England breakthrough star Andros Townsend continued his fine form by inspiring Tottenham Hotspur to a 2-0 win at Aston Villa in the Premier League on Sunday.
The 22-year-old winger, who starred as England booked their place at the FIFA World Cup finals last week, scored the opening goal with a 31st-minute cross that crept past Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Roberto Soldado added a second after halftime as Spurs began to atone for their shock 3-0 home defeat by West Ham United.
“It was a great performance,” Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas said. “We improved with time because the beginning was difficult, as we had lots of long balls to deal with. The opening goal was important to bring confidence and we really played well in the second half. We deserved to go 2-0 up. It was the right response after the defeat by West Ham and it is good to see us near the top.”
It was a first defeat in four league games for Paul Lambert’s Villa, but it was a marked improvement on their 4-0 capitulation to the same side in the League Cup last month.
“I didn’t think there was too much in it,” Lambert told Sky Sports. “I can’t fault the lads for effort — the effort was great. On another day, we might have got something.”
Villa had last season’s top scorer Christian Benteke on the bench following a hip injury, with Nathan Baker replacing Ciaran Clark in the only change to the side that drew 0-0 at Hull City last time out.
Villas-Boas brought Lewis Holtby into his team in place of Christian Eriksen, handed Vlad Chiriches his debut at centerback and gave Sandro a first league start since January.
Villa forward Gabriel Agbonlahor put a half-volley over the bar from an early Leandro Bacuna cross, but heavy rain made for a slippery surface and the game suffered as a result.
Sandro shot straight at Guzan from long range and Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had to scramble away a free-kick from Ashley Westwood, before the visitors made the breakthrough.
Townsend claimed the goal, but he had a certain degree of good fortune.
Picking up the ball wide on the right, he cut onto his left foot and attempted to pick out a teammate in the center, but his cross eluded both Holtby and Soldado, only to sneak in at the far post.
There was an unsavory incident in the aftermath of the goal when assistant referee David Bryan was struck by a flare apparently thrown from the Spurs supporters’ section, but after a brief delay, play continued.
Local police later revealed that two men had been arrested over the incident.
Andreas Weimann flashed a shot just wide as Villa pushed for an equalizer, but Spurs came close to going 2-0 up in first-half stoppage-time when Guzan produced a smart low stop to thwart Townsend.
Another fine save from the American prevented Paulinho from doubling the visitors’ advantage early in the second period and the introduction of Benteke gave Villa further reason for optimism.
The burly Belgian planted a header from a Bacuna cross narrowly over the bar shortly after coming on, but five minutes later Spurs struck again.
Paulinho’s intelligent first-time pass freed Soldado and the Spanish striker took a touch before lifting the ball over Guzan to claim his third league goal in a Spurs shirt.
Villa’s fight faded, but Townsend refused to leave them in peace.
He dispatched a curler that cleared the crossbar by millimeters and then flashed a ball across the face of goal that Paulinho was unable to convert.
After the best week of his fledgling career, the man-of-the-match award came as no surprise.