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You have to hand it to Spurs (or the referee did)!


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It seemed to me there were potentially three hand balls by Spurs players last night rather than just one. One of them was spotted by the officials, one might have been ignored by them because it led to a goal for us anyway (if the officials are to be given the benefit of the doubt) but the third cost us the game!

Let me first say that on the balance of play Spurs deserved a point at the minimum from last night’s top 5 clash. But, you don’t always get what you deserve and had it not been for last night’s inept officials missing Dawson bringing the ball under control with his upper arm before hitting his equaliser then Harry’s boys may have left Villa Park pointless.

Our goal came shortly after Assou-Ekotto had blocked Carlos Cuellar’s header on the line with his chest or elbow or a combination of both. Would we have been given a penalty had Gabby not forced the ball home? I doubt it. On 73 minutes Defoe had the ball in the net but unusually the referee blew for a free kick for us having resisted the temptation to do so for 99% of the game and so the role Defoe’s hand had played in creating a goal scoring opportunity was recognised. But, just 3 minutes later neither referee Dowd nor his well positioned linesman questioned the part Dawson’s arm played in bringing the ball under control before he hit a sweet shot into the net for their equaliser. These may not have been such glaring and cynical hand balls as were those of Henri and Maradona before him. But, they demonstrate that officials can easily and all too often do get decisions wrong. But, those decisions that cost England and Ireland their World Cup were one isolated incident in a game where last night there were three. But, Dowd will not have worried about that as he boarded the team bus back to North London with his Spurs shirt in his travel bag rather than under his referee’s shirt as I’m sure more than once his ropey decisions were followed by his kissing a cockerel badge or were my eyes deceiving me in the same way as his so often did him?

But, enough already of hand balls and the incompetence of match officials. Spurs came to Villa Park on cloud 9 after their previous second half demolition of Wigan. Defoe looked full of goals again and their touch and flowing attacking football was at times reminiscent of what their North London neighbours can produce. We produced an early goal and then a splendid rearguard action began to look increasingly likely to produce a win as the game wore on and on. But, 13 minutes from time our dam burst following incessant Spurs pressure. What had for so long seemed an inevitable goal was merited by the pressure they put on us which had led to our back line being pressed back too deep and to the likes of Ashley Young spending most of the game in his own half rather than in that of our opponents. The shots on target figures said it all last night but for so long the statistic that really counts (goals scored) had us in the ascendancy until a third hand/arm intervention cost us dear.

My player ratings from a game of two halves neither of which we had the best of are:

Brad Freidel – 9 – An exceptional display. A good stop from a speculative effort from the edge of the box from Kranjcar on 3 minutes was followed 16 minutes later by a splendid save from a Defoe shot after the ball had found its way to him following a Huddlestone free-kick. Brad followed that up on 27 minutes when he tipped a dipping Defoe shot over the bar and on 49 minutes he again denied Kranjcar with another great save. He then made another good stop on 73 minutes before Defoe’s hand produced their disallowed goal.

Habib Beye – 7 – Did very well and for me this was his best game in a Villa shirt by some distance.

Richard Dunne – 8 – Another very solid display in the heart of our defence. Played the ball out of defence well and did much to keep the 9 goal attack of last week to one goal last night.

Carlos Cuellar – 9 – MOTM – Gave the sort of commanding performance in the centre of our defence that we have seen from Laursen in the past and more recently from Collins. This performance showed he really has what it takes and the trick is now to show this consistently starting next weekend because after this display he must surely retain his place whether Collins is fit or not. His near post header on 9 minutes from a Milner corner led to our goal and was only kept out by the elbow of Assou-Ekotto on the line before Gabby forced it in at the far post. He had a great surging run to change defence to attack on 51 minutes having previously on 20 minutes done so well to stretch his leg out and deflect what had seemed a certain goal from Dawson wide.

Luke Young - 7 – Back covering on the left rather than his preferred right side. Did a good job in keeping Lennon quiet and got forward to good effect particularly in the first half.

James Milner – 8 – Just like Alan Ball and the Duracell bunny he does not stop running does he?

Stiliyan Petrov - 7 – The steadying influence in our midfield produced a decent display but as a unit we failed to keep the ball in midfield and up front.

Nigel Reo Coker – 7 – Injured in a challenge in the third minute so did well to stay on and make a solid contribution until being replaced by Sidwell on 70 minutes.

Ashley Young – 6 – Did much of his work in his own half and shows only rare glimpses of the level of performance that he was showing so consistently at the same point last season.

John Carew – 7 – Replaced by Heskey on 75 minutes had worked hard up until then without being quite at his best.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 8 – A good display and showed tenacity in ensuring that the ball did wind up in the Spurs net on 9 minutes. He really is an improving forward and he is beginning to find the game to go with the goals that can see him in South Africa in the summer.


Steve Sidwell – 5 - Replaced Reo on 70 minutes and will struggle on yesterday’s performance to keep him out of the side next weekend.

Emile Heskey – 7 - Replaced Big John on 75 minutes and looked very good and very keen to make a big impression. Might just have stolen it for us in injury time when his terrific header from an Ashley Young cross was nodded over the largely unemployed Gomes to finish only inches over the bar.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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Yep, agreement here too John.

Spurs were really at it last night. I thought almost to a man they were exceptional, so for us to stick with them was no mean feat.

