Tottenham Hotspur 1 Aston Villa 2: Slick Villa cash in as Gomes blunder adds to Ramos's woes
Tuesday 16 September 2008
A statement of intent from Aston Villa; a statement of descent from Tottenham Hotspur. Rock bottom and Spurs are in a hard place. Crisis at the Lane? That may be scoffed at but one is quickly brewing. This is not progress under Juande Ramos as promised when Martin Jol – now top of the Bundesliga with Hamburg by the way – was sacked 11 months ago. The Spaniard looked in despair on the sidelines as his side slid to another defeat. It is one win in 11 league games for Spurs and a worst start to the season for 34 years. That is shocking for a club with such aspirations.
Now Villa look to be the outfit most likely. Quicker, more aggressive and more organised they were, with Ashley Young and Gareth Barry prominent, everything Spurs were not as they gained their first victory on this ground for eight years. Villa will be some jet-heeled proposition this season and have shot up to fourth place. The only downside was an apparent ankle injury to John Carew.
That Carling Cup triumph is becoming a distant memory for Ramos, it is just three wins since then, but it will be one he has to hold onto to if he is to continue to convince he is the man to remain at the helm. More immediately fingers will be pointed at the Spurs board and – in particular – the sporting director, Damien Comolli. It may come together one day for Juande but it is not happening at present.
The expensive recruits were ramshacle. Roman Pavlyuchenko looked bewildered, David Bentley bothered while Darren Bent continued to be bewitched. Luka Modric limped off and Vedran Corluka looked simply limp. As for the goalkeeper? Heurelho was a hero in the first-half but Gomes gaffed after the break.
It was disarray. Chaos. Boos rang out at the interval and the end. Fans had their hands spread wide in amazement and so, in truth, did Ramos. Time and again passes sailed aimlessly overhead. It was kick and rush stuff from a team lacking cohesion, coherence and even coercion.
"We are far behind in our preparations," claimed Ramos afterwards which was a curious bit of nonsense from the head coach and chimed with his programme notes which talked about the iniquities of the transfer window closing after the start of the season. It may well do. But it does not mean a club is hide-bound to conduct its main business then as Spurs – it seems – have done. Dimitar Berbatov has gone and others arrived and the balance sheet may be healthy even if the team is looking unhealthily imbalanced. Ramos is a frustrated man.
He talked of talent and quality – and even clung to the 5-1 friendly win over Roma – and it is certainly there. But when Ramos also spoke about "room" for Spurs to tilt at the top four it seemed like another Spaniard charging at windmills. Martin O'Neill, the Villa manager, has always been a little quixotic, but he was clear in his assessment. "We came here tonight to attack," he said. "And we played some great football. Exceptional."
Indeed they did. From the start Villa were, in management-speak, "at it". Ashley Young set the tone. He was too quick, too cute for Corluka and Aaron Lennon and quickly set up the opening goal, jinking away to cross low. That was flicked on by John Carew and there, at the far post, all on his own, was Nigel Reo-Coker to side-foot home his first league goal in almost two years. It was some fillip for the midfielder whose place is under threat from the arrival of James Milner.
Enlivened Reo-Coker then almost beat Gomes again with a cross that deflected off Gareth Bale and then thudded against the near post. For a while it was the Gomes show. The Brazilian recovered brilliantly to twist and push away a Barry header and then did even better to beat out another header, this time from Gabriel Agbonlahor. Time and again he came charging from goal to claim crosses and punch clear. As eye-catching as it was it was also an embarrassing confirmation that Spurs were reeling.
They continued to unravel. Only desperate lunges by Michael Dawson, who had an otherwise traumatic evening, and Bale denied Agbonlahor before Barry cleverly found space and then found Ashley Young. Inside the centre circle, he was afforded an embarrassing amount of acreage to run into before skipping away from the lumbering Dawson to fire in a bouncing 25-yard shot. Gomes should have saved but, instead, the ball squirmed under him and into the net. A costly mistake for such a costly signing. But he was not alone in his culpability.
How Spurs needed something. Anything. They threw themselves forward but remained vulnerable to the counter attack - which was suicidally dangerous against Villa. Bent headed wide and then Jermaine Jenas, who had started on the bench along with David Bentley, volleyed hopefully goalwards from distance. Fortunately for him the ball inadvertently struck Bent and diverted beyond a wrong-footed Friedel.
It set up a desperate finale but for all Spurs' inevitable bluster it was Villa who came closest as Milner was released, his shot beaten out only for the ball to eventually be returned to substitute Marlon Harewood. Surely, with Gomes stranded, he had to score. Instead his effort cannoned off Jenas on the line and bounced away. A reprieve there for Spurs but there was no reprieve on the final whistle as they were condemned to another defeat. It is Wisla Krakow in the Uefa Cup on Thursday. Another poor result then and goodness knows what will happen.
Goals: Reo-Coker (5) 0-1; Young (54) 0-2; Bent (87) 1-2.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-1-3-2): Gomes; Corluka, Woodgate, Dawson (Giovani, 62), Bale; Zokora (Bentley, h-t); Lennon, Huddlestone, Modric (Jenas, 30); Bent, Pavlyuchenko. Substitutes not used: Cesar (gk), Gilberto, Campbell, O'Hara.
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; Young, Laursen, Davies, Shorey (Gardner, 88); Reo-Coker, Barry, Petrov, Young; Agbonlahor (Harewood, 84), Carew (Milner, 63). Substitutes not used: Guzan (gk), Knight, Routledge, Cuellar.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).
Booked: Tottenham Hotspur Dawson; Aston Villa Shorey, Carew, Agbonlahor.
Man of the match: Young.
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