Belfast Telegraph

Garde has to find winning formula with Villa - and fast

Tottenham 3-1 Aston Villa

By Jack Pitt-Brooke

Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa used to be clubs of a similar standing, in English football's upper middle classes.

Villa finished ahead of Spurs in 2008 and 2009 and looked, back then, like the likeliest side to spring entry into the Champions League elite.

Last night, though, as Villa prepared to step into yet another new era, they looked like teams moving in radically different directions: one still doing their utmost to reach the top table, the other just hoping to stay in the division.

Although this was not Tottenham's best performance of the season, they cruised into a 2-0 first-half lead and, despite being given a brief scare after Jordan Ayew's goal, they won the game with a finish of such quality Villa would simply never have been able to conceive of scoring it.

Villa worked hard, although confidence was low and they made mistakes.

This is a team, ultimately, who have forgotten how to win football matches and unless new manager Rémi Garde - who watched from the stand - can't teach them how to in the next month or so, they are in serious trouble.

If Garde had allowed himself even a flicker of optimism about his job at Villa this season it cannot have lasted more than two minutes. That was the time it took Spurs to go ahead, with a goal that summed up the gulf between the two teams.

The ball was chipped down the Spurs' left and Villa centre-back Ciaran Clark should have been able to deal with it, but Mousa Dembélé thundered pass him with a contemptuous shrug of the shoulders.

Clark was left desperately grabbing Dembélé's shirt, but he could not even foul him with any conviction. Dembélé cut inside and smacked the ball through Brad Guzan's legs.

Spurs were superior, but it took them until almost the final move of the first half to score the second goal.

Christian Eriksen slid the ball through to Danny Rose down the left. He whipped in a cross, where Harry Kane challenged Clark in the air. The ball came out to Dele Alli on the edge of the box and he drove it into the far bottom corner.

Dembélé was withdrawn to a standing ovation after his second consecutive scoring performance and replaced by Ryan Mason, still on his way back after six weeks out injured. When he lost control of the ball in midfield it cost Spurs control of the game.

The ball fell to Ayew, who darted infield and smacked a shot that cannoned off Jan Vertonghen's legs, wrong-footing Hugo Lloris, and finding the bottom corner.

There was a brief panic, but this is a different Spurs team now, and they won the game with a goal of delightful quality: Eriksen to Lamela to Kane, who finished into the far top corner with the assurance of a man who, along with his team, is clicking into gear.

Belfast Telegraph


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