Match report: Villa 1-2 Tottenham
Rafael van der Vaart was Villa's tormentor once again as 10-man Tottenham left Villa Park toasting three Boxing Day points.
The Dutch attacker scored a brace when Tottenham beat Gerard Houllier's men by the same scoreline at White Hart Lane in October and he repeated the trick in the reverse fixture.
The similarities didn't end there - Marc Albrighton, who also netted in the previous meeting between the sides, set up an enthralling finale by pulling one back.
And once again the claret and blues were left feeling a little hard done by after enjoying an abundance of possession against a Spurs side who played over an hour with 10 men.
Referee Martin Atkinson was left with no alternative than to show Jermain Defoe a red card when the striker's flailing elbow struck James Collins on 27 minutes.
The sending off looked to be a massive blow to Harry Redknapp's men.
Defoe had been lively in the early stages and nearly scored when he latched on to Aaron Lennon's cheeky flick but goalkeeper Brad Friedel stood tall when one-on-one with the England ace.
Both sides began at a frenetic tempo. Heurelho Gomes had to get down low to keep out Albrighton's close range effort with only a minute on the clock.
The Brazilian was the busier of the two keepers early on. He held on to Stewart Downing's low right foot drive and then denied Gabby Agbonlahor who tried to fire across Gomes after sprinting on to a flick-on from Emile Heskey.
The home side looked confident having received a double fitness boost.
Fabian Delph made his first appearance since sustaining a cruciate ligament injury in April, while Stiliyan Petrov was named on the bench after a two-month lay-off.
But a swift Tottenham move on 23 minutes, finished off by van der Vaart, swung the momentum in the away side's favour.
Full-back Alan Hutton found acres of space on the right and the ex-Real Madrid man swept his low cutback past Friedel.
Villa were dealt a further blow when Heskey withdrew with a twisted ankle six minutes before the break.
His replacement Nathan Delfouneso was energetic and immediately set about finding an equaliser.
Within minutes of coming on he glided past Hutton from the left and shot over from 20 yards.
The England U21 forward then played in Downing whose angled drive was comfortably saved by Gomes.
Carlos Cuellar also came close to levelling only to see his glancing header from a Downing cross drift off target.
The missed opportunities proved costly as the visitors produced a rapid counter-attack to snatch a second.
This time wing wonder Gareth Bale sprinted the length of the field and neatly squared to Lennon.
Again the ball was cut back perfectly for van der Vaart who expertly found the bottom corner.
Still Villa refused to surrender - Agbonlahor having a low drive pushed around the post by Gomes, while Eric Lichaj struck the side netting with a volley.
Their endeavour finally paid off eight minutes from time when Albrighton came in from the left hand side and saw his cross-cum-shot sail straight in at the far post.
But, despite throwing everything at Spurs in the dying minutes, there was no equaliser for the boys in claret and blue.
VILLA: Friedel; Lichaj, Cuellar, Collins, Warnock; Albrighton, Delph, Hogg, Downing; Agbonlahor, Heskey. Subs: Guzan, Pires (for Delph, 73), Delfouneso (for Heskey, 39), Petrov (for Hogg, HT), Reo-Coker, Clark, Bannan.
TOTTENHAM: Gomes; Hutton, Dawson, Kaboul, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Palacios, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart; Defoe. Subs: Cudicini, Jenas (for Lennon, 88), Bassong, Kranjcar, Corluka (for Modric, 90), Pavlyuchenko, Crouch (for Van der Vaart 74).
Go to full match coverage for Aston Villa 1 - 2 Tottenham (26th December 2010) >
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