Harsh welcome to Premier League life for The Villans
Spurs began their PL campaign at home to newly-promoted Aston Villa on Saturday evening. No Eriksen (bench only) for the home team, but Tanguy Ndombele made his league debut.
Villa meanwhile fielded skipper Jack Grealish, who very nearly joined Spurs last year. An intriguing affair on every level.
Spurs were of course overwhelming favourites on the off – but on 9 mins John McGinn fired past Hugo Lloris to put The Villa ahead. The long ball, direct play, call it what you will – Tottenham were unhinged. Spurs 0 Villa 1.
Lively, attractive stuff ensued – with the Spurs faithful roaring their support. An excellent atmosphere – you could have been excused for mistaking it for a knock-out cup-tie.
Both were firmly on the front foot, and Harry Kane blazed a left-foot drive high over the bar when looking threatening. The same player missed an absolute sitter when heading over as the half drew to a close.
Terrific entertainment, lots of huff and puff, and a narrow lead for the new boys.
HT – Spurs 0 Villa 1
Sissoko was as wasteful early in the second period as Kane had been in the first, and one or two tasty challenges were flying in, too. VAR was employed to check for anything too naughty. Spurs were trying everything to break down Villa’s resolute defences, but that resolution, plus rank poor finishing, kept them behind.
Kane threatened again, but his drive after cutting in from the left was blocked. Lots of activity around Tom Heaton’s goal – but, crucially for Spurs, no breach just yet. The defending was pretty last-ditch at times.
Eriksen was introduced in the 64th minute – and missed a perfectly good opportunity himself just minutes later. A horrid mess of a strike.
Villa were finding it increasingly difficult to retain any sort of possession, it was a Tottenham onslaught – and in the 73rd minute, after a great save by Heaton, Ndombele curled one beyond the Villa ‘keeper from the edge of the box. Boy, it had been coming, and then some. 1-1.
Spurs were camped outside the Villa penalty area. Welcome to the Premier League, Dean Smith and company.
Moments later Heaton expertly parried a free-kick from Eriksen – it was looking bleak for the visitors. 85 mins – who else – Harry Kane – GOAL!! Pouncing on some indecision in the box, he fired Spurs ahead with an air of inevitability. The miracle was that Villa had held out so long. 2-1.
Chants rang out around the magnificent new stadium. The relief was palpable. For Villa, a brave rearguard action at one of the most difficult addresses they will visit all season.
In the last seconds of normal time, insult was added to injury, as Harry Kane took the ball on the edge of the box and stroked it beautifully into Heaton’s bottom left-hand corner. The scoreline had a more realistic look about it now – Spurs 3 Villa 1.
Ndomebele left the pitch to a hero’s reception in added time, while Villa raised one last defiant attack – to no avail.
That’s how it finished – 3-1 to Spurs – and after both Liverpool and City had enjoyed comfortable opening wins the relief around North London was considerable, even at this early stage.
Entertaining fare – and the Villa fans too roared their approval for a brave job nearly, so nearly, executed to perfection.