AVB allays fears over Friedel
Andre Villas-Boas insists Brad Friedel still has a big part to play this season despite dropping him for Tottenham's 2-0 win over Aston Villa. At White Hart Lane on Sunday, Villas-Boas made the shock decision to drop Friedel and hand Hugo Lloris his Barclays Premier League debut, thus ending the 41-year-old's record of 310 consecutive top-flight starts. The Frenchman rose to the occasion quite well, with his only hiccup coming in the second half when Villa intercepted a Lloris pass which almost led to Christian Benteke grabbing an opener for the visitors. Friedel, who has been in fine form this term, took the decision well, according to Villas-Boas, who denied that the selection meant Lloris will now be his first-choice stopper for the rest of the campaign. "No," the Spurs boss replied when asked whether Lloris was now his number one. "We spoke among the staff this week about it and we thought it was logical to let Hugo come into a Premier League game because he can't just play in the Europa League. "Brad obviously was disappointed with the decision but accepted it like the good professional he is." Friedel's remarkable run stretched back to August 2004, when he started in goal for Blackburn against West Brom. The American almost single-handedly saved Tottenham from defeat in their dour performance against Norwich last month and has barely put a foot wrong for Villas-Boas this term. The Portuguese, therefore, will consider recalling the former Liverpool and Villa man for Spurs' next game against Chelsea in two weeks' time. "Obviously the change was not based on performance because Brad has been immense for this football team," the 34-year-old said. "We respect that and we will surely look at that for the game against Chelsea. "This was a chance to give Hugo a continuous run of games for Tottenham and the national team." The doubts that surrounded Villas-Boas when he replaced Harry Redknapp this summer now appear to be fading. Tottenham looked a completely different team today to the one that wilted against West Brom and Norwich. They played some of their most fluent and deadly attacking football and never looked like failing to win their fourth straight Premier League game. Spurs failed to take the lead in the first half despite laying siege to the Villa goal, but moved 2-0 up with two second-half goals within nine minutes. First Jermain Defoe's shot flew in off the heel of Steven Caulker and Aaron Lennon then beat Brad Guzan after cutting in from the right flank. Spurs moved back up to fifth in the table with the win and Villas-Boas now has his sights set on ending Chelsea's unbeaten run in his next game. The former Porto boss said: "The ambition to be among the top teams we have is immense and it gives us a good opportunity (against Chelsea). "It's obviously going to be a difficult game but we are showing good levels of competence and we hope to profit from the fact that we play at home, and profit from the fact that we play an unbeaten league leader. That will help on our motivation to try to beat them." Villa manager Paul Lambert felt Benteke's miss proved crucial in the defeat, which saw the visitors drop to 16th in the table. The striker, signed from Genk this summer, missed a free header from Gabriel Agbonlahor's cross early in the second half after Villa intercepted Lloris' mis-directed throw. "That was a big moment," Lambert said. "When you have chances like that at a place like this you have to put them away." Lambert's decision to field Benteke ahead of Darren Bent was a surprise one given that the England striker had come off the bench to score a crucial equaliser against West Brom last week. The Scot defended the decision tonight, saying: "Christian gives you a different option. "Darren's threat is going in behind. That was the only reason why we did it. "Tottenham's full-backs are going to bomb on at every opportunity so that's why I went with that decision. Darren has been fine about it." Defender Joe Bennett went to hospital after clattering into an advertising board in the second half following a duel with Gareth Bale. "I think he has gone to hospital to get stitched up. It was quite a nasty cut," Lambert added.
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