Tottenham 2 Aston Villa 1: Matt Targett own goal gives Spurs three points and eases pressure on boss Nuno Espirito Santo
IT was not quite what Spurs fans had in mind when they said they needed another Targett man.
But they will not care about that, and neither will Nuno Espirito Santo after Matt Targett’s own goal gave Tottenham their first Premier League win after three successive drubbings.
The under-fire Spurs boss slammed his players for not following his gameplan in last week’s 3-1 defeat at Arsenal.
Target’s oggie was obviously not how he planned to beat Villa.
But they all count and my goodness how much he and his club needed it.
Never mind this being a clash Nuno could not afford to lose – it was one he simply had to win. By hook or crook.
And he did it, even though it was far from convincing.
But from little acorns and all that…
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In fairness, Tottenham were better than they were in their defeats against Crystal Palace, Chelsea and the Gunners, when they conceded three in each – although they could hardly have been worse.
Nuno is not out of the woods yet as far as his future is concerned.
He still has a lot to do to convince those above, below and around him that this job is not too big for him.
The fact Spurs spent the last few minutes of stoppage time trying to keep the ball in the corner tells you everything about their situation right now.
It also tells you how desperate they were for the win.
They were looking to avoid conceding three or more goals in four successive top-flight matches for the first time since 1958.
Nuno made three changes to his starting line-up from their North London derby disaster, with Dele Alli dropped to the bench after being subbed at half-time at the Emirates.
Nuno slammed his players after that gubbing for not following his gameplan, which was odd as it never looked like he had one.
Villa were unchanged from their 1-0 win at Manchester United last time out.
Unlike Spurs, Villa opted to cash in on their star man in the summer when they sold skipper Jack Grealish to Manchester City for £100million.
They then reinvested the money wisely in a clutch of new signings.
Many Tottenham fans were starting to wish they had done the same with Harry Kane after his lacklustre start to the League campaign.
The hosts came into this clash having mustered just 56 shots in their six Prem matches this season – the fewest of any club in the division.
We had to wait 22 minutes for their first effort at goal and it was hardly worth waiting for as Kane blazed a long-range shot high, wide and not very handsome.
He went closer with his next effort from a lot further out when his quickly taken 45-yard free-kick almost caught out Emiliano Martinez, who had to backpedal to tip the ball over.
Son then bent a shot just wide before midfield anchorman Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg showed the strike pair how it is done by slotting Spurs ahead in the 27th minute.
The Dane picked his spot perfectly as he took a touch and stroked home Son’s pass from just outside the area for his second goal of the season in all competitions.
Nuno celebrated with his staff by the dugout as though he had won the World Cup, although you probably could not begrudge him after the terrible few weeks he has endured.
Worse was almost to follow as only Emerson Royal’s last ditch challenge denied Targett a certain equaliser before John McGinn’s sweet shot from outside the box went just wide as it had Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris scrambling along his line.
Villa started the second half how they finished the first with a brilliant Oliver Skipp clearance from inside his own six-yard box and a Cristian Romeo block from Targett’s shot preserving Tottenham’s lead.
Royal then saw his powerful goalbound shot headed away by Tyrone Mings before Son fired a first-time volley over.
The South Korean was then denied a tap-in when Ezri Konsa beat him to Kane’s drilled cross, although ref Chris Kavanagh awarded a goal kick.
Son then had a close range shot superbly blocked by Villa keeper Martinez, who also got down well to smother Tanguy Ndombele's weak effort.
But just when Tottenham were in the ascendancy they were pegged back as Ollie Watkins, who turned down the North Londoners before he joined Villa from Brentford for £28m 13 months ago, tucked away Targett’s cross to make it 1-1 in the 67th minute.
But the visitors’ joy was short-lived as Moura restored Spurs’ lead three minutes later when the sliding Targett was adjudged to have beaten Lucas Moura to get the vital touch on Son’s cross.
The relief inside the stadium was palpable.
Maybe Nuno’s luck has changed.
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