Tottenham Hotspur 0 Aston Villa 0: match report
Tottenham Hotspur missed a chance to move back into the top four after being held by Aston Villa in a game that was short on quality but high on defensive discipline from Martin O'Neill's men. Liverpool's defeat of Everton earlier in the day took them above Spurs, and a point against Villa was not enough for Harry Redknapp's side to displace the Merseysiders. Related ArticlesPremier League tablePremier League actionTelegraph player raterPremier League fixturesTransfer TalkSport on televisionThe first half was full of endeavour but neither side created much in terms of meaningful attempts on target. Despite Arsène Wenger's taunts that Villa are a long-ball team, it was Tottenham who went via route one more often than the visitors, looking for Peter Crouch's head and the subsequent knock-downs. In the opening minutes Crouch opened up an opportunity for Luka Modric but the Croatian shot wide. But Tottenham tried the more intricate route to goal, too, and five minutes later Modric curled a shot over the bar from the edge of the penalty area after exchanging passes with Wilson Palacios. David Bentley shot wide of the far post and then took the corner from which Ledley King had a free header but directed it straight at Villa keeper Brad Friedel. Modric put Crouch in on goal but Richard Dunne and Friedel combined to deflect his shot away for a corner. Minutes later, Tom Huddlestone tried his luck from long range with a ball that flew straight and true at goal, but Friedel managed to block it. It was almost half an hour before Heurelho Gomes was called into action, when the Spurs keeper produced a fine double save to keep out James Milner's drive and then turn a follow-up shot from Gabriel Agbonlahor away for a corner. Villa relied on soaking up pressure from the hosts and then attacking quickly on the break through the speed of Ashley Young, Stuart Downing and Agbonlahor. But Downing was also called into defensive duty, making an important clearance on the line from Gareth Bale's long, low shot following a short corner from Bentley in the 35th minute. And shortly before half-time, Friedel made his best save yet when he flew across goal to tip the ball away from under his crossbar after King had flicked on Crouch's header towards goal following a Bentley free-kick. The second half was even more disjointed than the first, with too many breaks in play to allow any short of rhythm to develop. John Carew had replaced Emile Heskey in the 21st minute after the England forward fell heavily during an aerial challenge with Palacios, and the Norwegian striker tried an audacious back flick from Carlos Cuéllar, but hit his own heel. It was that sort of game. But Carew was proving a handful for King and Michael Dawson, and helped Villa win two free-kicks in quick succession 25 yards from goal. Downing curled the first one yards over the bar, and Ashley Young hit the second even higher. Huddlestone shot wide from distance, and then ended a rare flowing move with another powerful shot on the run that forced Friedel to dive full length to tip away for a corner. Carew had a chance with a header but was woefully wide, and then when given sight of goal, directed his volley straight at Gomes. It was frustrating stuff. Tottenham's attempts to get the ball to Crouch's head were denied by the dominance of Dunne and James Collins, and when the England striker did win the ball, his header looped over the bar. Dawson also had a sight of goal, but put his header wide, and frustration grew. Spurs poured forward looking for the goal that could take them back into the top four. Dunne made a magnificent block to keep out another Huddlestone thunderbolt, and then Collins did even better when the ball fell kindly for Crouch, who looked certain to score until the defender deflected his shot over the bar. Cuéllar got in the act, blocking a shot from Modric as the noise and pressure intensified, but Villa held on for a point that keeps them in touch with the top four.
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