Slack Spurs punished by Villa as returning fans make their anger heard

Sport

At the end of a fraught game for Tottenham, when their collective fragility was laid bare, Harry Kane wandered around the pitch, although he did not stray too close to the edges.

It felt for a moment as though he was leading a lap of appreciation after the final home game of the season, with 10,000 fans back in attendance, but it was a curious sight, with most of his teammates having sloped off.

Kane was left alone and a penny for his thoughts at that point would have been worth the investment. The supporters applauded him and it was never going to be any different, despite the bombshell news of Monday night that he wants to leave the club in the summer.

The fans’ anger is not directed at their hero but rather the chairman, Daniel Levy, over his running of the club and after Kane, Gareth Bale and a few of the other players had disappeared down the tunnel came scenes that captured the frustration that is running through this club after a traumatic season.

Some supporters stayed behind to demand that the players come out to properly show their appreciation and, for about 40 minutes while they stayed in the dressing room, there were boos and, above all, abuse for Levy, demands for him to get out of the club.

At last the players were coaxed out, led by Kane, and it temporarily placated the crowd. But when they eventually drifted off it was with anger in their veins, having watched most of this performance through their fingers.

Did the Kane sideshow unnerve the team? No one can say and Ryan Mason made the point that had they started terribly, then the charge could have been levelled with some assurance. In fact, they scored early and it was a lovely finish by Steven Bergwijn for his first goal in 35 appearances this season.

But, rather than settle, Spurs were overcome by the jitters and the home crowd were left to howl in disbelief during a shocking first-half performance, which featured Sergio Reguilón slicing a cross into his own goal from two yards in front of the penalty spot and plenty of other horrors.

There was precious little pattern from Spurs and Aston Villa took full advantage, slicing through them time and again during that first period and scoring what proved to be the winner through Ollie Watkins. They remained comfortable in the second period and might have gilded the final scoreline when the 17-year-old midfield prodigy Carney Chukwuemeka, on as a late substitute for his debut, hit the post with a low shot.

Levy, who had signed up the club to the failed European Super League, had mentioned in his programme notes how “we have been so focused on delivering the stadium and dealing with the impact of the pandemic, that I feel we lost sight of some key priorities and what’s truly in our DNA”.

Defensive sloppiness is a part of this team’s DNA and it was stamped all over the display, particularly before the interval, with Reguilón’s comical own goal merely the most glaring example of it.

Villa welcomed back Jack Grealish and he ran through Spurs almost at will. He was not the only one. Mason’s players could not get to grips with Watkins while John McGinn unnerved them with his aggression.

Hugo Lloris was fortunate not to concede a penalty for a 12th-minute challenge on Watkins and Reguilón was at fault for the second concession, twice falling to clear. When the ball squirted inside for Watkins, he held off Eric Dier with ease before finishing.

The first-half damage ought to have been heavier. Dier had made a last-ditch block to deny Watkins on 23 minutes while Anwar El Ghazi missed a clear chance after McGinn had robbed Harry Winks. Lloris was also forced to block from Watkins after Dier had been caught out.

Bergwijn hinted at an equaliser at the start of the second half, twice extending Emi Martínez, with the first chance being one that he ought to have scored. But it was Villa who looked the more composed, the more organised and they sparked angst in Spurs whenever they threatened the penalty area.

Kane’s one flicker came on 75 minutes when he unloaded from a tight angle to work Martínez. It was an occasion that could not end quickly enough for him and Spurs. Kane feels the same way about his remaining time at the club.