Aston Villa manager Dean Smith says a “farcical VAR decision” contributed to Tottenham’s last-gasp Premier League win at Villa Park on Sunday.
Spurs were awarded a penalty by VAR when the score was 1-1, with Son Heung-min scoring the rebound.
The South Korean forward later scored a stoppage-time winner, taking Jose Mourinho’s side up to fifth in the table, a point behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
Smith was heavily critical of VAR’s intervention. “I don’t get it,” he said.
“There’s 42,000 people in the stadium, he [referee Martin Atkinson] gives a goal-kick and everyone believes it’s a goal-kick.
“It was a farcical VAR decision. The criteria is clear and obvious. It’s not clear and obvious. Martin Atkinson stood up but his authority has been taken away.
“I told Martin at half-time I didn’t blame him, but if he was brave enough to walk over to that monitor it takes 30 seconds, you go, ‘No, I’m happy with my decision’ and we play on.
“Instead we go into an environment where there’s no feel for the game or what’s happened and we make a decision. It was a sore result for us, it’s a tough one to take.”
The result means Villa remain a point above the bottom three in 17th.
They made the stronger start and took the lead via Toby Alderweireld’s own goal – with the Spurs defender prodding Anwar El Ghazi’s cross past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
The Belgian atoned by equalising with a superb angled effort that flew into the top right corner of the Villa goal from 10 yards.
Spurs went in front when Steven Bergwijn won the penalty after being judged to have been fouled by home defender Bjorn Engels.
While Engels headed in from a Jack Grealish corner to again draw the sides level, his late mistake allowed Son to race clear to place the ball past Reina as Villa’s miserable run against sides in the top half of the table continued.
Villa errors cost them again
While Dean Smith’s side have earned just one point against sides currently in the top half, a wider concern for the Villa boss is that eight of their 15 defeats this term have been by a solitary goal.
This was another occasion on which they could have taken at least a point from a hard-fought contest but for individual errors – with Engels having an afternoon to forget.
The 25-year-old Belgian, who started because of Tyrone Mings’ absence through illness, had a difficult time dealing with the movement and pace of Bergwijn, Son and Lucas Moura.
It was his rash challenge on Bergwijn that allowed the visitors to go in at the interval with the lead in a game Villa had enjoyed the better of until then.
In his late lapse, Engels allowed the ball to run under his studs, enabling Son to score the decisive goal. Engels’ first goal for the Midlands club will have provided little consolation.
Villa had enjoyed a bright start as Grealish imposed himself on the game.
The Villa captain, who is the last survivor from the club’s top-flight relegation in 2016, delivered a wonderful display, which is unlikely to have gone unnoticed by the clubs that are reportedly keen to sign him this summer.
He spent the early stages of this encounter tormenting Serge Aurier, flashing a shot wide and laying on a glorious chance from which Douglas Luiz should have converted.
Now 24, Grealish is maturing into a player capable of controlling games, and is exhibiting the sort of form that may bring him into England manager Gareth Southgate’s planning for Euro 2020.
Spurs, Son and Alli keep plugging away
While Grealish is yet to make a senior England appearance, Spurs midfielder Dele Alli is someone Southgate knows all about – although his last cap came in June 2019.
Since then, Alli has suffered form and injury problems, but has appeared rejuvenated since Jose Mourinho took charge of Tottenham in November.
Although he did not add to the eight goals he has scored this season, his intelligent running caused Villa problems throughout.
Son had seven of Tottenham’s 23 efforts on goal, with Alli next on five – including some of their best chances.
Kortney Hause’s superb block prevented him from equalising at 1-0 down, and Alli stretched as he headed Bergwijn’s cross back across goal but wide of the right far post.
The 23-year-old then badly miscued a right-foot shot before half-time, slicing it wide, but he continued to pop up in dangerous areas after the break, teeing up Son for an effort that was brilliantly saved by Reina.
Villa’s Spanish keeper made two further outstanding stops to prevent the South Korean from adding to his goal tally.
Like Alli, Son kept plugging away, and his reaction to Engels’ late mistake was the reward for a high-energy performance that included 26 sprints, more than any other player on the pitch.
Man of the match – Son Heung-min (Tottenham)
‘A window opens for many teams’ – what they said
Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho to BBC Sport: “I thought we deserved to win but I think they did not deserve to lose. Villa played to win.”
On the Spurs penalty: “Steven Bergwijn, I don’t know if I call him naive or too honest – the referees tell us pre-match, ‘Don’t ask for anything, don’t surround me, don’t do the motion of the screen’. The action was there and it was a question of to be or not to be, and clearly it was.”
On Alderweireld’s contribution: “In a funny way I’d say he’s scored three goals: the own goal, his goal and then when he loses the duel with Engels. But he scored with a shot of his life.”
On the opportunity to get into the Champions League by finishing fifth after Manchester City’s ban: “Not just for us. A window opens for many teams. What seemed far, now the fifth place is not far. Arsenal, Everton, Sheffield United, Wolves, everyone will feel they have the chance.”
Aston Villa manager Dean Smith to Sky Sports: “We have to try and take the positives. The last two games we’ve scored late winners here, so now we know how it feels on the other foot. We had chances to win the game but we weren’t clinical enough.
“They have a front four that can hurt anyone, that’s why we had to get forward and defend on the front foot. On the whole, I thought we dealt with them really well but we’re disappointed with the goals we conceded.
“We probably gave away too many chances from counter attacks, which they’re good at, but we didn’t deserve to lose that. It was a good performance against a team that are fifth in the league but we deserved more than that.”
Grealish enjoying stellar season – the stats
- Aston Villa are without victory in their last 10 Premier League matches against sides from London (D1 L9), since a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace in January 2016.
- Tottenham have lost just one of their last 19 matches against Aston Villa in all competitions (W15 D3), losing in the Premier League in April 2015 (0-1).
- Tottenham are unbeaten in their last 23 Premier League away games against promoted sides (W19 D4), since a 0-1 loss at QPR in April 2012.
- Son Heung-min’s goal after 93 minutes 34 seconds is Spurs’ latest winning goal in the Premier League since August 2009, when Aaron Lennon netted after 94 minutes 24 seconds against Birmingham.
- Jack Grealish has had a direct hand in 13 goals in the Premier League this season (7 goals & 6 assists), five more than the next Villa player and more than any other English midfielder.
- The Aston Villa midfielder has provided more assists in all competitions in 2019-20 than he has in any other season in his career (8).
- Son became the first Asian player in Premier League history to reach 50 goals in the competition (51 in total after his brace). Indeed, he’s the sixth Spurs player to reach this milestone after Teddy Sheringham, Robbie Keane, Jermain Defoe, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen.
- Toby Alderweireld became the third Tottenham Hotspur player to score for and against his own side in the same Premier League game, after Gareth Bale vs Liverpool in November 2012 and Chris Armstrong vs Arsenal in March 2000.
Aston Villa travel to Southampton in their next Premier League outing on Saturday (15:00 GMT).
Tottenham host RB Leipzig in the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday (20:00 GMT) before their next Premier League game at Chelsea on Saturday (12:30 GMT).