LONDON – Any New Year's resolution by Tottenham to stop conceding the first goal lasted less than one day as Aston Villa continued its revival under Unai Emery with a 2-0 away win in the Premier League on Sunday.
Antonio Conte’s side has now conceded first in its last 10 matches, with Tottenham fifth in the standings following its latest disappointment.
Emiliano Buendia took advantage of an error by Hugo Lloris in the Spurs goal to open the scoring at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Douglas Luiz doubled the advantage to secure a second consecutive away league victory for midtable Villa, which has won three of its last four league games.
Tottenham has endured a poor string of results with just two victories in the club’s last seven games undermining its push for a top-four finish.
Even though Conte guided the club into the Champions League last season, he described that achievement as a “miracle” and insisted he will continue to be realistic with the club.
“I know what is the (financial) reality because I am the coach,” Conte said after the game. "If you ask me if I’m scared, I’m not scared. I believe in my work, I believe in these players, but don’t ask me for things I cannot promise you.”
Spurs struggled to create chances throughout against Villa and players were booed off after a third home defeat from their last five games.
Liverpool can climb above Tottenham by winning at Brentford on Monday.
Chelsea was held 1-1 at Nottingham Forest in the other Premier League match on Sunday.
Forest’s impressive performance was marred by alleged homophobic chanting from some home supporters toward traveling fans. Chelsea’s official LGBTQ+ supporters group took to Twitter toward the end of the first half to “totally condemn” the chant it said could be heard during a match which was shown live on Sky Sports.
Forest said in a statement shortly after fulltime: “The club are aware of reports concerning chants aimed at Chelsea supporters from a minority of fans this evening and do not condone any type of discriminatory or offensive behaviour. The matter will be investigated.”
Tottenham was boosted by the return of World Cup finalists Cristian Romero and Lloris but Dejan Kulusevski became the latest player unavailable to Conte due to a minor muscle injury.
The two goalkeepers in the World Cup final — France’s Lloris and Argentina hero Emiliano Martinez — were set to face each other again but while Lloris started, Martinez was on the bench.
A lackluster opening half featured as many yellow cards as shots. Each of Tottenham’s three center backs received bookings in a rash nine-minute period.
Ashley Young was well placed to clear Harry Kane’s header off the line in the 40th minute after Ivan Perisic had rounded Robin Olsen in the Villa goal. The chance woke up Tottenham with Son Heung-min, who chucked away his protective mask midway through the half, curling a free-kick into the arms of the Swedish goalkeeper soon after.
Despite making it to the break without conceding, Tottenham’s habit of falling behind continued five minutes into the second period. Lloris was at fault in his first appearance since the World Cup final and Buendia profited.
Luiz’s shot from range was spilled by Lloris and the alert Watkins reacted quickest to tee up Buendia, who slotted home from close range.
Kane fired wide on the half volley soon after before he made a costly error to allow the away side to double its advantage in the 73rd. Boubacar Kamara won possession from the Spurs forward and John McGinn exchanged passes with Luiz, who poked home.
BOOST FOR FOREST
Forest gave its Premier League survival hopes a boost with a point against Chelsea, whose troubles on the road continued.
Forest has beaten Liverpool and Tottenham at the City Ground this season and looked strong despite falling behind to Raheem Sterling’s opener for Chelsea in the 16th minute.
Forest put in a fine second-half display which was rewarded with Serge Aurier’s equalizer just after the hour mark. Eighth-place Chelsea did at least avoid a fourth straight away defeat but will require huge improvement to close the seven-point gap on the top four.
“That’s the Premier League for you,” Chelsea manager Graham Potter said.
“Away from home teams are not going to make it easy for you. On one hand you have players asking if they can have the players’ shirts and before the game they are thinking they are going to run through a brick wall to prove they can be good enough to beat Chelsea ... We have to be humble enough to know that is the challenge we face and we have to do better.”
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