Dawson goes from villain to hero as Spurs look Euro stars

Aston Villa 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1

One week you score nine, the next just one. In football it is predictable the high will be followed by a comparative low. Yet Harry Redknapp will take just as much from this hard-earned point as he did from that three-point waltz against Wigan, if not more. Should Spurs go on to achieve their European dream, then evenings like this will be vital.

Villa Park on a wet and cold Saturday night is not the best place to go chasing down a deficit. But so Tottenham did, rising to third place with an irresistible élan. Redknapp could even be forgiven for going away thinking two points had gone begging. There were times in a supreme second-half performance when their crispness of pass and movement almost demanded they take the maximum return.

"I'm sure Martin [O'Neill] was happy with the point," said Redknapp. "In the end, there was only one team going to win it. The stats said we had 14 shots to their one. At half-time we talked about being more patient with the ball. And we were. We dominated the second-half. Totally dominated."

O'Neill did not disagree. "At the end we were hanging on a bit," admitted Villa's manager. "But then, you saw a very fine Tottenham side tonight." Fine enough to deny Liverpool and, who knows, even Manchester City the final Champions' League berth? "Why not?" said Redknapp. "We're not a bad team, we've got good players. Yeah, it'll be hard but it's not impossible." Strictly on this evidence it will be very much possible. Certainly Spurs gave Villa a reality check for their own European ambitions.

The home side had Brad Friedel to thank most for keeping Spurs at bay for so long. While the American was the game's best performer, the narrative of Michael Dawson's match was more intriguing. The centre-half was the Redemption Man, making up for the worst miss of the evening with the sweetest strike. It seemed that as the Villa goalkeeper and his belligerent back four were repelling wave after wave, Villa could hang on. They would not have deserved to, even though they probably shaded the first half.

Saying that, Spurs had enough chances to go in level and one, in the 20th minute, was particularly edged in gilt. After Friedel had set the tone for so much of the proceedings, blocking Jermain Defoe's close-range shot, Dawson was presented with what seemed an open goal. Except it was not quite open. Carlos Cuellar was on the line to kick away the centre-half's inadequate effort. When you're four, five or eight up, woolly slippers can convert those opportunities.

It is all so different when the equaliser-hunt is on, and by then Villa had held the advantage for 10 minutes. Ashley Young's corner was met at the near corner by Cuellar and his flick across eluded all the Spurs defenders in the six-yard box to locate Gabriel Agbonlahor. The World Cup wannabe gratefully bundled it over for his eighth of the season, and for a while it gave Villa an impetus O'Neill believed they kept hold of until half-time.

"The reason we lost it in the second half was down to two things," he said. "Spurs's own good play and our players camping themselves on the edge of the box. We just couldn't get out."

Indeed, they were pinned down. Perhaps nothing like in the manner of Wigan, but still there seemed nowhere to go but backwards. Fortunately for them, Friedel was equal to the best Niko Kranjcar, Peter Crouch, Jermaine Jenas and Defoe could throw at him. And even when Defoe did hit the net the England striker was adjudged (correctly) by Phil Dowd to have handled. The "one of those days" whisper was raising in volume.

Yet then followed Dawson's fine half-volley in the 77th minute and a measure of justice was done. O'Neill claimed "there was a suggestion of handball" but he wasn't about to begrudge Spurs. "They deserved their equaliser," he said.

Attendance: 39,866

Referee: P Dowd

Man of the match: Friedel

Match rating: 7/10

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?