I think the ratingss are spot on too, although I thought though he ran a lot, Milly did not do much, so 7 max for him IMO.

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Guest Ricardomeister

Bearing in mind we were outpassed, outmoved and outclassed for most of the game, and that we created basically nothing after the goal, the only ratings I would agree with are the 9 for Cuellar and the 7 for Heskey and Luke. I think Beye deserved an 8. Everyone else I would mark down at least a point and possibly 2 points (if you are rating on quality and effectiveness, rather than effort).

As for the refs, I do not understand why people are surprised that they make errors...of course they do. Players and managers make errors all the time but expect the officials to be perfect. The Dawson incident was not clear-cut in my opinion...maybe it was handball and maybe not...the only certainty imo is that if exactly the same incident had occured with a Villa player and it had been disallowed then most people on here would have been up in arms slagging off the ref!

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I'm glad we are like minded on last night's game Jon & bickster.

I do not understand why people are surprised that they make errors...of course they do. Players and managers make errors all the time but expect the officials to be perfect

I just expect their errors all not to benefit the same team Ricardomeister. Sadly I think refs have become worse rather than better since they began being better rewarded for the job that they do and I think we can expect better than we got from the likes of Dowd and his assistants last night. These hand ball incidents and did the ball cross the line or not are things that are being got wrong too often. These are game changing decisions and for me last night's game and Ireland's defeat demonstrates these officials need help. Whether that is best from an extra official posted behind each goal line (who might also not see an incident clearly) or a video replay that would give the 4th official something to do is open for debate. I also think Dawson's reaction on MOTD was the reaction of a guilty man although these things are often not as clear cut as the 2 World Cup incidents that I mentioned they should be noticed more often than not and I think Spurs may have been given the benefit of the doubt twice last night.

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For the 3 handballs

Defoe was a handball and should have been booked not sure if he was.

Dawson was a shoulder only the blinkered would deny that.

For our goal am glad we didnt get teh penalty as we probably would have missed but looked like shoulder as well.

Spurs deserved to win we deserved nothing. Harry continues his good spell over MON and Villa

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For our goal am glad we didnt get teh penalty as we probably would have missed but looked like shoulder as well.

:shock: :?

if the ref gives is a penalty for handball by Ekotto, he also has to send him off.

so we would play almost the entire game against 10 men.

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John, whilest i agree with certain aspects on your report, certain things i certainly dont.

Your remarks about Dowd are insulting and out of order. this is the same Phil Dowd who did our game at Blackburn when we won 4-0 and sent one of theirs off. I dont think he got slagged off then!

First handball, yes could have been given, however, we scored. The advantage has to be with the side offended against. What if he had given the pen, sent the man off and we missed the pen. Im quite sure you will be saying the goal should stand!

Also, think back to our cup game at Everton and their first goal, when Petrov handled on the line. The ball broke to their striker to score. No need to give the pen nor red card Petrov.

The Defoe handball, yes it was but not all handball is a bookable offence.

That was a situation when maybe some might caution, some wouldnt.

Its all a matter of opinion, which means people wont agree 100%.

The Dawson goal, just supposing that was one of our defenders, and the ball hit them in the same place, and a pen given. Would you really be saying it was handball then? I doubt it.

IMO it hit him on the chest/shoulder area and for the referee to give it, he has to be 100% sure it was handball, and there is no way he could have said it was. As for slagging the A/R for it, how can a man standing side on have a clear view of where it hit?

You have basically accused Dowd of cheating and being biased by your remarks, yet for him to have given these decisions as you would like, that would be cheating.

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Dawson was a shoulder only the blinkered would deny that

I agree it was not his hand Zatman but Dawson and the MOTD team all gave a clear indication that they may not have given the goal.

we were lucky with a point

Yes there was a large slice of luck Chelts but also good performances at the back that played a bigger part in us claiming a point.

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Very harsh on the ref. maybe he might have booked defoe for his handball, but the other two (without seeing the TV replays) seemed accidental to me, if they were handball al all. He didn't have a Spurs shirt on, by any stretch.

I though Spurs totally ran the game second half, as you say. I doubt they'll play that well again all season away from home.

I was really impressed with the resilience of the defence, disappointed with the rest of the side's struggle to cope with Spurs play, second half. I think Cuellar has been my Man of the Match in about the last 4 games, he's playing superbly. Milner, as you say, was the other player who stood out for us.

NRC was miles better than Sidy has been in recent weeks, Heskey looked bright and they all put a shift in. Luke Young struggled on the left, I felt, and unlike the markings above, I was concerned about Beye - I felt he still did that thing where he gets the wrong side of his man, on a few occasions. He didn't play badly, but I'd have given him about 6/10.

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yep Cuellar my MOTM too.

he has been immesnse these last few games, at centre half.

he seems to be growing in stature. I think maybe it was his branding as one part of "the 2 worst centre halves in the premier league" (copyright Risso) at the end of last season that has made him step up his game. :mrgreen:

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I demand a replay!

I think I will take the point we have Danwichmann. :winkold:

He didn't have a Spurs shirt on, by any stretch

I thought most of the 50/50 decisions and a fair few that were 40/60 went their way but I will hold my hands up I did not actually see that shirt & I have a history of being a bit demanding of refs. :lol:

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