Aston Villa recorded arguably their most important result of the season so far as they deservedly beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 on Saturday afternoon to reignite their European dream. Victorious in what was a massive six-pointer in the race for a top-seven finish, the Villans are now well back in contention and below Spurs by goal difference alone. It was a deserved win under the Villa Park sun as Unai Emery’s men dominated from start to finish and performed an expert offside trap to frustrate the visitors. It could’ve been three, four, or maybe even five goals if it wasn’t for missed chances - and there was late drama as Harry Kane scored a spot-kick - but Villa were able to hold on for a famous three points.
It didn’t take long for Villa Park to erupt as Jacob Ramsey gave the hosts a deserved 1-0 lead in just the eighth minute of the clash. Chants of ‘he’s one our own’ echoed around the ground after Ramsey, who was found by a low Leon Bailey cross, swept it home into the bottom corner. Bailey did brilliantly on the right flank to create some space and his delivery was pinpoint, allowing Ramsey to strike it first-time with confidence. Emery’s side followed up their goal with dominance and it was very nearly 2-0 when John McGinn attempted an audacious chip from range. The Scotsman dinked the ball from a tight angle just inside the area and his effort narrowly missed, landing on top of the net.
Spurs tried to create some openings with lofted passes over the top, but the Villans’ offside trap was very efficient and caused the visitors to draw blanks. One particular chance did form, causing drama as Heung Son-min made his way through on goal, rounded Emi Martinez and struck the post. Kane then had his follow-up saved by Villa’s goalkeeper before the offside flag eventually went up - about 30 seconds too late - to a chorus of boos and whistles from a bemused crowd. Douglas Luiz quickly put smiles back on faces as he went close with an attempt to score directly from a corner a few minutes later, but Fraser Forster reacted quickly enough to parry it away.
The Villans kept on pushing heading towards half time and went agonisingly close to making it 2-0 on three occasions. Bailey got the first chance as he was teed up by a low drive across the area from Ollie Watkins, but he was unable to get enough direction on his effort. Another opportunity came as Alex Moreno fired a powerful cross into the six-yard area with the outside of his left boot. Watkins timed his run well enough to try a diving header but he didn’t quite get a connection on the ball as it whistled past. Emi Buendia then found space to cut onto his left foot and strike from around 20 yards but the Argentine was denied by the crossbar.
Fans near the press box - and most probably all around the ground - were in disbelief that it was still just 1-0 going into the break and Villa were very nearly made to rue their missed chances early in the second period. Spurs crafted their first major breakthrough of the encounter in the 53rd minute as Kane was played in on goal by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who caught Douglas Luiz sleeping and dispossessed the Brazilian. The ball ricocheted to Kane and he had plenty of time to think about where to put his shot but Martinez got out in rapid fashion to make himself big, denying an equaliser with a point-blank save. The hosts then had to endure a fairly prolonged spell of pressure from Tottenham and Dejan Kulusevski went very close as he saw a curled shot go inches wide.
Villa were able to survive the pressure and finally doubled their lead through a brilliant Luiz free-kick soon afterward. The midfielder made up for his earlier error as he struck from around 25 yards, sending his shot up and over the wall and into the top corner via Forster’s left glove. Villa Park, previously quietened down by the tension that had built, was back rocking once again as almost every home supporter got on their feet to create a deafening atmosphere. Every block, tackle and interception received a huge cheer and the Villans were spurred on.
Tottenham were handed a surprise lifeline in the 87th minute, however, as Martinez brought down Kane in the box and a penalty was awarded after a two-minute-long VAR check. Referee Peter Bankes was urged to take a look at the screen by VAR official Jarred Gillett and it was eventually given to a roar in the away end. Kane stepped up and converted with confidence, smashing the ball into the right-centre of the net, but it was too little too late for Spurs as Villa held on for a vital three points. That’s now 57 points from 36 games as Emery’s team approach a huge final two fixtures of the season. Here are our player ratings.