Saturday 16 December 2017

Redknapp returns to see Adebayor send Spurs third

Tottenham 2
Aston Villa 0

Henry Winter

In front of Britain's prime minister, White Hart Lane paid homage to the man at No 10. Emmanuel Adebayor scored twice, could have had five, as Tottenham rose to third in the Premier League with a performance brimming with pace and elan.

In front of Harry Redknapp, who ignored doctors' advice to attend the game after heart surgery, Spurs impressed all over. Ledley King was a model of composure and authority at the back. Scott Parker ran midfield. Gareth Bale, who was superb, and Aaron Lennon kept flying down the flanks. Bale was magnificent, all speed, touch and athleticism, the Welshman whipping in exceptional crosses. In the centre, Rafael van der Vaart was all deft Dutch influence.

Adebayor shone not only with his brace but also his industry, even winning two tackles. This well-received victory had the additional bonus for Tottenham fans of pushing Chelsea out of the top four.

Spurs were as good as Villa were impoverished, the visitors handicapped by Alex McLeish's negative tactics. Gabby Agbonlahor foraged hard, young Chris Herd toiled in midfield but overall this was woeful from the visitors.

Villa's right side of Alan Hutton in midfield and Carlos Cueller was led a merry dance by Bale.

Bale was unplayable, shredding McLeish's cautious game plan, creating both of Adebayor's first-half goals. Cuellar and Hutton patently failed in their attempt to double up on Bale.

Villa had been almost paranoid about Tottenham's wingers. On the other flank, McLeish had stationed Emile Heskey to protect Stephen Warnock from Lennon's pace. No chance. Within moments, Lennon was spiriting the ball around Warnock, disappearing upfield.

Villa's strikers seemed increasingly isolated and frustrated. Heskey's dragged ball across goal was the closest they came in a first half that must have made dispiriting viewing for the Villa faithful who had travelled.

Spurs were so in control. They then put together a wonderful move, the ball arrowing from Benoit Assou-Ekotto to Lennon. The England winger's cross deserved far better than Adebayor's inaccurate header. Redknapp rose from his seat, becoming involved in the emotion of the occasion. Not what the doctor ordered.

Yet Redknapp eschewed any celebration moments later when Spurs inevitably broke through. Van der Vaart's corner fell to Bale, who hooked it into the area. Adebayor responded quickest, meeting the ball with a bicycle kick that flew past Shay Given.

Parker bestrode midfield as if it was his private fiefdom. One moment he was conducting moves, releasing Lennon and Kyle Walker down the right, the next he was back to dispossess Darren Bent.

On the rare occasions Villa entered Tottenham's domain, Redknapp's side defended stoutly.


More creativity was soon flowing from the hosts' quick feet. Luka Modric was quietly influential in the middle. Bale again destroyed Villa's right flank, crossing low and hard towards the near post. James Collins went for the ball, missed it, putting off Given, gifting Adebayor the simplest of goals. 2-0.

Villa were more assertive after the break, although they could have hardly been less. A ball in from Herd was met by Bent, whose header was plucked from the cold north London air by Friedel. Adebayor missed a one-on-one.

McLeish had seen enough on Villa's right, withdrawing Cuellar, sending on Barry Bannan and pulling Hutton back to full-back.

Redknapp also made a change, setting the visitors yet another challenge, replacing Van der Vaart with Jermain Defoe.

Still Adebayor's work rate impressed, the striker tracking back to put in a couple of tackles. With 14 minutes remaining, he should finally have had his hat-trick but Given saved well.

The final whistle brought chants of "Bale, Bale" and a salute to Adebayor. They were both that good. So were Tottenham. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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