Tottenham Hotspur bolstered their Champions League qualification hopes with a dramatic late win over Aston Villa in a topsy-turvy encounter in the Midlands.
Coming into the game with the top four firmly in sight, Spurs would find themselves behind through Toby Alderweireld’s clumsy own goal after just nine minutes, the veteran centre-back seemingly forgetting the old ‘if in doubt, get it out’ rule of defending.
However, the Belgian would make amends in emphatic fashion, the centre-back levelling the scores with a superb turn-and-finish that Harry Kane would have been proud of, his contribution coming in the same week as the birth of his son.
Spurs were handed the opportunity by to take the lead on the stroke of half-time after VAR spotted an infringement from Bjorn Engels, bringing down new Tottenham signing Steven Bergwijn, and while Heung Min Son’s spot-kick was saved by Pepe Reina, the South Korean tucked home the rebound.
Engels would continue to be involved in the games key moments, levelling the scores with a 53rd minute header, only to let the ball tamely trickle under his foot at the death, allowing Son to race through on goal and wrap up the scoring and all three points with virtually the last kick of the game.
Speaking to the BBC’s Match of the Day afterwards, Jose Mourinho admitted that Dean Smith’s side were unlucky to come away empty-handed.
“I thought we deserved to win but I think they did not deserve to lose. Villa played to win,” the Portuguese coach said.
Meanwhile, Mourinho suggested that summer signing Bergwijn should have been more forceful in his claims for a penalty having been brought down by Engels, referee Martin Atkinson originally awarding a corner.
“Steven Bergwijn, I don’t know if I call him naive, or too honest – the referees tell us ‘pre-match don’t ask for anything, don’t surround me, don’t do the motion of the screen’. The action was there and it was a question of to be or not to be and clearly it was.”
The result moves Spurs up to fifth, a point behind fourth placed Chelsea, though with Man City having been banned from Europe next season, Mourinho reflected on the ‘chance’ of securing Champions League football, the North London club having been 12 points behind when he took over.
“[It’s] Not just for us. A window opens for many teams,” Mourinho added.
“What seemed far, now the fifth place is not far. Arsenal, Everton, Sheffield United, Wolves… everyone will feel they have the chance.”