollie Watkins fired Aston Villa into fourth place in the Premier League as they came from behind to win 2-1 at Tottenham on a day the hosts paid tribute to former boss Terry Venables.

Unai Emery’s side trailed to Giovani Lo Celso’s first goal of the season in the first half in north London.

But Pau Torres equalised just before the break and Watkins’ 12th goal this term wrapped up an impressive result for revitalised Villa.

Villa moved above Tottenham into fourth, with Ange Postecoglou’s team falling two points behind them in fifth after a third successive defeat stalled their early-season momentum.

Tottenham have squandered the lead in all three of their defeats, but Postecoglou could point to the injuries that have robbed him of several key players including James Maddison.

“The outcome is disappointing but I thought the players did a fantastic job, playing the football we want,” Postecoglou said.

“On any other day we win that game. It’s fine margins. If we keep playing like that when we get everyone back we will be a pretty good side.”

Villa’s resilient third away win in their last 11 league games underlined the improvements made by Emery since he replaced the sacked Steven Gerrard last season.

Sitting just two points behind leaders Arsenal, Villa have won four of their last five league games to spark genuine hopes of a top four challenge.

“It was an amazing match. Both teams created chances. We were efficient and clinical in our attacking. I enjoyed it but I lost my energy!” Emery said.

“Of course we can get confidence when we are winning matches like today. We are willing to fight. I tell the players ‘enjoy our position but we are not content’.”

As a innovative former manager of England, Barcelona and Tottenham, where he won the FA Cup in 1991, Venables would have appreciated the attacking quality of both teams on the day he passed away aged 80.

With both teams wearing black armbands, a picture of Venables was displayed on each of the big screens during a minute of applause in celebration of his life before kick-off.

Tottenham were on top in the opening stages and Dejan Kulusevski blasted against the post after showing nimble footwork to prise open the Villa defence.

Postecoglou’s men were back on the offensive as Bryan Gil was denied by a fine save from Emiliano Martinez.

Their enterprising play reaped a deserved reward in the 22nd minute when Villa could only clear a corner to the edge of the area, where Lo Celso hammered a powerful strike that deflected in off Carlos.

Clinical Watkins

Villa thought they had mustered an immediate response as Watkins glanced his header past Guglielmo Vicario from Lucas Digne’s cross.

But, after a VAR check of almost three minutes, the goal was disallowed for a tight offside against Watkins.

Kulusevski was inches away from doubling Tottenham’s lead with a curler before Son Heung-min’s goal was chalked off for another offside.

For all their dashing play in attack, Tottenham were vulnerable at the back and Villa took advantage in first half stoppage-time.

Douglas Luiz’s free-kick found Torres unmarked 10 yards out and the Spanish defender thumped his header past Vicario, with the goal surviving another extended VAR check.

Villa were nearly gifted the lead early in the second half when Vicario allowed Leon Bailey’s shot to squirm under him before gratefully grabbing the ball after it rebounded off the post.

Emery’s men exposed the flaws in Tottenham’s defence again to take the lead in the 61st minute.

A neat move climaxed with Watkins playing a one-two with Youri Tielemans to open up the creaky Tottenham rearguard before the England striker guided a clinical finish into the far corner from 12 yards.

Martinez made excellent stops to repel efforts from Brennan Johnson and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg before Son’s strike was disallowed for offside to cap a frustrating afternoon for Tottenham.

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