Wednesday 21 March 2018

Redknapp relying on Hodgson to supply late twist

Aston Villa 1 Tottenham 1

Brendan McLoughlin

Just 24 hours after getting back control of their Champions League destiny, Harry Redknapp and Tottenham now need a favour from one Roy Hodgson.

Spurs may have fought back from a single-goal deficit with 10 men to earn their point, yet this was clearly a better result for Aston Villa, who are now effectively guaranteed survival.

Arsenal's slip on Saturday against Norwich meant victory for Redknapp's team would enable them to climb above their North London rivals into the third place which would guarantee entry into Europe's elite competition next season. Instead, they remain fourth, a point adrift of the Gunners, going into next weekend's final round of fixtures.

Redknapp will have his fingers crossed, hoping West Bromwich Albion can give Hodgson a memorable send-off by denying Arsenal victory in what is his final game before he takes up the England post which many people had earmarked for the Tottenham manager.

That Martin Jol, the former Spurs manager, brings his Fulham team to White Hart Lane adds another dimension to the proceedings.

"If we can win next week, Arsenal could well draw, it wouldn't surprise you," said Redknapp, who insisted it was a scenario he would have settled for come the start of the weekend.

"Arsenal have suddenly gone off the boil. It's all to play for. It'll be exciting.

"I won't be ringing Roy (about Arsenal), I've already rung him (about England). Fulham is a tough game for us, Martin Jol won't be coming back to Tottenham wanting to help us."

Villa, meanwhile, are three points clear and have a 17-goal advantage over 18th-placed Bolton, which all but assures them of their top-flight status.

Whether it is sufficient to save McLeish remains to be seen, and supporters greeted the final whistle with further calls for the Scot to be sacked. He, though, remains defiant.

"There has not been any indication an urgent meeting is needed," said McLeish. "I guess Randy Lerner (Villa's owner) will be pretty pleased. He has been very supportive in his texts. You never know, but I would expect to be here next season."

That horizon currently looks a long way off. Villa have now gone nine matches without a victory and only bottom club Wolves have won fewer top-flight matches this term.

Their profligacy was evident again early on when a pass from Kyle Walker was intercepted by Stephen Ireland, who sent Emile Heskey through, only for the striker to hesitate long enough for Younes Kaboul to make a recovery tackle.

What Villa needed was a slice of fortune and they got that in the 35th minute. Charles N'Zogbia fed Ciaran Clark 25 yards from goal and his strike took a strong deflection off the shoulder of William Gallas, sailing beyond a wrong-footed Brad Friedel.

As on so many occasions this season, Villa had Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given to thank for a superb save, tipping a Gareth Bale strike around the post.

Spurs supporters also momentarily thought Rafael van der Vaart had scored with a shot which curled inches wide.

A further setback arrived for the visitors within four minutes of the restart when Danny Rose was dismissed for a lunge on Alan Hutton, which forced the Scotland international off.

Redknapp's team dominated despite their numerical disadvantage and Villa had only themselves to blame for the visitors' equaliser.

Richard Dunne dived in unnecessarily on Sandro inside the penalty area and Emmanuel Adebayor sent Given the wrong way with the resulting spot-kick. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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