Postecoglou’s title joke that was actually serious and Radu Dragusin’s awkward Tottenham moment

This was a day when Tottenham needed to go to one of the most difficult places in the Premier League right now and get the job done. They did and then some.

Unai Emery’s men had gone on that long unbeaten 17-game winning run at Villa Park, which took in victories against teams like Manchester City and Arsenal before finally ending in January, so for Spurs to come away with any kind of positive result was going to take a special kind of performance.

Thankfully for Ange Postecoglou, his players were all primed and ready across the pitch to put in displays that were exactly what was required. They played in the brave yet terrifying way from the back that the Australian demands, probing and pulling the opposition towards them before striking like a coiled snake in the space they leave behind.

So worried had Emery been after admitting Tottenham should have blown them away in the reverse fixture by half-time that he changed his tactics for this game to a back five. It did not work and it would be his first defeat against the north London side.

It might not always have been pretty in the first half, with Tottenham struggling to find the final ball at one end while gifting Aston Villa their only real couple of opportunities of note thanks to that risky passing around their own box.

In the end though the north London outfit found their groove and it came after a moment that might have knocked a weaker side as Micky van de Ven sat on the floor, holding his hamstring and signalling to the bench.

Earlier in the season that would – and did – mean big problems for Tottenham as the Postecoglou high line required the flying Dutchman’s pace to mop up behind it. This time though the Spurs players looked to the sidelines and saw Radu Dragusin ready to come on and knew that now they had quality to replace quality in the same role.

Spurs pushed forward instantly, with goals from James Maddison and Brennan Johnson hitting Villa to the chin with a quick one-two.

The hosts were seeing stars and the Villa Park crowd, so noisy at the start of the match, were silent and all you could hear were the noisy and ever-singing travelling Tottenham fans.

Then Villa’s captain John McGinn forgot his own pre-match words and ensured the home supporters could start heading off out into the rain swept Midlands Sunday afternoon in the 65th minute.

“Everyone knows how important the game is. It’s probably, in a league fixture, the most important game in the club’s recent history – the players are aware of that,” said the Scot.

He didn’t seem to have heard himself as he lashed out with a swipe at Destiny Udogie after the Italian ran by him and saw red for an unpleasant kick that not only ended the game as a contest but will see Villa lose a key player and their skipper for the next three matches as well. McGinn stood on the edge of the pitch hoping that VAR would overturn the decision. The referee Chris Kavanagh noticed the midfielder, looked at him incredulously and pointed to the tunnel. Nothing was saving him from his self-inflicted fate.

“I don’t think [the red card] was a key moment,” said Postecoglou though afterwards. “I thought we were well in control at 2-0 up. Obviously it made the game a bit easier for us in terms of territory but I thought we were well in the ascendancy. I think it was just a by-product of the pressure we were putting on the opposition.

“I don’t think John meant any malice by it. I think it was probably just frustration more than anything else. I felt quite a few decisions were going against us on the day, little niggly ones. I can’t believe Pape was the only one [until Dragusin] who got a yellow card today but I don’t think it changed the game, we were well in control by that point.”

The Postecoglou way is to be ruthless so Spurs pushed and pushed for more goals and they found them, Son Heung-min and Timo Werner adding to their strikes against Crystal Palace with two more fine finishes.

All four goals on the day were textbook Postecoglou moments, great build-up play and great finishes with balls inside for someone to score.

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