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Watkins fires Villa into fourth as Spurs pay tribute to Venables

Aston Villa's English striker #11 Ollie Watkins shoots and scores his team second ball during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on 26 November 2023. (Photo by Ben Stansall / AFP)

Ollie Watkins fired Aston Villa into fourth place in the Premier League as they came from behind to win 2-1 at Tottenham on a day the hosts paid tribute to former boss Terry Venables.

Unai Emery’s side trailed Giovani Lo Celso’s first goal of the season in the first half in north London.

But Pau Torres equalized just before the break and Watkins’ 12th goal this term wrapped up an impressive result for revitalized Villa.

Villa moved above Tottenham into fourth, with Ange Postecoglou’s team falling two points behind them in fifth after a third successive defeat stalled their early-season momentum.

Tottenham have squandered the lead in all three of their defeats, but Postecoglou could point to the injuries that have robbed him of several key players including James Maddison.

Villa’s resilient third away win in their last 11 league games underlined the improvements made by Emery since he replaced the sacked Steven Gerrard last season.

Sitting just two points behind leaders Arsenal, Villa have won four of their last five league games to spark genuine hopes of a top-four challenge.

As an innovative former manager of England, Barcelona, and Tottenham, where he won the FA Cup in 1991, Venables would have appreciated the attacking quality of both teams on the day he passed away aged 80.

With both teams wearing black armbands, a picture of Venables was displayed on each of the big screens during a minute of applause in celebration of his life before kick-off.

Tottenham was on top in the opening stages and Dejan Kulusevski blasted against the post after showing nimble footwork to prise open the Villa defense.

Postecoglou’s men were back on the offensive as Bryan Gil was denied by a fine save from Emiliano Martinez.

Their enterprising play reaped a deserved reward in the 22nd minute when Villa could only clear a corner to the edge of the area, where Lo Celso hammered a powerful strike that deflected in off Carlos.

Clinical Watkins

Villa thought they had mustered an immediate response as Watkins glanced his header past Guglielmo Vicario from Lucas Digne’s cross.

But, after a VAR check of almost three minutes, the goal was disallowed for a tight offside against Watkins.

Kulusevski was inches away from doubling Tottenham’s lead with a curler before Son Heung-min’s goal was chalked off for another offside.

For all their dashing play in attack, Tottenham were vulnerable at the back and Villa took advantage in first-half stoppage-time.

Douglas Luiz’s free-kick found Torres unmarked 10 yards out and the Spanish defender thumped his header past Vicario, with the goal surviving another extended VAR check.

Villa was nearly gifted the lead early in the second half when Vicario allowed Leon Bailey’s shot to squirm under him before gratefully grabbing the ball after it rebounded off the post.

Emery’s men exposed the flaws in Tottenham’s defense again to take the lead in the 61st minute.

A neat move climaxed with Watkins playing a one-two with Youri Tielemans to open up the creaky Tottenham rearguard before the England striker guided a clinical finish into the far corner from 12 yards.

Pedro Porro was close to an instant equalizer with a strike that Martinez pushed away at full-stretch.

Villa remained a threat and Digne’s free-kick forced a good save from Vicario before Watkins headed narrowly wide.

Martinez made excellent stops to repel efforts from Brennan Johnson and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg before Son’s strike was disallowed for offside to cap a frustrating afternoon for Tottenham.

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