Tottenham Hotspur 0
Although Jurgen Klinsmann's capacity to attract controversy is undiminished - if not quite in the Eric Cantona class - the Tottenham talisman was very much a victim at Villa Park last night.
A sickening collision with Mark Bosnich, the Aston Villa goalkeeper, resulted in the German's being carried off suffering from concussion which leaves him doubtful for Sunday's FA Cup tie at Sunderland.
Klinsmann's misfortune took some of the gloss off a Villa victory, earned by an exhilarating Dean Saunders goal, that ended Spurs' 11-game unbeaten surge since Villa defeated them on Gerry Francis's managerial debut at White Hart Lane.
Villa are themselves unbeaten in eight games and on this evidence Brian Little can look forward to mid-table respectability rather than a relegation scrap The incident which curtailed Klinsmann's evening occurred midway through the first half five minutes after Villa had gone ahead. As he chased Colin Calderwood's clearance deep into home territory, Bosnich charged out of his area. In a mid- air collision reminiscent of Harald Schumacher's infamous clash with Patrick Battiston, the keeper caught the striker full in the face with his leading knee.
Klinsmann crumpled to the ground and remained there for four minutes before being spirited away on a stretcher. Yet Bosnich, whose action had seemed reckless at best, was not considered culpable. In his wisdom Mr Hart did not even award a free-kick, which Spurs felt was the least they deserved.
Francis could not disguise his disappointment with the decision. "I thought Jurgen clearly got to the ball first and that the keeper smacked him after that. I was surprised the ref couldn't see that Bosnich's momentum had taken him out. The problem is that there are so many different interpretations of rules that were designed to make things clearer.
"Jurgen's taken a bad knock. He came round fairly quickly. His nose is very swollen and he's got a terrible headache. We'll have to get him scanned before we see if he's fit for the weekend. I thought he was very brave.
The paths of Bosnich and Klinsmann had crossed as early as the 10th minute. After playing a sumptuous back-heeled pass to Nick Barmby, Klinsmann raced on to the return ball only for the Australian to block the resultant shot with a leg.
Enter Saunders. Sprinting on to Steve Staunton's raking pass down the left flank, the Welshman cleverly wrong-footed Calderwood before dispatching an angled shot with his right foot beyond Ian Walker from 15 yards.
Spurs came close to maintaining their run on several occasions. Bosnich saved superbly from Teddy Sheringham, Earl Barrett cleared a Barmby shot off the line; and Gheorghe Popescu was twice within inches of equalising from long-range.
Ironically Bosnich was cautioned for the heinous offence of time-wasting three minutes from the end. Echoing the comments of Little, who called the fateful moment a "50-50" challenge, the contrite keeper admitted it had been "an unfortunate incident." There was no disputing that, but perhaps we should have expected it. This, after all, was Francis's 13th match with Spurs.
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Bosnich; Barrett, McGrath, Ehiogu, Teale; Yorke (Charles, 88), Taylor, Townsend, Staunton; Saunders, Johnson (Houghton, 78). Substitute not used: Spink (gk).
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Austin, Calderwood, Mabbutt, Edinburgh; Anderton, Campbell, Popescu, Barmby; Klinsmann (Caskey, 23), Sheringham. Substitutes not used: Nethercott, Day (gk).
Referee: R Hart (Darlington).Reuse content