Aston Villa 1-2 Tottenham: Villa lose lead, Benteke as Harry Kane wins it for Spurs (video)

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Andreas Weimann broke Aston Villa’s 5-match goal drought in the 16th minute, but Christian Benteke was sent off in the second half and the visitors grabbed two goals in the final six minutes to secure a huge three points.

The towering Villa striker was controversially given the straight red when a scuffle saw him push Ryan Mason in the face, causing referee Neil Swarbrick to go for his back pocket and reduce Villa to 10 men.

That gave Spurs a way back in, and Nacer Chadli leveled with six minutes to go before a Harry Kane free kick with a minute left in regulation secured the win for Spurs. It’s just the second in their last eight for Mauricio Pochettino, who celebrated enthusiastically on the go-ahead goal.

Benteke looked the most dangerous early on, and with Spurs committing incredible amounts of numbers forward, they struggled to deal with Benteke on his own on the other end.

The big Belgian used a bit of skill to nearly bag a worldly, but he clashed the top corner of the post.

[RELATED: Watch full match replay]

But the home side would bag the opener as Andreas Weimann cut home a Charles N’Zogbia cross and Spurs yet again conceded a soft goal with holes in defense. The goal was Aston Villa’s first in six matches, a drought which spanned 456 game minutes and 50 calendar days.

Spurs looked to be on their heels for much of the first half-hour, but had a big chance to equalize on the break. Emmanuel Adebayor was through on goal but Brad Guzan made an outstanding one-on-one save to deny the big Spurs striker. Guzan nearly made a deadly blunder as he spilled a shot by , but Adebayor couldn’t touch home the rebound under heavy pressure and the ball squirted out of play wide.

[VIDEO: Premier League highlights]

Things got testy when Jan Vertonghen appeared to go clumsily into a challenge on 61 minutes, and while Aston Villa argued he should be sent off for a two-footed lunge, but he just receives yellow from referee Neil Swarbrick.

Unfortunately, the referee’s ability to control the players’ tempers failed, and failure to caution players throughout the match caused it to reach a boiling point. Benteke bodied Erik Lamela off the ball strongly on just after the half-hour mark, and a few vain attempts to retain possession angered the Spurs players. Ryan Mason butted into Benteke’s face, and the Belgian’s shove to his cheek eventually produced a red card.

[RELATED: Latest Premier League standings]

That card didn’t come before a massive scrum on the pitch, but despite plenty of contact between a number of players no other cards were produced.

Villa struggled to deal with tiring legs and the man disadvantage, and slowly Spurs broke them down. Nacer Chadli was the man to pull Spurs level on a corner in the 84th minute when the ball swung over the pack in the box and fell to Chadli at the far post who poked home with his left foot.

Spurs then pressed for the winner, and they got it from one of the Premier League’s most in-form strikers. Harry Kane lined up a free kick and poked home a cheeky chip with Brad Guzan missing the ball completely.

The win leaps Spurs all the way from 14th to 8th in the table, pushing them level with Liverpool on points, just one behind on goal differential. For Villa, their failure to hold onto the lead sees them wallow in 15th despite breaking the goal drought.

LINEUPS:

Aston Villa: Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Cissokho (Bent 90′); Westwood, Cleverley, Sanchez, Weimann (Richardson 86′); N’Zogbia (Agbonlahor 74′), Benteke.

Goals: Weimann 16′

Tottenham: Lloris; Naughton, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Rose; Capoue (Townsend 72′), Chadli, Eriksen (Lamela 46′), Mason; Adebayor (Kane 58′), Soldado.

Goals: Chadli 84′, Kane 89′

Petr Cech earns win with 2 penalty saves in hockey debut

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Former Chelsea and Arsenal goalkeeper joined English fourth-division hockey team Guildford Phoenix four days ago and made his debut on Sunday.

He did not disappoint.

The 37-year-old saved two penalties in the shootout, earning Man of the Match honors.

Cech is reportedly a fan of the Guilford Flames, the first-division side who use the Phoenix as their developmental side. He was signed to be the team’s third-choice goalkeeper, just a chance for him to get in on the action before his body gives way for good, but he was given a chance to play right away. He wore number 39, a nod to famous Czech goaltender Dominik Hasek. His custom helmet was adorned with Arsenal and Chelsea colors. Regulation finished level at 2-2 before Cech’s shootout heroics.

“I wanted to win, that was the main thing, and I’m glad we did,” Cech said after the match. “I was surprised that I wasn’t more nervous. I didn’t know what to expect so it was nice how quickly my body switched into matchday mode.”

Giroud upset with reserve role at Chelsea

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Olivier Giroud does not look back on his transfer to Chelsea and wish he had done things differently, but that doesn’t mean things are all sunshine and roses for the 33-year-old.

Giroud, who moved to Chelsea from Arsenal in the winter of 2018 after six years with the Gunners, has played just 43 times in the Premier League, averaging just 35 minutes per appearance. That has him frustrated, hoping to prove his loyalty to the club and work harder than the other options up front.

