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Player ratings as Watkins strike settles thriller

FROM TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR STADIUM – Tottenham fell to a third successive Premier League defeat after suffering a 2-1 loss at home to Aston Villa.

Spurs created plenty of chances but lacked a clinical edge, with Unai Emery’s men digging in deep to take all three points.

Ange Postecoglou’s makeshift and injury-hit side put up an admirable fight but ultimately fell short on Sunday.

How the game unfolded

With under a minute on the clock, Aston Villa cut Tottenham open. John McGinn managed to wriggle away from a couple of defenders and scamper to the byline, crossing for Matty Cash, but the Poland international’s header looped up and out.

Almost immediately, Spurs went down the other end and had their first sight of goal, with Pedro Porro threading a lovely pass over the top for opposite full-back Destiny Udogie, but he lost all composure and fired over Emiliano Martinez’s bar.

Tottenham then went even closer to taking the lead. Rodrigo Bentancur won possession back in midfield and slipped through Son Heung-min, whose first-time pass allowed Dejan Kulusevski to get around Pau Torres and sit down Ezri Konsa, with his strike rattling the inside of the post.

A frantic opening five minutes then saw Torres head wide from a Lucas Digne free-kick with the goal gaping.

The next chance fell Spurs’ way as Kulusevski’s clever ball between two Aston Villa centre-backs picked out Bryan Gil, who was thwarted by a strong save from Martinez.

The offside flag saved Son’s blushes when he skied a low cross courtesy of Brennan Johnson from point-blank range.

Midway through the first half, Tottenham broke the deadlock. Aston Villa failed to properly clear a corner from Porro and the ball fell kindly to Giovani Lo Celso on the edge of the box, thrashing in a half-volley via a minor deflection off Carlos.

Almost immediately from kick-off, Aston Villa went down the other end and found the net themselves, with Ollie Watkins heading in from a Digne cross. However, after a lengthy VAR check, the England striker was found to be offside by a matter of millimetres and the goal was chalked off.

Just before half-time, Spurs thought they had a second when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg slipped in Son, who raced through to the box and finished, but the flag went up to curtail celebrations.

At the end of six first-half stoppage minutes, Aston Villa pulled level. Douglas Luiz’s teasing free-kick from the right channel found Torres, who this time made no mistake and rose above Ben Davies to head home.

After the break, Aston Villa went close to going ahead head at the end of a quick breakaway, with Leon Bailey’s curling strike pushed onto the post by Guglielmo Vicario.

A swift counter attack of their own saw Spurs nearly pull ahead again, but Johnson just couldn’t get an outstretched leg on the end of a driven Kulusevski cross.

Another offside flag denied Son a goal, this time raised when Johnson was yards ahead of the last defender to receive a pass from Hojbjerg before he could square it to the South Korean.

On the hour mark, Aston Villa went in front for the first time on the day. Watkins managed to find a yard of space away from Emerson Royal and Davies on the edge of the penalty area, quickly getting a shot away and finding the far corner.

Martinez produced two stunning saves in quick succession to maintain the visitors’ lead, first keeping out Johnson’s close-range strike before tipping behind Hojbjerg’s effort from distance.

The travelling fans thought they had another goal to celebrate when Watkins rose above Davies to meet a deep McGinn cross, but the ball bounced narrowly wide.

Son had one more goal denied by the offside flag before the final whistle as Aston Villa clung on and climbed above their hosts into fourth place.

Giovani Lo Celso, Heung-Min Son

Lo Celso was excellent / Nigel French/Allstar/GettyImages

GK: Guglielmo Vicario – 6/10 – Didn’t have much to do until late on when the game opened up a bit more. Quick off his line to clear danger.

RB: Pedro Porro – 6/10 – Useful in Tottenham attacks but caught in possession on occasion and Aston Villa enjoyed building down his side.

CB: Emerson Royal – 6/10 – Not the worst performance in the world in a new role. Looked comfortable at least.

