Aston Villa 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1

Keane the sharpest of Spurs
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The Independent Football

Then again, Villa could be accused of wastefulness, having created more than enough chances to add to the fine strike by James Milner that had given them the lead inside the opening five minutes. Tottenham might have been five down by half-time.

On the other hand, if there is an England goalkeeper to call on when all other forms of defence prove ineffective, a team has something extra. By making four saves in the first half and another couple in the second, Paul Robinson stood in Villa's way time after time and Keane's goal was just reward for his heroics.

"We should have won the game," David O'Leary, the Villa manager, lamented. "By the time they scored it should have been all over.

"Tottenham are a good side and when you have Robbie on the bench there is always a threat. But it took a wonderful goalkeeper to keep them in it."

At least Villa rid themselves of the unpleasant taste of last Monday's 4-0 drubbing at West Ham. They should have built on the start Milner gave them on his home debut, but playing well enough to have won was consolation for O'Leary. A depleted squad had left him little room to manoeuvre in team selection, the two changes he did make - Patrik Berger for Gavin McCann and Juan Pablo Angel for Kevin Phillips - were forced by injuries.

He was gratified then, to see them fly out of the traps, which has been characteristic of all their better performances so far. Their Premiership goal tally stands at only five, all of them scored inside the first 11 minutes.

Yesterday's came after four, representing an uplifting start for Milner, the midfielder loaned for the season by Newcastle. Paul Stalteri lost possession on the right of Tottenham's midfield, allowing Milan Baros to escape along the left flank. The Czech has been criticised for playing too often with his head down but this time, looking across, he spotted Milner, who found himself with three Tottenham defenders closing in but had just enough time to release a diagonal shot from 22 yards that beat Robinson's dive.

But, thereafter, Robinson was unbeatable. As Villa pushed for a second, he first denied Baros at close range, then Berger, who had arrived at the far post to strike Milner's low cross. In the last minutes of the first half he kept out Angel twice.

Jol complains his side rely too heavily on their strikers and demands more goals from midfield but somehow most moves yesterday, at least until Keane appeared, seemed to involve Jermain Defoe. He set up Teemu Tainio for what should have been a 20th-minute equaliser and then arguably won Tottenham's 28th-minute penalty as Wilfred Bouma, under pressure from the England forward, handled. Naturally, Defoe took the kick, but Thomas Sorensen prolonged the goal drought by diving to his right to save.

Chances continued to be made at both ends in the second half. Within one minute, both teams hit the underside of each other's crossbar, Liam Ridgewell at the Tottenham end, Defoe at the other. Baros might have settled it for Villa but, as Robinson rushed forward to close the angles, he hurriedly scuffed the ball wide.

Then, finally, came Keane's intervention. "He was full of determination to score," Jol said of his 67th-minute substitute, whose future remains the subject of speculation.

With 11 minutes left, as Ridgewell, harried by Defoe, tried unsuccessfully to clear his penalty area, the ball ran to the Irishman, who took one step before whacking it past Sorensen and embarking on a gleeful celebratory run.

Keane would prefer a starting role, a feeling that Tottenham fans seem to share. His wish is unlikely to be granted, however. "He is not my second choice, he is my first choice," Jol insisted. "But Jermain is my first choice as well."