Aston Villa 1 Tottenham 2: Buoyant Spurs keep O'Neill's men on the slide
15 March 2009 06:38
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Jermaine Jenas and Darren Bent dealt another blow to Aston Villa's Champions League hopes as Tottenham chalked up their fourth away win of the season at Villa Park.
Jenas broke the deadlock after five minutes and Bent added his 15th goal of the campaign five minutes into the second period to ease Spurs' relegation fears.
Villa have now gone seven games without a win in all competitions and have dropped out of the top four of the Barclays Premier League for the first time since early December. All they could manage was a late consolation effort from substitute John Carew.
Martin O'Neill's side came back after a break in Dubai for the final quarter of the season.
But there was little of their usual sparkle and flair after a bright start in which Ashley Young was prominent on the left flank as he caused problems for Didier Zokora.
Spurs boss Harry Redknapp pulled off a masterstroke in replacing Zokora with Vedran Corluka who kept a tighter rein on the Villa winger.
Jonathan Woodgate and Ledley King were a solid combination at the heart of the Tottenham back four while Jenas and Luka Modric always asked questions of the home side.
Villa central defender Curtis Davies was axed on his 24th birthday with Nigel Reo-Coker restored to the side.
But after five minutes Jenas stunned the home side by putting Tottenham ahead with his third goal of the campaign.
Aaron Lennon supplied the right-wing centre which was palmed out at full stretch by Brad Friedel - but Jenas was the first to react and headed home.
Villa tried to respond and Stiliyan Petrov was only just too high with a dipping 25-yard effort. Then Ashley Young sent in a probing cross to the near post which Emile Heskey was first to react to but deflected wide.
The Villa winger was seeing plenty of the ball and another cross was only partially cleared to Gareth Barry whose volley was turned aside by Heurelho Gomes.
Zokora became the first player to be yellow-carded after 23 minutes for a high challenge on Ashley Young near the touchline.
Ashley Young curled a 20-yard shot just past the post after creating an opening for himself by cutting inside of Lennon.
It was no surprise when Zokora, who appeared to be carrying no obvious injury, was substituted after 35 minutes and replaced by Corluka.
Friedel prevented Spurs from doubling their lead when he parried a fierce shot from Modric after he had latched on to a reverse pass from Jenas.
In first half injury time Petrov side-footed weakly straight at Gomes from 15 yards out after Heskey had laid the ball back into his path from an Agbonlahor cross.
Heskey headed against the bar in the closing seconds of the half from a deep Barry centre.
But after 50 minutes Bent doubled Spurs lead with his 15th goal of the campaign.
Friedel turned aside a first time effort from Wilson Palacios but Robbie Keane was first to react to the rebound and his cross cum shot was turned home at the far post by Bent.
Reo-Coker became the first Villa player to be yellow-carded for tugging at Bent's shirt.
Lennon was only just too high with a 20-yard effort as Tottenham began to the knock the ball around in confident fashion.
Villa striker Carew was brought on after 60 minutes in place of Zat Knight to prompt a drastic shake-up of the Villa defence.
Milner reverted to right-back, Luke Young to central defender, Reo-Coker to left-back and Agbonlahor on the right side of midfield.
Gomes was unable to hold onto a straightforward drive from Petrov but no Villa player reacted, much to the anger of the home supporters.
With five minutes remaining, Carew reduced the arrears when he headed in a centre from Milner for his 11th goal of the season.
Villa have done well but they will not finish in the top four, says Redknapp