In a week where rain and floods caused chaos across Britain, another natural phenomenon wreaked havoc in the Midlands. Gareth Bale stamped his world class imprint all over the second half as Spurs cantered to victory over a shellshocked Aston Villa. An even greater surprise was a third consecutive clean sheet. Seasoned Spurs watchers rubbed their eyes in disbelief as Tottenham somehow failed to surrender a poxy late consolation. This is not the Spurs we know and love.
A dominant first half delivered everything but the goal. There were more corners than a fridge full of Muller yoghurts yet Spurs’ almost comical dominance went unrewarded. Like a toothless youth in the Twilight saga, there was little bite about Tottenham in the final third. Villa were a different proposition in the opening second half skirmishes. Paul Lambert’s half-time rocket and positional rejig seemingly galvanised the home side and the more fearful among us awaited a sucker punch on boxing day, but it never came.
The shift in the game’s dynamic suited Tottenham. A more purposeful, attacking Villa approach left large spaces to be exploited and Spurs, through the pace and incision of Bale, took clinical advantage. A sublime, almost Iniesta-like, pass from Kyle Naughton unlocked the Villa back door and afforded Jermain Defoe the time to adroitly put Spurs ahead.
Stung into action, Villa pushed for an equaliser yet the excellent Sandro’s timely intervention prompted a sweeping counter that Bale rounded off with aplomb. Even Fabian Delph’s wreckless yellow carded challenge could not halt the surging Welshman. He scored his third off-balance and fourth with an emphatic finish high into the roof of the net sending the away support into raptures and Andre Villas Boas’ charges into fourth place on goal difference. Sheer nosebleed territory.
There was much to admire about this performance, but I particularly admired AVB’s rotation policy and gamble at the back given the thicket of festive fixtures. Michael Dawson’s brawn and aerial ability were a prerequisite against the physical demands of Stoke City yet the defensive nous and positional play of William Gallas in the testing, early exchanges of the second half were a key contributor to this victory. The emerging Naughton, again, showed promise as a makeshift left-back and the maligned Kyle Walker was blissfully error-free on his return to Villa Park. Scott Parker’s effective cameo off the bench provided another encouraging aspect given the forthcoming fixture congestion.
What a contrast to Spurs’ last visit to the stadium where Parker’s late introduction was greeted with ire and a lovely way to shrug off the Christmas meat sweats.