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It wasn't as easy as the scoreline makes it look, but Tottenham Hotspur grabbed three points from Aston Villa with a 2-0 victory. Second-half goals from Steven Caulker and Aaron Lennon made up for a poor first half, but the visitors will be ruing their missed chances -- for a while they played well enough to get something from the match, but as soon as they went behind, the result was a foregone conclusion.
Tottenham started out as by far the brighter side, and Gareth Bale nearly drew first blood 25 seconds in with a left-footed effort that fizzed well wide of Brad Guzan's goal. That pair met again shortly thereafter, with Guzan racing out to clear a loose ball and Bale tripping over what turned out to be nothing but thin air. It was a very well executed dive, but it didn't have the desired effect -- no foul was called and the Aston Villa goalkeeper remained in the match.
For all of Spurs' superiority, they weren't actually creating many chances. Villa were having to work hard to defend, but apart from the times where the hosts could break at speed their defence was rarely stretched. That said, it's not as though Hugo Lloris' goal was under any real threat, either -- the visitors simply didn't have enough of the ball to cause Tottenham's defence any problems.
Until, that is, Lloris decided to take matters into his own hands early in the second half. A very poor throw went straight to a claret shirt, and eventually a cross was swung in for the totally unmarked Christian Benteke. Ten yards from goal, the Belgian couldn't miss. Except, apparently, he could, with the ball floating inches wide of the far post. The goalkeeper was a very relieved man, Benteke less so.
And that miss would prove costly indeed when the Villa defence contrived to completely melt down on a corner kick just before the hour mark:
Just how Joe Bennett contrived to allow Jermain Defoe to take the ball down and turn at the far post I'm not entirely sure, but this goal also took more than a healthy slice of luck. Defoe's shot was going well wide before it skimmed off Caulker's heel and flew in. Luck or no, Spurs would take it.
Having a goal to their name energised the home side, who could take advantage of the fact that their guests had to push forward. And despite Paul Lambert making a double substitution, it was Tottenham who remained the more dangerous side. When Lennon fizzed a shot through the unlucky Bennett's legs and in at the far post... well, it's say that a 2-0 lead was neither unexpected nor was it undeserved.
And then it became a matter of seeing just how many Spurs would score. A Villa comeback was most emphatically not on, and things were made worse when Bennett got caught up with Bale and picked up a worrying looking knee injury. All three subs had been used, so the visitors were forced to play with ten man (and put Barry Bannan at left back) for the last fifteen minutes of the match.
The real damage was already done, and although Andre Villas-Boas seemed inclined to inflict more insult upon his guests, his team failed to make the most of the near-constant pressure they applied for the rest of the match. Bale came closest when his angled shot came off Guzan and then the woodwork in the 88th minute. No matter, as far as Spurs were concerned -- it was another three relatively straightforward points at White Hart Lane. They're really picking up steam right now.
As for Villa, they seem powered by gravity more than anything else.