Aston Villa 0-4 Tottenham (They are 3′ 66′, 71′, Kulusevski 50′)
Tottenham capitalized on Arsenal and Manchester United losses in emphatic fashion by thrashing Aston Villa with Son Heung-min helping himself to a sensational hat-trick.
Perhaps buoyed by results elsewhere, Tottenham made a fast start and took the lead inside the opening three minutes. A long ball from Eric Dier was only cleared as far as Harry Kane and his wayward volley smashed into Matty Cash with Son sweeping a superb first-time strike in off the post from the rebound.
That finish moved Son level with Fernando Torres, Eden Hazard and Louis Saha on 85 Premier League goals. By the end of the afternoon, he had matched Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp on 87.
Aston Villa responded well to going behind, but a combination of poor finishing and heroics from Hugo Lloris prevented them from finding an equaliser. The Frenchman was forced into making seven saves before half-time.
Lloris was guilty for Fabian Schar’s opening goal during last weekend’s win over Newcastle but kept his side in it at Villa Park, making a stunning save from close range to deny Jacob Ramsey after the youngster had embarked on a dazzling solo run. Moments later, he made another acrobatic stop to keep out a firm long-range strike from John McGinn.
As well as finding themselves under intense pressure, Spurs were forced into making an early substitution with the in-form Matt Doherty replaced by Sergio Reguilon after injuring his knee following a crunching tackle from Matty Cash.
Aston Villa (4-3-1-2)
- Martinez – 5
- Worthy – 5
- Luis – 6
- Coutinho – 7
- Ings – 5
- Good day – 5
- Lloris – 9
- Rosemary – 8
- Say – 7
- Davis – 7
- Bentancur – 7
- Hojbjerg – 7
- Kulusevsky – 8
- They’re 10
- Reguilon – 6
- Luke – 6
Danny Ings was the next Villa player to pass up a goalscoring opportunity, miscuing a shot after Philippe Coutinho had dinked a free-kick over the top of the Spurs defence. Ollie Watkins drew another stop from Lloris before Ings missed a gilt-edged chance after Tyrone Mings’ flick-on had found him completely unmarked at the back post.
Spurs mustered a rare chance of their own but Mings and Emi Martinez combined to prevent Reguilon’s deflected effort from squirming into the bottom corner. At the opposite end, Coutinho almost caught out Lloris with a clever free-kick from out wide with the final action of the first-half.
As tends to happen, Villa’s profligacy was punished by their opponents. After taking the lead within the first five minutes, Spurs doubled their advantage five minutes into the second through Dejan Kulusevski. Kane flicked the ball on and Kulusevski fired a low shot into the bottom corner from an acute angle to score his third goal for the club.
That goal proved to be a sucker-punch for Villa and the game was up after 66 minutes when Son raced through to score after being sent clear by a superb guided header from Kane. Five minutes later, Son completed his hat-trick, this time firing home after being teed up by Kulusevski.
Frustration got the better of Villa substitute Ashley Young, who wiped out Kane with a dangerous lunging slide as the Spurs striker sprinted clear of him. Fortunately for Antonio Conte and Spurs, Kane was able to finish the match, but the premeditated challenge from Young warranted a more significant punishment.
All four goals were either created or finished off by Tottenham’s three starting attackers and they are powering the club’s charge into the Champions League. Spurs have now scored four or more goals in four of their last seven league games and have netted seven more than any club in the division in 2022.
Furthermore, since Kulusevski’s first start (against Manchester City in February), Spurs’ front three has scored 18 goals in eight games; They are (eight), Kane (seven), Kulusevski (three). That tally is more than any Premier League team has managed over that period.
Maintain that rate of scoring and fourth spot is Tottenham’s to lose.
What Tottenham’s win means for the top four race
Tottenham have frequently been accused of failing to turn up when it matters and for much of the first half it looked as though they might squander a golden opportunity to take a grip on fourth place after Arsenal and Manchester United had lost earlier in the day to Everton and Brighton respectively.
Spurs were indebted to their captain Lloris for keeping them in the contest with the Frenchman making a string of vital saves, before blowing Villa away after half-time with a ruthless display of finishing.
The race for the top-four
- 1st: Man City – Played 30, points 73
- 2nd: Liverpool – Played 30, points 72
- 3rd: Chelsea – Played 30, points 62
- 4th: Tottenham – Played 31, points 57
- 5th: Arsenal – Played 30, points 54
- 6th: West Ham – Played 31, points 51
- 7th: Man United – Played 31, points 51
The win ensured that Spurs will remain in fourth place for another week as they moved three points clear of north London rivals Arsenal in the table. Mikel Arteta’s side have a game in hand on Spurs, but confidence will be low after back-to-back defeats to Crystal Palace and Brighton this week.
West Ham, who play Brentford on Sunday, and Manchester United are both longshots to finish fourth as they are both six points behind Spurs having played the same number of games.
Tottenham will host Arsenal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Thursday 12 May in what will be each teams’ 36th match of the campaign.
They are: Lloris saved us today | Lloris: Kulusevski, Kane and Son can always make the difference
“Without Hugo we would have struggled in the first half,” Son admitted. “He saved us in the game today, he is probably the winner [for us] today. I am really grateful to have this captain next to me.”
Lloris added: “It was a tough battle as we expected. I think we started really well in the game with this goal and then they started to increase the intensity and we could not match it.
“We lost a lot of duels and we granted a lot of chances but after the storm we took control of the second half and then with the quality that we have in front players like Kulu, Harry, Sonny, they can make the difference at any point and they did that very well.”
He added: “I’m very pleased with Sonny for his hat-trick!”
When asked why Tottenham’s front three are working so well together, Son responded: “I think because we are working hard and we see the clips after every single game and analyze every single situation, what we can do better and we are talking about it a lot.
“I think it is all about the understanding. The first time that we all played together it was not that perfect but we are improving every single day and enjoying playing together.”