Aston Villa vs Tottenham match report: Late Harry Kane free-kick seals the points for Spurs after Christian Benteke red card

Aston Villa 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2

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The Independent Football

They sang his name for almost an hour and when manager Mauricio Pochettino answered the call from the Spurs fans and sent on Harry Kane, the young striker responded with a 90th-minute winner which left the Aston Villa manager, Paul Lambert, clinging to the wreckage of a season.

The good news for Villa was that they scored their first goal in nine hours and seven minutes of football; the bad was that they relinquished their lead and lost the game in the last six minutes to goals from Nacer Chadli and Kane after striker Christian Benteke had been sent off for slapping Ryan Mason in the face. It was their sixth straight defeat.

The pressure on Pochettino was almost as intense as that on Lambert before the game after two successive league defeats but, even in victory, there were questions as to why he left it so late to introduce Kane, who brought some energy and aggression to an otherwise tepid attack.

“He [Kane] made a big impact when he came on,” said the Tottenham manager. “He scores goals in every competition and I’m happy for him. He will get more games in the future.”

Those Villa fans who came to bury Lambert before the game were on the verge of praising him. Despite this latest setback, the manager is under no immediate threat even though it is the club’s worst run of results for 47 years and they are two points off the relegation zone.

Lambert was certain the sending-off changed the course of the game. “I can’t condone what Christian did but he was provoked [by Mason],” he said. “You cannot get away with raising your hands to an opponent but the lad has put his head in Christian’s face. We didn’t deserve to lose that. We were excellent.”

Lambert’s decision to leave out joint top scorer Gabby Agbonlahor in favour of Charles N’Zogbia was justified when Villa finally ended their drought. The Frenchman was used in a floating role behind Benteke but it was from a more familiar wide position that he created the long-awaited goal after 16 minutes. N’Zogbia skipped past Danny Rose’s feeble challenge down the right and his cross was slid into the net by Andreas Weimann.

Benteke looked to be finding some form and fitness after his six-month absence with a ruptured Achilles tendon and his three-game ban will be a big loss for Villa. He was only just wide with a diving header after 11 minutes and two minutes later rattled the outside of the post.

The Spurs fans’ verdict for Pochettino was abrupt and pointed. They chanted continuously for Kane, who was left on the bench despite scoring eight times this season, all of them in cup competitions.

Benteke.jpg The best of their first-half chances fell to Emmanuel Adebayor, who when slipped clear by Roberto Soldado in the 28th minute, allowed the Villa keeper Brad Guzan to save at full stretch. At the other end the Tottenham defence struggled to contain Benteke’s aerial threat and the Belgian muscled his way in front of Younes Kaboul to put another header narrowly wide just before the interval.

Pochettino’s half-time change was not the one the fans wanted. He took off Christian Eriksen and replaced him with Erik Lamela. The supporters were not impressed and responded with chants of “We want our Tottenham back” and, directed at the Spurs chairman, “We want Levy out”.

They finally got their wish when Kane replaced the ineffective Adebayor in the 58th minute and the youngster immediately forced a corner with a surge down the right, then headed the set piece straight at Guzan.

As the temperatures began to rise Jan Vertonghen was booked for a lungeing two-footed tackle on Ashley Westwood and that set the mood for another eruption of tempers, which led to Benteke’s dismissal. After a fierce challenge by the striker on Lamela, Mason intervened and shoved his face towards the striker, inviting a response. Benteke obliged with a slap to the midfielder’s cheek.

Even with 10 men Villa were holding out comfortably until Spurs equalised in the 84th minute. Lamela’s corner was hit behind the far post where an unmarked Chadli swept it into the net. Even worse was to follow for the home side, after Carlos Sanchez tripped Andros Townsend just outside the area. Kane made sure the moment was his by whipping the free-kick into the net via a huge deflection off defender Nathan Baker.

The Villa boos which greeted the final whistle were aimed not at Lambert but at referee Neil Swarbrick.

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