Spurs fightback keeps Jol hanging on
Tottenham marked the 125th anniversary of the club’s formation with an extraordinary fightback to earn a 4-4 draw with Aston Villa that may just have been enough to save manager Martin Jol from the sack.
Under-pressure Jol had the air of a condemned man as Spurs were left trailing 4-1 with half an hour left to play.
But Pascal Chimbonda fired home after Jermain Defoe had hit the post and a Robbie Keane penalty set the stage for Younes Kaboul to snatch a 92nd-minute equaliser and a point that may come to be regarded as a turning point in Tottenham’s season, even if it was not sufficient to lift them out of the relegation zone.
Jol must have thought he was in for some badly needed respite when a bright start was capped by Dimitar Berbatov heading the home side ahead from a 20th-minute corner.
But they soon found themselves chasing the game after errors by England goalkeeper Paul Robinson gifted Villa a couple of goals.
Gabriel Agbonlahor increased Villa’s lead five minutes before the break and when Craig Gardner beat Robinson with a low drive from a 59th-minute free-kick it appeared to be game over for Spurs and Jol.
It may have been a memorable fightback but it was nevertheless a night that Robinson will want to forget.
From the outset, it appeared that Villa had decided to test his confidence on crosses and that approach paid off.
Two minutes after Berbatov had given Spurs a lead that their early efforts merited, Robinson dropped a corner and Martin Laursen gratefully fired home.
The Dane did not know too much about his second goal, which came after another flap by Robinson allowed Zat Knight to get on the end of a Gareth Barry cross, the ball finding its way into the net off the defender.
There was nothing the hapless England goalkeeper could do about Agbonlahor’s strike. After taking the ball off Michael Dawson, the youngster wriggled his way into the box and produced a cool, low finish into the far corner of the net.
Agonlahor was also instrumental in winning the free-kick that allowed Gardner to make it four, his trickery resulting in Kaboul chopping him down on the edge of the area.
Gardner’s strike appeared to sneak through the edge of the wall and Robinson was unable to keep it out despite getting a hand to the ball.
Chimbonda kick-started the fightback by following up smartly after Defoe connected with a cross from Gareth Bale with a shot that hit the post.
Villa had introduced Marlon Harewood in the hope he would provide an outlet from the relentless pressure from Spurs.
Instead, the former West Ham striker’s first meaningful contribution was to hack down Darren Bent to concede the penalty that Keane converted with aplomb.
From then on an equaliser always looked on the cards and Villa were made to pay for their failure to clear a corner in the second minute of injury time when Kaboul levelled from close range.—Sapa-AFP