Match report: Tottenham 2-1 Villa
Dutch master Rafael van der Vaart proved to be the difference as Villa were edged out in an enthralling White Hart Lane encounter.
It meant a first defeat for manager Gerard Houllier despite his team contributing plenty to this thriller against last season's Champions League qualifiers.
Man of the moment Emile Heskey went into the game with the bit between his teeth and it was his terrific work that teed up Marc Albrighton for his first Villa goal to give the visitors a dream start.
But van der Vaart - Tottenham's summer signing from Real Madrid - scored either side of the break to ensure there was no Champions League hangover for Harry Redknapp's men, who earned a morale-boosting 4-1 success over Twente in midweek.
An opening 45 minutes that had been so productive for Villa ultimately ended in frustration as Van der Vaart cancelled out the deserved one-goal advantage seconds before the break .
The visitors came into this clash brimming with confidence after last weekend's derby late show against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
No player epitomised the self-belief in the camp better than Molineux match-winner Heskey, so it was no surprise to see him at the heart of Villa's best early moves.
On his day, the striker can put the jitters up most defenders and Sebastien Bassong will be having nightmares about the way in which Heskey won possession and held him off to set up Albrighton's 16th minute opener.
It was tremendous work from the ex-England international to get his challenge in on the Spurs stopper in the right hand corner and continue his motoring run towards goal before sliding a low cutback across the six-yard box for Albrighton to convert.
Having given his team such a strong foothold in the contest, it came as a major blow to see the in-form forward sustain a dead leg and, on 35 minutes, he made way for John Carew.
While the visitors were unable to increase their goal tally, they continued their positive approach.
A neat exchange between Carew and Downing resulted in the Norwegian attacker firing a shot over, while Stephen Warnock had a long-range effort charged down as Villa peppered the Spurs goal.
The hosts found Villa tough to crack with Nigel Reo-Coker and Stiliyan Petrov doing an excellent job of anchoring the away side's midfield.
But, with half-time in sight, Tottenham began their revival. World Cup finalist van der Vaart tested Brad Friedel with a stinging low attempt moments before his equaliser.
It wasn't until deep into first-half stoppage time that the home side finally broke the claret and blues resistance.
Roman Pavlyuchenko crossed from the right, ex-Villa man Peter Crouch headed back across for van der Vaart and the Netherlands star powered his header past Friedel.
From there on Tottenham seized control, with the Dutch wizard at the heart of everything.
Just after the break he scuffed another attempt after Crouch played him into the area, while a stunning block from Richard Dunne denied van der Vaart again.
But it wasn't all one-way traffic. The second-half pace was as breathless as the first with both teams going full throttle.
Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and Marc Albrighton switched positions with menace for Villa and their fluidity almost had the desired effect.
Young cut in from the left and arrowed a ball towards the back post.
All it needed was a touch but the delivery narrowly evaded Carew and Albrighton as it trickled inches wide.
It was a similar story when Carew surged into the box and dinked a cross over Heurelho Gomes. Again Villa couldn't apply the finishing touch.
Carew and Crouch both sent bullet headers off target, from Albrighton and Luka Modric crosses respectively, but Tottenham's late pressure was rewarded 15 minutes from time.
Firstly, Friedel pulled off a brilliant one-handed stop to thwart substitute Aaron Lennon.
Then, there was little the American could to do stop van der Vaart firing home his 74th minute winner. It came via another Crouch knockdown.
Van der Vaart took advantage of Dunne's slip to control and fire home from close range to give Tottenham all three points.
TOTTENHAM: Gomes, Hutton, Bale, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Huddlestone, Jenas, van der Vaart, Modric; Crouch, Pavlyunchenko. Subs: Cudicini, Lennon (for Pavlyuchenko HT), Keane, Palacios (for Modric, 76), Kranjkar, Corluka, Sandro (for van der Vaart).
VILLA: Friedel; L Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock; Albrighton, Reo-Coker, Petrov, Downing; A Young, Heskey. Subs: Guzan, Sidwell, Ireland (for Petrov, 80), Carew (for Heskey, 35), Clark, Cuellar, Bannan (for Albrighton, 80).
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