Football: Nielsen shows the way to finish

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur 1 Aston Villa 0

Mark Bosnich's Nazi salute apart there was little else to inflame the passions for the first hour at White Hart Lane on Saturday. The game had been a catalogue of off-target finishing until Alan Nielsen found the net with his first goal for the club to give Spurs their first home win of the season.

It was a timely reminder that Gerry Francis could do with a few more like the Dane, his one and only pre-season signing. But if there was discontent at Alan Sugar's lame excuse for not spending some of that pounds 11.9m profit announced earlier in the week, it never revealed itself.

That elusive victory seemed as far away as ever, even against a Villa side lacking Gareth Southgate's reassuring presence in defence, until Nielsen struck following a cross by Ruel Fox and a kindly rebound off the hand of Ugo Ehiogu.

The fact that it came against a side that they had failed to beat in their previous 14 meetings made it all the more sweet. But even that and Chris Armstrong's slightly premature return from injury couldn't disguise the deficiencies which Francis has been striving particularly hard of late to rectify. The Spurs manager has made Judith Chalmers seem like an old stay-at-home in the last fortnight, as he has sped between seven countries in order to set up a European network of scouts.

As for Villa, not so long ago the championship dark horses, it is a case of back to the drawing board. This was their seventh game without a win - five of them draws. "We're beginning to become a team that's probably quite interesting to watch but one that might not win many games. There's something missing," Little said.

The occasional ability of his strikers to be as anonymous as they can be conspicuous - Dwight Yorke and Savo Milosevic both scored hat-tricks last time out - is at the root of their problems.

Goal: Nielsen (61) 1-0.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Carr, Campbell, Calderwood, Wilson; Fox, Nielsen (Nethercott, 90), Howells, Sinton (Edinburgh, 37); Sheringham, Armstrong. Substitutes not used: Austin, Bardsen (gk), Fenn.

Aston Villa (3-5-2): Bosnich; Ehiogu, Staunton, Taylor; Nelson, Townsend (Tiler, 75), Draper (Joachim, 75), Curcic, Wright; Milosevic (Johnson 75), Yorke. Substitutes not used: Farrelly, Oakes (gk).

Referee: P Jones (Leicestershire).

Bookings: Spurs: Sheringham. Villa: Bosnich, Taylor.

Man of the match: Curcic.

Attendance: 32,847.