Tottenham 1-2 Aston Villa: Emery's side move into the top four
Ollie Watkins fired Aston Villa into the Premier League’s top four with the winner at Tottenham to inflict a third consecutive defeat on the hosts.
Unai Emery’s side came from behind to claim a 2-1 victory and leapfrog Spurs after a thrilling end-to-end contest, with Pau Torres scoring a first-half header and Watkins scoring a second after 61 minutes.
Giovani Lo Celso had drilled Tottenham in front after 22 minutes with Ange Postecoglou’s selection gamble paying dividends at this point, but the hosts’ profligacy in front of goal cost them and Villa secured an eighth win from their last 10 matches.
Hours before the match it was revealed former Spurs player and manager Terry Venables had died and a minute’s applause occurred before kick-off in his memory.
Postecoglou’s team selection could have been out of Venables’ playbook, with the Australian going even more attacking than usual despite 11 first-team players being out, with Eric Dier and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg dropped.
Rodrigo Bentancur, Lo Celso and Bryan Gil all earned first league starts of the season and it could have been 2-2 after five minutes.
First, Villa captain John McGinn’s cutback was too powerful for the unmarked Matty Cash during the opening 60 seconds, then, down the other end, Destiny Udogie was sent clear but he sliced over with his weaker right foot.
Dejan Kulusevski struck a post immediately after from Son Heung-min’s clever through ball and Brennan Johnson’s follow-up was blocked by Torres.
Torres then should have broken the deadlock but he directed his free header wide from McGinn’s free-kick.
The breathless start showed no sign of slowing with a Gil effort saved by Emi Martinez before Son hooked over, although the offside flag was subsequently raised.
Another chance went begging when Pedro Porro’s cutback for Son was intercepted, but Tottenham did finally open the scoring in the 22nd minute.
A Porro corner was cleared out to Lo Celso and his sweet half-volley from the edge of the area took a deflection to leave compatriot Martinez with no chance.
It was Lo Celso’s first Spurs goal in more than two years, but Villa initially produced the perfect response.
Straight from kick-off, Lucas Digne got away down the left and crossed for Watkins to head home.
Villa’s joy was cut short when a three-minute VAR check eventually ruled the England forward had been offside.
The end-to-end nature was abandoned not long after when Bentancur injured his ankle after a poor challenge by Cash.
While Son found the net before half-time it was disallowed for offside and Villa’s growing dominance turned into an equaliser in the 52nd minute of the half.
Douglas Luiz’s free-kick from the touchline picked out Torres and he made no mistake with his header this time to make it 1-1 at the break.
Emery celebrated enthusiastically with his backroom staff but also made a double substitution, with Youri Tielemans and Leon Bailey introduced for the second period.
Bailey almost made an instant impact when his curled effort slipped through Guglielmo Vicario’s grasp but hit a post.
The frantic nature of the contest had returned now, with Johnson inches away from Kulusevski’s cross before Son had another effort ruled out for offside.
Villa remained a threat and not long after McGinn’s long-range lob sailed harmlessly over, they made it 2-1.
Substitute Tielemans was at the heart of it with a quick one-two giving Watkins a sight at goal and the England forward arrowed the ball into the bottom corner with 61 minutes played.
Postecoglou’s side responded strongly, with Porro testing Martinez and Ben Davies heading over from the resulting corner.
Vicario did keep Tottenham in the game with a finger-tip stop to thwart Digne’s free-kick before Martinez was required again, but produced superb saves to deny Johnson and Hojbjerg’s long-range curler.
There was still time for Son to have another goal disallowed after Porro’s initial effort hit a post, but Postecoglou’s side failed to find a late leveller and suffered a third straight loss.