After more than 90 minutes of keeping his cool, Tim Sherwood could no longer hold in his emotions. Just before the final whistle he turned to the travelling Aston Villa fans, pumped his fist and roared: “Get in there!”
Afterwards, when asked if it was safe to assume he enjoyed this Christian Benteke-powered 1-0 win over his old club, he smiled and said: “Yeah, but not while it was going on.” He also admitted it was his most satisfying win so far, although not for the reasons that might be anticipated.
This victory represented much more than Sherwood claiming all three points on his first return to Tottenham Hotspur since departing 11 months ago. It also means Villa’s hopes of avoiding relegation look so much more promising, and he maintained there is now “real belief” they can survive.
It should have been all the more rewarding for Sherwood because Villa won through the kind of energy and canniness that Spurs thought wasn’t quite sophisticated enough for them at this point last year. But Sherwood was in no mood for revenge.
“I have nothing but respect for Daniel Levy and Spurs,” he said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be Aston Villa manager.”
Without Benteke, though, Villa and Sherwood might be having a touch more trouble. The striker scored a brilliantly precise header in off the post on 35 minutes, to make it eight goals in his last six games. More importantly, it was the only goal of this game, and a listless Spurs generally couldn’t get close to the Belgian.
“I let strikers be strikers,” Sherwood said, when asked about Benteke’s recent resurgence. “We’re playing the ball to him a lot earlier, and to [Gabriel] Agbonlahor. It stretches the opposition, and I think we saw that. The Tottenham defence couldn’t settle.”
That was true when Vlad Chiriches gave away the ball, leaving Leandro Bacuna to cross for Benteke’s header.
Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, left to rue another poor performance, said it was “not realistic” to think his side could now qualify for the Champions League this season. Villa displayed all the energy Spurs should have. That energy occasionally spilled over and Carlos Sanchez was sent off for a second booking after a lunge on Danny Rose. He will now miss next week’s FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool.
Tottenham Hotspur: (4-2-3-1) Vorm; Chiriches (Yedlin, 78), Dier, Fazio, Rose; Bentaleb, Mason; Townsend (Lamela, 78), Eriksen, Chadli (Soldado, 62); Kane
Aston Villa: (4-4-2) Guzan; Bacuna, Vlaar, Clark (Baker, 18), Richardson; Cleverley, Sanchez, Grealish (Weimann, 62), Delph; Agbonlahor (Cole, 69), Benteke
Referee: Lee Probert.
Man of the match: Benteke (Aston Villa)
Match rating: 6/10
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