Tottenham Hotspur went back up to fifth in the Premier League table thanks to goals against the run of play at Aston Villa from Andros Townsend and Roberto Soldado.
Villa boss Paul Lambert made one alteration to the XI that came away from Hull with a point. Nathan Baker replaced Ciaran Clark in central defence. Belgian striker Christian Benteke was back on the bench following a hip problem.
Spurs coach Andre Villas Boas reacted to the home defeat by West Ham by making four changes. Romanian centre half Vlad Chiriches made his Premier League bow. There were first league starts for Sandro and Lewis Holtby.
Soldado came in for Jermain Defoe in attack. Kyle Naughton, Christian Eriksen and Mousa Dembele dropped to subs. Jan Vertonghen played left back. Aaron Lennon returned to the squad after injury.
Gabriel Agbonlahor blazed over from close range as visitors Tottenham were briefly undone by a simple throw-in. Andreas Weimann then volleyed off target as Villa failed to properly punish a Chiriches error.
Despite having the best chances of a first half where they were at a premium, the hosts fell behind on half an hour. Townsend crossed from the right and the ball bounceed into bottom corner. Soldado’s movement towards ball seemed sufficient to distract Brad Guzan.
A smoke bomb was thrown from the visiting section inside Villa Park as Spurs took the lead and it struck nearside linesman David Bryan. Lambert’s lads continued to do more with possession as Weimann fired just wide when teed up by Ashley Westwood.
Townsend then tested Guzan with a left-footed strike after a give and go with Paulinho and the ball broke back off a Villa defender. Despite being second best, Tottenham took a half time lead in with them.
Paulinho worked Guzan after good hold-up play from Spurs striker Soldado after the break, but clear-cut openings remained rare. Lambert threw Benteke on after an hour and he nodded over a stood-up Leandro Bacuna cross unmarked.
AVB brought Lennon back into action in response to a rejuvenated Villa. His involvement in a move down the left helped the visitors double their advantage with 20 minutes left. Paulinho then slipped in Soldado, who lifted over Guzan.
Energetic winger Townsend continued to attack, skimming the roof of the net before whipping in a delicious cross which just evaded Paulinho. Tottenham improved as this match wore on, but description of their display fell short of consummate away performance.
Smash and grab would be a more accurate analysis. Already there are signs that Townsend is replacing Gareth Bale as the player Spurs seek to give the impetus. Their expensive recruitment policy means AVB cannot allow his team to over-rely on individuals.
Lambert can content himself safe in the knowledge this was an off-day for Villa. A home clean sheet sometime would be nice, but games against title contenders are far from season defining fixtures.
- Villa: 1 Brad Guzan, 7 Leandro Bacuna, 4 Ron Vlaar (c), 2 Nathan Baker, 14 Antonio Luna, 8 Karim El Ahmadi (18 Yacouba Sylla 72’), 15 Ashley Westwood, 16 Fabian Delph, 10 Andreas Weimann, 27 Libor Kozak (20 Christian Benteke 61’), 11 Gabriel Agbonlahor (24 Aleksandar Tonev 79’) 4-3-3
- Spurs: 25 Hugo Lloris, 2 Kyle Walker, 20 Michael Dawson (c), 6 Vlad Chiriches, 5 Jan Vertonghen, 8 Paulinho, 30 Sandro, 17 Andros Townsend, 14 Lewis Holtby (19 Mousa Dembele 73’), 22 Gylfi Sigurdsson (7 Aaron Lennon 66’), 9 Roberto Soldado (18 Jermain Defoe 87’) 4-2-3-1
- Goals: Andros Townsend 31’, Roberto Soldado 69’