Ollie Watkins punishes flat Tottenham to gives Aston Villa deserved win

The Tottenham support have missed this – the chance to watch their team defend. Yes folks, that’s right. It is still this bad when you are inside the stadium. On an occasion when all eyes were on Harry Kane, following Monday night’s news that the club’s talisman wants to leave in the summer, Ryan Mason’s team wobbled in embarrassing fashion, laying bare the fragility of the collective confidence.

Steven Bergwijn’s early goal– his first in 35 appearances this season – ought to have set a positive tone. Instead, the returrning 10,000 Spurs fans were left to howl in disbelief during a shocking first-half performance, which featured Sergio Reguilón slicing a cross into his own goal from two yards in front of the penalty spot and plenty of other horrors.

There was precious little pattern from Spurs and Aston Villa took full advantage, slicing through them time and again during that first period and scoring again through Ollie Watkins. They remained comfortable in the second period and might have extended their lead when the 17-year-old midfield prodigy Carney Chukwuemeka, on as a late substitute for his debut, hit the post with a low shot.

It was an awfully tough watch for the Spurs crowd and the anger bubbled over with vociferous booing at half-time and full-time, along with chants for the removal of the chairman Daniel Levy.

Kane was poor and the final takeaway came when he wandered alone around the pitch at the end on what was supposed to be a lap of appreciation. Most of the other Spurs players simply sloped off.

There was no escaping the principal sub-plot, never mind how Mason tried to brush it away. “Harry hasn’t come out and said anything yet so it hasn’t been a distraction,” the caretaker manager said before kick-off, with an emphasis, presumably, on the yet.

The TV cameras had zoomed in for an uncomfortably long pre-match close-up on Kane’s face and, 60 seconds in, there was the first rendition from the home support of their hero’s song, the one about him being one of their own. There had been a bit of musing about the reception that Kane would get. It was never going to be anything other than wholly supportive.

It was Levy who had to worry more about fan reaction, even if there had been no protest against him outside the stadium before the game on this occasion. Levy, who had signed up the club to the failed European Super League, mentioned in his programme notes how “we have been so focused on delivering the stadium and dealing with the impact of the pandemic, that I feel we lost sight of some key priorities and what’s truly in our DNA”.

Defensive sloppiness is a part of this team’s DNA and it was stamped all over their first-half performance, with Reguilón’s comical own goal merely the most glaring example of it.

Where to start? There was Hugo Lloris’s challenge on Ollie Watkins in the 12th minute in which the goalkeeper was lucky not to concede a penalty while the first evidence of Reguilón’s horror show came when he allowed the Villa striker to buy a yard from him before shooting wide.

Villa welcomed back Jack Grealish and he ran through Spurs almost at will. He was not the only one. Mason’s players could not get to grips with Watkins while John McGinn unnerved them with his aggression.

The Reguilon own goal was the prompt for him to fall apart. He was at fault for the second concession, twice falling to clear and, when the ball squirted inside for Watkins, the striker held off Eric Dier with ease before finishing.

The half-time damage ought to have been heavier. Dier had made a last-ditch block to deny Watkins on 23 minutes while Anwar El Ghazi missed a clear chance after McGinn had robbed Harry Winks and, after Dier had given up possession, Watkins worked Lloris.

Spurs rallied at the start of the second-half. It was strange to think that Bergwijn had put them in control at the outset with a thumping finish after winning the ball from Marvelous Nakamba and bouncing away from McGinn. Now he twice extended Emi Martínez, with the first chance being one that he ought to have scored.

The crowd lived on their nerves, particularly when Grealish moved forward with the ball at his feet or any Villa player threatened the penalty area.

Bertrand Traoré curled wide before almost walking through the defence. Watkins also might have scored again. The crowd called for Gareth Bale off the bench and they got him but Spurs’s only chance thereafter was when Kane worked Martínez.

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