AVB opts for Lloris as Spurs extend winning run in Premier League
Premier League: Tottenham 2 Aston Villa 0
Steven Caulker scored his first Tottenham goal and Aaron Lennon opened his account for the season as Spurs extended their Premier League winning run to four games.
Having overcome Reading, QPR and Manchester United since the last international break, Andre Villas-Boas’ side struck twice in the second half to earn a well-deserved two-goal victory over Aston Villa and record their first clean sheet of their league campaign.
That victory was enough to take them back up into fifth place – just one point behind second-placed Manchester City – and leave the Lilywhites sitting pretty as they take a two-week break from domestic affairs.
Villas-Boas stuck with the same team that had beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford the previous weekend – with one notable exception.
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Hugo Lloris started his first league game at Spurs, ending Brad Friedel’s remarkable run of 310 consecutive Premier League games – an unbroken sequence which dated all the way back to May 2004.
If Villas-Boas felt that Lloris might enjoy a gentle introduction to Premier League football against Villa he was right, because the Frenchman was a spectator for the first half an hour.
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Spurs started brightly and pushed for a quick breakthrough, with Gareth Bale firing across goal and left-back Jan Vertonghen delivering an inch-perfect cross for Jermain Defoe, who blazed over from close range – and was offside anyway.
The early siege continued as Vertonghen narrowly failed to connect with Bale’s dangerous free-kick across the goalmouth, and Defoe sent a low ninth-minute effort towards the bottom corner, but it lacked the pace to beat Brad Guzan.
It took 20 minutes for Villa to register a shot on goal and it barely tested Lloris as Christian Benteke unleashed a hopeful effort from distance and saw the ball parried away.
At the other end Sandro stole the ball from Fabian Delph and found Aaron Lennon, who played the ball back infield to Defoe. The England striker, who turns 30 today, swivelled onto his left foot and shot from just outside the box but fired just wide of the right post.
Villa’s best chance came from a Tottenham error as Kyle Walker lost possession on the halfway line and Benteke freed Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Spurs’ hearts were in their mouths as the speedy striker raced through on goal, but Lloris was quickly off his line to make a sprawling block.
Lilywhites fans certainly could have reflected that, had 41-year-old Friedel been in goal, the result might have been different – and Lloris was similarly alert and fleet-footed moments later, racing out of his box to beat Benteke to the ball and punt it safely into the stands.
Tottenham ended the second half on top and an inswinging Sandro cross narrowly evaded the sliding Defoe, while the visitors resorted to a series of long balls to clear their lines and keep the scores goalline as the half-time whistle blew.
Tottenham had plenty to do as they emerged for the second period, and they nearly went behind within moments of the restart as Agbonlahor teed up Benteke for a shot from 10 yards. Fortunately he fired straight at Lloris.
The France No1 then undid much of his earlier good work by hurling the ball out towards Bale but seeing the ball stolen by Villa, who delivered the ball straight back into the box and saw Benteke head wastefully wide.
They proved to be costly misses because Tottenham regained the upper hand. Sandro advanced through the midfield and found Defoe, who unleashed a trademark low finish but hit the advertising hoardings instead of the net.
White Hart Lane erupted in premature celebration – but they soon had a real goal to cheer as Tottenham took the lead in the 58th minute.
Bale’s corner dropped to Defoe at the back post, and his wayward shot from close range hit Caulker’s heels and deflected inside the post to give the 20-year-old his first ever Tottenham goal.
It was nearly 2-0 five minutes later as Bale swivelled and unleashed a 20-yard rocket at goal, but Guzan saved and held on to the ball.
Villa boss Paul Lambert responded by introducing Darren Bent – but the former Tottenham could only watch as his old club quickly doubled their lead, with Bale and Mousa Dembele combining to find Lennon, who jinked outside his man and fired low into the far corner.
That was the cue for Emmanuel Adebayor to make his return from injury, replacing Defoe, and the Lilywhites turned on the style with Clint Dempsey somehow heading wide from Walker’s cross.
Gylfi Sigurdsson replaced the American and nearly wriggled free after a delightful exchange with Adebayor on the edge of the box, while a late effort from Bale was saved onto the post as Tottenham went into the international break on a high.
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Gallas, Caulker, Vertonghen, Sandro, Dembele, Lennon (Townsend 86), Dempsey (Sigurdsson 81), Bale, Defoe (Adebayor 67)
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs