Spurs gladden Harry’s heart

TWO goals from Emmanuel Adebayor gave Tottenham the victory that took them into third place in the Premier League, and gave Harry Redknapp the fillip he needed on his return from heart surgery.

The Togo striker scored twice in the first half and could have had three more as Spurs cantered to victory over a lacklustre Villa.

All eyes were on Redknapp before kick-off, the Spurs manager looking in good health after the heart surgery that forced him to miss Tottenham’s last two games.

He later quipped: “It’s great to be back tonight — I wouldn’t want to watch it at home again, that was nerve-wracking.”

There were concerns that he might have returned too soon, but his side did their best to ensure that he would not have too anxious an evening on the touchline as they raced into a two-goal lead by half time.

Adebayor was the goalscorer on each occasion, first with a spectacular overhead kick and then with a more prosaic tap-in from close range.

The Togo striker was long overdue a goal, having not scored since Tottenham’s 4-0 defeat of Liverpool two months ago, but his physical presence in attack has given Spurs a spearhead for their build-up play.

And what delightful stuff it is when Redknapp’s side are in full flow. With Scott Parker complementing Luka Modric in the centre and Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon on the wings, Spurs have arguably the best balanced midfield in the Premier League.

And with Rafael van der Vaart ahead of them, it meant a headache for the likes of Richard Dunne and James Collins in trying to protect Shay Given in goal.

Spurs made the early running and were rewarded with a goal in the 14th minute. Adebayor had already missed a sitter, heading Lennon’s pinpoint cross wide from close range, when he put a much harder chance away. From a Tottenham corner, Younes Kaboul’s thundering volley was deflected wide. From the ensuing corner, Emile Heskey’s headed clearance went as far as Bale, who mis-hit his shot back in from 10 yards. But it looped up and allowed Adebayor the chance to twist acrobatically in the air and hit his overhead shot past Given.

Van der Vaart and Adebayor both went close before Heskey spurned a golden chance to equalise on the half-hour.

It was a miss Villa were to regret, as Spurs increased their lead shortly before half time. Bale was enjoying great success down the left wing, where the combination of Alan Hutton and Carlos Cuellar failed to stop his surging runs.

When the Welshman ran on to Modric’s pass and crossed towards the near post, Collins should have cut the ball out, but a horrible mix-up confused Given and the ball ran through for Adebayor to run it over the line from barely a yard out.

It left Villa with an uphill battle, but they started the second half strongly, and Darren Bent brought out a fine save from Brad Friedel, up against his former club. But Spurs were soon back on top, with Adebayor missing a gilt-edged chance to get his hat-trick in the 52nd minute. Modric timed his through pass perfectly to send his teammate clear, but the Togo striker hesitated as he approached Given and planted his shot the wrong side of the post.

Alex McLeish decided to go for broke, sending on midfielder Barry Bannen for Cuellar and putting Hutton back to his more familiar position at right-back. Villa flickered briefly with the Scot’s added creativity, but normal service soon resumed as Adebayor, desperate for a hat-trick, got the ball in the net only to see a flag for offside. The striker was then foiled by a brilliant close-range stop from Given.

In the end it was comfortable for Redknapp, who had no need to reach for the heart tablets as the brilliant Modric kept Spurs in the box seat.

Redknapp added: “Luka was fantastic, him and Scott Parker have been outstanding together,” Redknapp continued. “I love Luka, I love the way he plays his football and he’s an absolutely top-class fella.”

TOTTENHAM: Friedel 7; Walker 7, Kaboul 7, King 7, Assou-Ekotto 7; Lennon 7, Parker 8, Modric 9 (Sandro 89), Bale 8; Adebayor 7, Van der Vaart 7 (Defoe 69, 6).

ASTON VILLA: Given 8; Cuellar 7 (Bannan 63, 6), Collins 6, Dunne 7, Warnock 6; Hutton 5, Petrov 6, Herd 7 (Delph 87), Heskey 5; Bent 5, Agbonlahor 6

Ref: Mark Halsey.

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