CB: Ben Davies – 5/10 – Similarly fine for the most part but can’t ignore his attempts to mark a man several inches taller than him in Torres (though perhaps that’s a setup issue).

LB: Destiny Udogie – 6/10 – Defended well when actually in his set position. Attacking influence waned as the game went on.

CM: Rodrigo Bentancur – 6/10 – Had fun pulling the strings before being substituted through injury brought about by a poor foul by Cash.

CM: Giovani Lo Celso – 8/10 – Made good on his rare chance to impress, cutting Aston Villa open by way of passing or dribbling.

RM: Brennan Johnson – 6/10 – Electric with the ball at his feet and if anything should have demanded it more often after spending long periods on the periphery of the match.

AM: Dejan Kulusevski – 6/10 – Looks to have added more muscle, with various Aston Villa defenders bouncing off him when in full flight. Should have scored early on with the game at 0-0.

LM: Bryan Gil – 5/10 – Worked hard for the team and was confident playing in tight spaces, but desperately lacked the physicality needed to make a real impact.

CF: Son Heung-min – 6/10 – His movement caused problems for Aston Villa, but the same could be said conversely about the visitors’ excellent high line.

Substitutes

SUB: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (32′ for Bentancur) – 6/10 – More industrious and robust than Bentancur, looking to break down Aston Villa by way of long-range passing than dribbling.

SUB: Oliver Skipp (71′ for Gil) – 5/10

SUB: Alejo Veliz (86′ for Lo Celso) – N/A

Subs not used: Fraser Forster (GK), Brandon Austin (GK), Eric Dier, Alfie Dorrington, Jamie Donley

Manager

Ange Postecoglou – 6/10 – Tottenham’s defending could still do with some work, but considering their various absences, this was a good performance.

Emiliano Martinez

A fine day for Martinez / Robin Jones/GettyImages

GK: Emiliano Martinez – 8/10 – Kept his side afloat with some huge saves in the second half. Knew when to try and take the sting out of the game.

RB: Ezri Konsa – 7/10 – Had real joy snuffling Gil out of the game. Struggled early on to contain the extra threat of Udogie but managed to remove that danger in the end too.

CB: Diego Carlos – 7/10 – Sat on his backside early on by Kulusevski but recovered well from there on in.

CB: Pau Torres – 8/10 – Similarly bounced back from a shaky start to have a fine game at the back. Scorer of the equaliser.

LB: Lucas Digne – 7/10 – A bit relieved when the pacy Johnson swapped flanks. Always gave his winger a tough battle.

RM: Matty Cash – 4/10 – Offered little in his one half of football. Forced Bentancur off with a horrendous attempt of a tackle.

CM: Douglas Luiz – 7/10 – Broke up play and nipped into challenges much to the annoyance of Tottenham.

CM: Boubacar Kamara – 6/10 – A little more careless with the ball than his midfield partner but decent nonetheless.

LM: John McGinn – 7/10 – Whether trying to create chances or mastering the dark arts, McGinn did every task required of him well.

CF: Moussa Diaby – 5/10 – Got little out of his duels with Davies and came off at the break.

CF: Ollie Watkins – 8/10 – The match-winner wasn’t to be denied after his first-half goal was chalked off. Asked a lot of questions of Spurs’ makeshift centre-backs.

Substitutes

SUB: Youri Tielemans (46′ for Diaby) – 7/10

SUB: Leon Bailey (46′ for Cash) – 6/10

SUB: Jhon Duran (90′ for Watkins) – N/A

SUB: Jacob Ramsey (90′ for McGinn) – N/A

Subs not used: Robin Olsen (GK), Clement Lenglet, Alex Moreno, Tim Iroegbunam, Leander Dendoncker

Manager

Unai Emery – 7/10 – Aston Villa frustrated Spurs by any means possible and this time escaped with all three points.

Player of the match – Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa)

#Player #ratings #Watkins #strike #settles #thriller

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