Van der Vaart keeps up his flying start for Spurs
Tottenham Hotspur 2 Aston Villa 1
Sunday 03 October 2010
The reception given to Rafael van der Vaart when he left the pitch in the final minute suggested the Dutch forward has already gone a long way towards repaying the £8 million fee Tottenham paid Real Madrid on transfer-deadline day for his services.
Van der Vaart's goals settled a thrilling game that made a nonsense of the suggestion Spurs might be drained after their midweek Champions' League exertions against FC Twente and ensured the Holland international has made the scoresheet on eachof his three home appearances for his new club. Little wonder the cheers rang out.
Not only that, Van der Vaart demonstrated that he offers Spurs' manager, Harry Redknapp, much more than goals by effectively switching roles at half-time to hand the home side the tactical edge they had lacked when a determined Villa threatened to takecontrol of the game.
And in a season when Spurs need all the help they can getif they are to successfully compete for a second successive top-four finish as well as sustain their interest in the Champions' League, that could prove vital.
For 46 minutes Tottenham struggled to break down a Villa side determined to protect Marc Albrighton's 16th-minute opening goal and apparently capable of handling the threat posed by Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko. Then, deep into first-half added time – too deep as far as Villa's manager, Gérard Houllier, and his assistants were concerned – Crouch headed down forVan der Vaart to finish from close range.
Boosted by the equaliser and Redknapp's decision to push the Dutchman closer to Crouch at the expense of Pavlyu-chenko, Spurs then edged the second half and just about deserved to take the points.
"I changed it at half-time because in the first half I thought we were very open with two up," said Redknapp. "We looked better in the second half with Rafael stuck in behind. He'll score goals. The ball goes up to Crouchy and he's always looking to get on the second [touch].
Redknapp added: "Rafael is going great now, he's getting fitter and he'll only get stronger with games. The crowd here always like a good player and he could have scored even more."
Houllier conceded Van der Vaart was the game's outstanding player but believed that the loss of Emile Heskey to a groin injury in the 35th minute severely hampered his side's chances. Heskey had been a revelation in the Frenchman's first two games in charge and continued that form when he harried Sébastien Bassong, forcing the defender into a mistake before confidently taking the ball to the byline then pulling it back for Albrighton to score.
That focal point was lost, however, when Heskey departed prematurely, and while Villa maintained a threat throughout the second half, the balance of power in the game swung tellingly in the direction of Redknapp's side.
"John Carew came on and did a good job but he is not the same kind of player," said Houllier. "I've got mixed feelings, because I'm pleased with the performance but disappointed with the result. The only thing we can blame ourselves foris that we didn't take our chances. In terms of quality of play and character we are moving in the right direction.
"I'm not happy with the equaliser because of the time lapsed," he added. "The law says it was a minimum of two minutes of added time and the referee decided to play three."
Pavlyuchenko had spurned Spurs' best chance of the first half when he diverted Gareth Bale's ball across the face of goal rather than testing the Villa goalkeeper, Brad Friedel. But the Russian made amends when his right-wing cross found Crouch at the far post and the England player headed back to set up Van der Vaart's headed opening goal.
The second was similar, this time with Aaron Lennon providing the 75th-minute cross towards Crouch. On this occasion the ball was directed down towards Van der Vaart's feet and the Dutchman again finished from close range.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the match: Van der Vaart
Match rating: 8/10
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Manchester United vs Liverpool - I don't understand why Brendan Rodgers was not more attacking against Basel
Jesus Christ plays for Chelsea - that's what one in five children thinks
Transfer Talk: Nemanja Vidic to return to Manchester United; Hazard to leave Chelsea; Sunderland want Radamel Falcao
Frank Warren column: Don't bet on Amir Khan landing pay day against Floyd Mayweather
Manchester United transfer news: Kevin Strootman move edges closer
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food