Aston Villa – Tottenham: Harry Kane and Carlos Vinicius started together up top and each scored a goal as Spurs were 2-0 winners at Villa Park on Sunday.
[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]
The victory sends Tottenham to within touching distance of the top-four with nine games left to play. Three-quarters of the way through a dreadful season, Jose Mourinho’s side is holding on, just barely.
As for Aston Villa, Sunday’s defeat makes just one win in their last seven games with Dean Smith and Co., now in 10th place and in danger of falling out of the top half of the table for the first time all season.
3 things we learned: Aston Villa – Tottenham
1. Somehow, someway, top-four still there for Spurs: Fun fact: 10 days before Christmas, Tottenham were top of the Premier League table with 25 points from 12 games and some onlookers — but not all — were talking about Mourinho’s men as title contenders. Since then, Tottenham have taken 23 points from 17 games, with 12 of the 23 coming in their last five games. Despite a barren run which saw them win just three times in 13 outings, Tottenham sit just three points (and two places) behind 4th-place Chelsea and still have a very real shot at qualifying for the UEFA Champions League, somehow, someway. Furthermore, Sunday marked Tottenham’s first win over a top-half side since beating Arsenal back on Dec. 6, 18 games ago.
2. Tottenham struggle with Aston Villa press: For most of the opening half-hour, Tottenham found themselves unable to play the ball out of their own defensive third — let alone their half of the field — anytime Aston Villa pressed along the backline. Davinson Sanchez and Joe Rodon had no idea how to create a passing lane into midfield and seemed happy to pass the ball back and forth to one another until Tanguy Ndombele would finally drop in between them and do it for them. Even with a pair of sizable targets up top in Kane and Vinicius, Sanchez and Rodon were routinely unable to play a ball that Tottenham would still possess two touches later. The second half was, by and large, much better on the whole.
3. Grealish makes Aston Villa go: (The following is a re-post from the last time Aston Villa played, and every word rang true again on Sunday…) Sure, that part isn’t exactly new or “learned” on Friday, but the degree to which Jack Grealish is (quite clearly) Aston Villa’s best player and raises the entire team’s level a considerable amount… that part has been, perhaps, even more extreme than expected. In the five games Grealish has missed in recent weeks, Aston Villa have scored all of two goals themselves (plus Friday’s own goal) in 450 minutes of action.
The opening goal came in the 29th minute, from the first real scoring chance of the game, Tottenham’s second shot — the second shot from either side, in fact. Emiliano Martinez rushed out of his penalty area to clear the ball but only managed to send it straight to Moura, who quickly played the ball to Kane. A quick one-two between Moura and Kane sent the Brazilian into acres of space down the left, and Moura crossed into a vast wasteland of space in the six-yard box for Vinicius to walk the ball over the line for his first Premier League goal.
Aston Villa finished the first half without attempting a single shot.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Kane went inches from doubling Tottenham’s lead in the 48th minute, but the England captain put his right-footed curler from outside the box only inches wide of the far post.
Aston Villa took their first shots of the game in the 57th and 59 minutes, though neither effort was on target to force Hugo Lloris to make a save.
Tottenham were gifted goal no. 2 from a moment of madness by Matty Cash, who needlessly slid through Kane’s legs with the ball going out of play with virtually zero danger at hand. Alas, the contact was clear as day and Kane stepped to the spot and pulled level with Mohamed Salah in the Premier League’s Golden Boot race (17 goals apiece, to go with 13 assists for Kane).