Tottenham 2-1 Aston Villa: home side Targett hosts first Premier League points since August
There was nothing in Nuno Espirito Santo’s post-match reaction to hint at relief, but it must have gone through his body as Tottenham clinched their first points since August.
Nuno turned to his left at the final whistle, gave Dean Smith a slight nod and handshake and stepped onto the pitch to greet his players and cheer on the home crowd.
It has been a heavy month for the Spurs boss. No points in three games and a loss in the North London derby fueled criticism over his cautious playing style and sparked debate over his suitability to lead a club that emphasizes football with flair and adventure.
Tottenham won their first Premier League points since August on Sunday afternoon by beating Aston Villa
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg gave the hosts the advantage, reclaiming the pass from Son Heung-min, then coming home with a delicious finish.
Ollie Watkins restored parity in the second half, however, given the simpler of Matt Targett’s low center finishes
Spurs quickly regained the lead when Matt Targett put Son’s cross into his own net under pressure from Lucas Moura
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER NOTES
Tottenham (4-2-3-1): Lloris 6; Royal 6.5, Romero 7, Dier 7, Reguilon 6; Hojbjerg 7.5, Skipp 7; Moura 6.5 (Gil 90), Ndombele 6 (Lo Celso 76, 6.5), Fils 8.5; Kane 7
Unused subtitles: Gollini, Doherty, Sanchez, Winks, Rodon, Alli, Scarlett.
Goals: Hojbjerg 27, Targett OG 71.
Reservations: Skipp, Romero.
Director: Nuno Espirito Santo 6.5
Villa Aston (3-5-2): Martinez 6; Konsa 6.5, Hause 7 (TraorÃ© 81), Mings 6; Cash 6.5, McGinn 7, Luiz 6, Ramsey 6.5 (Buendia 69, 5), Targett 6.5; Watkins 7, Ings 6 (Archer 90).
Unused subtitles: Steer, Tuanzebe, Young, Nakamba, El Ghazi, Philogene-Bidace.
Goals: Watkins 67.
Director: Dean Smith 6
Arbitrator: Chris Kavanagh 6
In truth, they were not adamant against Aston Villa. They had to defend and they held up well, showing skill and danger on the counterattack, registering 17 shots at the end of a game when they could easily have scored more.
And, for all questions, they have wonderful players. There was no joy in front of goal for Harry Kane, who is still looking for his Premier League debut of the season, but Son Heung-min excelled, especially in space on the counterattack in the second half.
Smith hailed the Korean as the only difference between the teams. Son strings together for the first goal converted by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and he accelerates for the winner, who was credited as an own goal by Villa defender Matt Targett.
Tottenham climbed back to eighth in a crowded table, above their visitors and two points behind the top four.
For Villa, it’s a mark of their progress that Smith’s side, fresh out of beating Manchester United at Old Trafford, were confident enough to come to White Hart Lane and take the game to Spurs.
They won here in May and they opened brilliantly, controlled the tempo for long stretches and had to imagine their chances of winning when Ollie Watkins equalized in the 67th minute, his first goal of the season.
Spurs on the other hand got off to a bad start, fearful of Villa’s energy, but slowly came into play, inspired by Son, wide on the left. A quick turn left Matty Cash in its wake, caused fans to stand up and triggered a period of pressure in which Kane almost found the net 45 yards away.
Tanguy Ndombele won a free kick just inside Villa’s half and Kane spotted his chance. He went on goal sending a ripple of excitement around the floor as, for a split second, the ball looked destined to wipe out Emi Martinez who was out of his line.
The Argentine goalkeeper was alert to danger, however, rushed towards his goal, jumped up and hit the ball all the way, somewhere near the penalty spot.
Son shot wide from a distance, before his run and pass allowed Hojbjerg to score with a precise finish, coiled into a post just outside the penalty area.
It was his first Premier League game since May, when he knocked out Wolves from Nuno. It was Tottenham’s fifth goal of this league campaign. And that was only the fourth in the open game, with the previous three all marked by Son. It should have calmed the nerves, but it only served to inspire a response.
The victory relieved pressure on Spurs boss Nuno Espirito Santo, who had seen his side lose three trotting in the league.
The South Korean delivered an inspired performance in north London, Villa’s defense unable to face his runs
After a brilliant start at Villa, it was Spurs who took the lead when Hojbjerg found space on the edge of the box to return home.
John McGinn went extremely close with a lavish volley as Villa looked to respond after taking a goal behind
Spurs pushed the odds back into the remainder of the half and into the second before Watkins equalized at the near post
Villa advanced and Spurs were forced to defend a barrage of set pieces, including long shots sent spiraling into the box from either side by right-back Cash.
John McGinn threw a clean volley of nearly 25 yards and Tottenham referred to a series of vital blocks and clearances to protect their lead. Oliver Skipp has superbly backed up and held on to deny Danny Ings, who had scored six goals in his previous six appearances against Tottenham.
This determined quest for an equalizer exposed Villa’s defense, producing vast expanses of space for the home side, who looked happier when they broke through the defense on the counterattack.
All this for a breathtaking show from start to finish. Son was particularly menacing, forcing a Martinez save and sending another wide effort before Spurs conceded the equalizer.
It was a quick midfield streak passing through Villa, Jacob Ramsey and Ings to Targett, the full-back who went wild on the left and fizzed in a low cross.
But Tottenham wouldn’t be denied as they were in the lead again after one of Son’s many brilliant runs down the left side, with Lucas Moura leading the celebrations after the second goal
Harry Kane also had chances of securing his first league goal of the season but was denied by Emi Martinez in the goal of Villa
Watkins jumped in for his first of the season, but the jubilant outdoor scenes were short-lived. The Spurs quickly regain their lead. Again, it was Son who was causing the problems as he clearly accelerated to the left.
He pulled away from Kortney Hause with a change of pace before cutting the square ball. With Martinez blocked by the center, Lucas Moura and Targett slipped to the far post and the ball ended up in the net.
Moura thought he had scored his first goal since February, but Targett scored his own goal.
Tottenham saw the game well from that point on and should have extended the lead. Kane approached and Tyrone Mings cleared the line from Giovani Lo Celso.
The stitches were secure, the rot was stopped, and Nuno was able to savor the taste of three stitches again.
At the other end, Danny Ings was also refused by Hugo Lloris following an effort of the left foot after having missed his first attempt.
But Villa was actually the second best in North London and failed to show the best of his offensive talent against Spurs
RE-LIVE THE SPORTSMAIL COVER OF SPURS VICTORY WITH KISHAN VAGHELA