Building up to a rainy and windy kickoff at Villa Park, we heard all about how Villa Assistant Coach, John Terry, was pitted against José Mourinho, his former manager whilst they were at Chelsea.
Once the game got started, however, the two had little to do with the action on the pitch. The players were the ones who drove that chaos.
You could tell it was gonna be a wild one when Toby Alderweireld got the scoring started in the ninth minute . . . by putting the ball in the wrong net. Anwar El Ghazi launched a crossthat got deflected high into the rainy winds for Aly Samatta to battle with the Belgian center-half, and the defender poked the ball past Hugo Lloris and into his own goal.
Two or three times Villa could’ve gone two or three goals ahead early on, but they scuffed their chances. The biggest one was Douglas Luiz after a square ball across from Jack Grealish, but there was a Spurs defender there to block it off the line and keep it a one goal game
Alderweireld did make up for his earlier error and fired one into the correct net about 20 minutes after, leveling it at 1-1 in the 27’. Don’t really know what to say about this one, it was off a corner kick that didn’t get cleared properly and then he smashed it into the top of the Villa goal past Pepe Reina.
On the brink of halftime, VAR, oh VAR. Spurs January signing Steven Bergwijn sprinted behind the back line, and Bjorn Engels was quick enough to recover and block the shot, or so it seemed. He did block the shot, but in his sliding challenge he actually took out the young speedy Dutchman as he was lining up his shot. Referee Martin Atkinson thought he saw it correctly, but VAR took a look and decided it was a clear and obvious error and Spurs got a penalty.
Pepe Reina stood strong against the Son Heung-Min strike from the spot, but was unable to block it all the way away. Son was able to get there and tap the rebound home, giving the away side a 2-1 lead going into halftime.
Less than 10 minutes into the second half, it was Bjorn Engels’ chance to redeem himself and write his own storyline, just as Alderweireld did in the first half. Engels rose to meet a Jack Grealish corner kick and thumped the header into the net, leveling the score once more in front of the Holte End. The defender’s first Villa goal could not have come at a better time to start off the second half.
If there was ever a game that defined the phrase ‘end to end,’ this may have been it. There were 5-10 minute spells at a time in which each team dominated. There’d be times where Villa fired off a few crosses and shots, and then Spurs would break down the other side with big chances of their own, before Villa countered right down the other end again.
Danny Drinkwater came off after getting another 60 minutes to his name, but not the best performance. Marvelous Nakamba was his replacement. The Zimbabwean put in some cracking challenges, stopping some of those wide open Spurs counter-attacks I was talking about. He also was one of two Villa players carded, the only ones in the match. Grealish alone was fouled six times this game, with no cards to Tottenham.
Trezeguet came on for Anwar El Ghazi as Villa’s second sub, 10 minutes after the first change. Trez really does provide that spark off the bench, with the majority of our chances in the final 20 or so minutes involving him in the attack. Unfortunately, no game-winning goals from the Egyptian today.
The final change was a debut for Borja Bastón in the 83, but not the best outing for someone who is supposed to be a physical presence, winning headers etc. He came on for Aly Samatta who was performing well. There was a set piece or two that Bastón cleared into a sketchy area, and he was a part of an awful, awful goal to give up in the dying moments of stoppage time.
The January signing went up for the same header as Douglas Luiz off of a goal kick, and it pops back to Spurs possession. Obviously, that wasn’t the big error though. The ball found its way immediately back to Bjorn Engels at the halfway line, and it skipped under his foot and sent Son Heung-Min clean through on a breakaway, seeing nothing but Pepe Reina and the goal. He slotted the ball into the net in the final :30 seconds of the four added minutes, stealing all three points and ending this crazy story of a Sunday.
Villa once again find a way to walk away with 0 points from a game which didn’t look horrible, and which we led in. These results may, and probably will, come back to hurt us in the finishing run. We go again Saturday at Southampton.