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By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent, at Villa Park
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Premier League: Aston Villa 1 Tottenham 1
Tottenham came from behind with 10 men at Villa Park to strengthen their hold on fourth place – but they missed the chance to leapfrog Arsenal into third.
Trailing at the break after a deflected goal from Ciaran Clark, Spurs were reduced to 10 men shortly after the interval when Danny Rose was shown a straight red card for a tackle on Alan Hutton.
However, Sandro won a penalty on the hour-mark – which Emmanuel Adebayor converted – and the Lilywhites left the Midlands with a point.
With fifth-placed Newcastle losing against Manchester City, fourth-placed Tottenham’s draw took them one point ahead of the Magpies, with the additional benefit of a vastly superior goal difference.
However, Spurs’ failure to beat the Villans means they have missed the opportunity to take third spot from the Gunners, and they stay one point behind Arsene Wenger’s side ahead of the final round of fixtures next weekend.
Harry Redknapp named the same starting XI for the third game in a row following the victories over Blackburn and Bolton, with Sandro keeping his place despite the return of Scott Parker, who was on the bench.
Meanwhile, Villa boss Alex McLeish picked a team which, before kick-off, had mustered just nine league goals between them.
It was the hosts who had the first sight of goal though as Charles N’Zogbia saw a shot deflected over the bar and, 10 minutes in, the Lilywhites survived a real scare.
Kyle Walker gifted a careless square pass to Stephen Ireland, who freed Emile Heskey, and the ex-England striker seemed to be barged over by the backtracking Younes Kaboul.
Spurs’ hearts were in their mouths as referee Lee Probert considered a penalty and possibly a red card too – but he controversially decided that Kaboul had won the ball.
Heeding the warning signs, Tottenham increased their efforts, but struggled to test Shay Given.
Walker sent two long-distance efforts over the bar, while Rafael van der Vaart saw a volley blocked, and Gareth Bale sent a back-post header wide.
Instead it was Villa who took the lead as Clark tried his luck from distance, seeing his 30-yard effort hit William Gallas and loop into the top right corner past the rooted Friedel.
Spurs nearly hit straight back as Bale thumped a 10-yard drive towards the near post, only to be denied by a flying save from Given, and Van der Vaart sent a swerving shot inches wide of the right-hand post – but the hosts held their lead into the break.
Tottenham began the second half with a good period of pressure, and a sliding Adebayor was millimetres away from getting a killer touch on Bale’s low cross.
However, the visitors then suffered another mammoth blow as Danny Rose slid in dangerously on Alan Hutton, touching the ball but then showing his studs as he crashed into his former Tottenham team-mate’s leg.
Rose was shown a straight red card, and Hutton limped out of the fray as Redknapp pondered a one-goal deficit with 10 men.
Strangely, Spurs seemed to play better with a numerical disadvantage, and Adebayor broke away before rolling a wastefully tame finish at Given.
Sandro then drove forward and saw a 25-yard shot deflected wide and, from the ensuing corner, the Brazilian midfielder won a penalty.
Looking for options just inside the box and weighing up his options, Sandro was felled by a brainless challenge from Richard Dunne, and Adebayor stepped up to equalise from the spot.
The action quickly switched to the other end as Friedel raced 25 yards off his line to beat Villa substitute Andreas Weimann to a defence-splitting through ball.
Spurs survived another scare as Dunne headed wide from N’Zogbia’s corner under pressure from Kaboul, but Bale evaded three men in the box and fired at Given.
Both sets of fans were in agony as six minutes of injury-time were added onto the 90, and Adebayor got his head on a Sandro cross, while Gallas nearly fashioned a final chance – but honours remained even.
Tottenham: Friedel, Walker, Gallas, Kaboul, Rose, Lennon, Sandro, Modric, Bale, Van der Vaart (Parker), Adebayor.