“I had competitors in attack – [Alvaro] Morata, [Gonzalo] Higuain, who ended up leaving,” Giroud said. “I won at the end: I played the final of the FA Cup in 2018 and the [Europa League] final in 2019. Once again, I’m starting the year in a difficult situation. But as my brother says, I have always built myself in the face of adversity.”

Giroud is trying to be smart about how he approaches the competition for time with the likes of Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi, but he says it is emotionally taxing.

“You do not have to be fatalistic in certain situations,” Giroud says about keeping a level head. “I have always been respectful and humble. Even if I do not agree with the coach, I do not criticize him. But in myself, I cannot accept it because I know what I’m worth on a pitch.”

The French international has made just three league appearances this season, mostly thanks to Abraham’s scalding form. Abraham, still just 22 years old, has snatched his opportunity for first-team minutes with eight goals in eight games to start the campaign. That has left Giroud on the sidelines for each of the last five league games, missing out on a spot in the matchday squad altogether for the last three.

Despite his struggles at the club level, Giroud has maintained his place in the French national team, missing just five matches of France’s last 64 games, including 37 of the last 39.

James says he was not knocked unconscious in Wales draw

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Head injury awareness again rose to the forefront in the 1-1 draw between Wales and Croatia in Cardiff when Daniel James went down after colliding with a pair of opponents.

The Manchester United winger looked to almost sure have been knocked unconscious when Domagoj Vida’s knee appeared to tap the back of his head while challenging for a ball in the air. Vida went toppling over the back of teammate Borna Barisic who ducked out of the way, but it was James who many were concerned for as he lay motionless on his back with his eyes closed.

Yet James was allowed to come back onto the field and completed the full 90 minutes, sparking criticism from injury advocates and fans who were concerned for James’ safety on the field, at potential risk for even more serious consequences should he indeed have suffered a concussion.

After the game however, despite what fans saw as James lie on the turf, the 21-year-old insisted he was not knocked unconscious. “I’m fine,” James claimed after the match, speaking to Sky Sports. “I think he just caught me in the head but I didn’t get knocked out fortunately.”

Wales boss Ryan Giggs backed up the decision as well, calling James’ motionless display “a bit of acting.”

“The medical staff went over, he was compos mentis and we did all the checks at half-time and he was fine,” Giggs said, referring to the latin phrase for “of sound mind.”

If James was indeed faking unconsciousness, it’s natural to wonder if he should face a fine from UEFA for looking to con referees, and in the process possibly confusing the independent neurologists on site assigned to assess head injuries.

ESPN broadcaster Taylor Twellman, who has been outspoken over the past few years advocating for head injury awareness after his career was cut short by concussions, took to Twitter to criticize Wales for allowing James back into the game. Twellman, who was on the ESPN call of the broadcast with Ian Darke, said more needs to be done to prevent players from being able to force their way back onto the field, lest someone be killed by second impact syndrome.

Former Hull City player Ryan Mason, who was forced to retire after a serious skull fracture saw him fighting for his life, was also seriously concerned about the incident.

Interestingly enough, later in the match just seconds after the second half restart, young Wales midfielder Ethan Ampadu was whalloped from behind by Croatia’s Bruno Petkovic in a wild and reckless aerial challenge. Petkovic’s elbow went clattering into the back of Ampadu’s head, and the was left writhing on the ground holding his head. The Chelsea youngster was taken off the field and immediately replaced by Joe Morrell, while Petkovic was lucky to escape with just a yellow card.

Kane reflects on Tottenham, England struggles

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Harry Kane keeps finding the back of the net, but his teams keep losing.

The 26-year-old striker has bagged five Premier League goals in eight games for Spurs thus far, plus another seven goals for England in five Euro 2020 qualifiers this cycle. Yet Tottenham sits ninth in the table after three losses already this season, while England slumped to its first Euro defeat last time out, putting its seeding at the Euro finals next summer in jeopardy.

Kane is hoping to be a leader through the tough times for both club and country, wearing the armband for both as it currently stands.

“I think you need to lead by example,” Kane said ahead of England’s visit to Bulgaria on Monday. “Not getting too down when you lose a game, not getting too high when you win games. It is a long, old season for club and country ahead – a lot of games to be played so there are going to be tough periods.”

Kane has taken over the England captaincy on a permanent basis, and is filling in for the injured Hugo Lloris at Tottenham. “I am still the same person,” he said. “I still try and lead by example on and off the pitch and I will continue to do that. I have been in high pressure situations before in my career, whether that is going through goal droughts, playing in high-pressure games or not playing well as a team. It is something I will take in my stride and improve on.”

Leading by example includes finding the back of the net, while also supporting teammates both on and off the pitch. He knows even if he’s in good personal form on the stat sheet, there’s always ways to improve and help the squads through tough times.

“I am scoring goals but can I get more assists, create more chances? So yeah, I always look at little things I can get better at. Yes, the England form has been good but as ever, it can be better. We will see if I can continue scoring. It has been a good campaign but important I do not stop now.”