- League Cup
Holtby steals the show as Spurs march on
Aston Villa were left red-faced as Tottenham advanced to the League Cup fourth round with a convincing 4-0 victory over their Premier League rivals.
The visitors made light of having to play twice in three days as Jermain Defoe and Paulinho struck either side of half-time before Nacer Chadli blasted in and Defoe tucked home his sixth of the season to give them a deserved win, matching their easy league win on the same ground last term.
But the outcome hinged on a bizarre incident immediately after the restart, which Villa boss Paul Lambert was convinced should have reduced Tottenham to 10 men.
Introduced for Libor Kozak at the interval, Nicklas Helenius got round the back of Jan Vertonghen as they chased Matt Lowton's forward pass into the box. In his desperation to recover the lost ground, Vertonghen stumbled and as he was falling made a grab for Helenius. The Belgian succeeded only in grabbing the striker's shorts, yanking them down to his knees just as he was about to shoot. Helenius carried on anyway, blasting over from an acute angle.
To Lambert's disbelief, referee Jon Moss opted to give a goal-kick rather than a penalty that surely would have been accompanied by Vertonghen's exit. That Paulinho's goal came within two minutes of such a strange incident underlined it was not going to be Villa's night as Spurs successful start to the season continued.
It also made it a successful night for their veteran former Villa keeper Brad Friedel. Now 42, Friedel is the oldest player in Tottenham history. The American is remembered fondly for his three seasons at Villa though, when he was ever-present in the Premier League, racking up a grand total of 131 appearances.
Warm applause prior to kick-off did not mean Friedel was prepared to do the hosts any favours though, and after Marc Albrighton had nipped in front of Kyle Walker, he plunged to his left to keep the midfielder's low shot out.
On the day England manager Roy Hodgson learned Theo Walcott will miss next month's World Cup qualifiers, the sight of Walker going down after experiencing pain in his right foot with no one near him was not good news. It looked quite serious as Walker hobbled to the touchline. Fortunately, the full-back was able to continue even if he did feel the problem area every so often.
The Albrighton opportunity was Villa's best as Tottenham's eight changes proved to be significantly stronger than the same number made by Lambert. Indeed, were it not for 21-year-old goalkeeper Jed Steer, Villa would have fallen behind long before nodded home his fifth of the season.
Steer did have one lucky escape when he delayed slightly too long over a clearance, which Defoe managed to charge down, only for the rebound to bounce wide. He made up for that error though, producing a superb one-handed stop to deny Erik Lamela, who had been set up by Holtby.
Defoe was also repelled by Steer before the England man struck. Holtby created the chance with a precise chip over the Villa defence which Defoe had read. The striker is not the tallest but he got up high enough to flick the ball over Steer and in.
Any hope Villa had, following the introduction of Helenius and Jordan Bowery at the break, disappeared in that mad couple of minutes that involved the Dane's shorts being taken down.
Lambert must have had a nagging sense of foreboding as Spurs swept down to the other end. Lamela's deflected free-kick earned them a corner, which Holtby delivered to the near-post for an airborne Paulinho to stab home his second goal in three days.
Villa tried to rally, with Aleksandar Tonev forcing an excellent save out of Friedel before the end. But the visitors' advantage was never really threatened.
Substitute Chadli scored his first Tottenham goal four minutes from time, with Defoe putting the seal on an excellent win with almost the last kick.
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