Tottenham 0 Aston Villa 0: Sorensen thwarts Spurs as Villa make their point
Missed chances and absence of Mido frustrate Jol
Sunday 22 January 2006
Spurs' impressive performances this season have been built on the deployment of target man Mido. Of late, Robbie Keane has been feeding off the knock-downs of the burly Egyptian, who is away at the African Nations' Cup, so manager Martin Jol opted for a pair of similar-style strikers with the underused and restless Jermain Defoe alongside Keane.
But with a quarter of an hour left and the frustration mounting, Defoe was replaced by a target man, Grzegorz Raziak, whose future at Tottenham has been in question. By this stage, however, nothing could disturb the command of Villa's captain, Olof Mellberg, and his defence, backed up by the peerless Sorensen.
Villa's manager, David O'Leary,downplayed the achievement of his team, offering wistful admiration instead for the burgeoning excellence of Tottenham and "their quality signings". There seemed a touch of envy here, especially since a shortage of funds at his own club has forced him to return Eirik Bakke to Leeds from his loan spell. Tottenham will take heart from the opinion of the ex-Highbury defender that "Spurs have a chance to finish above Arsenal, without a doubt".
Not on this sort of display, though. Villa had not lost away since last September and clearly came for a draw, but Tottenham should have overcome the Sorensen heroics. However, even after Villa went down to 10 men with the dismissal of Gareth Barry - in his first match back from suspension, for a couple of yellow-carded lunges on the speedy Aaron Lennon - Spurs could not prise open the door to victory.
All of what action there was took place in front of Sorensen. Watched by Sven Goran Eriksson's assistant, Tord Grip, the England and Spurs goalkeeper Paul Robinson was virtually unemployed. "I can't remember him picking up a ball," said Jol. Ledley King, though similarly underworked, did nothing wrong, but the unhappy Defoe, paired with Keane for the first time in a Premiership game this season, did nothing to improve his hopes of World Cup inclusion.
His first effort on goal, a low shot which was comfortably held by Sorensen, was his best, while Keane did not even get that close. The more respectable shots tended to come from distance, propelled by midfielders such as the excellent Michael Carrick or substitute Michael Brown.
Tottenham's command of the middle of the park was hardly disturbed by the loss, right on half-time, of Jermaine Jenas with concussion following an accidental clash of heads with Juan Pablo Angel or, in the second half, of Edgar Davids with a knee injury. But Spurs were unable to unravel Villa's back line.
The heads of Mellberg and Mark Delaney cleared virtually all the crosses that came pouring in. And when Villa's central defence was finally breached, there was Sorensen, the flying Dane, to save they day with half a dozen stops of the highest quality.
The best came when Carrick set up Teemu Tainio to loop a shot over Sorensen's head. Somehow, the keeper back-pedalled at speed to tip over and prevent what looked a certain goal. "Disappointed rather than frustrated" was Jol's summing-up.
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