Neil Humphreys: Son Heung Min stars as Tottenham Hotspur snatch win
Tottenham's race for Europe will be similar to Mourinho's trip to the barber - it's going to be a close shave
|ASTON VILLA||TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR|
(Toby Alderweireld 9-og, Bjorn Engels 54)
|(Toby Alderweireld 27,
Son Heung Min 45+2, 90+4)
South Korea's favourite son shone brightest to overshadow Tottenham Hotspur's defensive frailties last night.
In the 94th minute, Son Heung Min broke free and slipped home the winner in a pulsating, erratic and often error-prone game that was a joy for the neutral and a nail-biter for Jose Mourinho.
Champions League qualification is a real possibility now, after a third consecutive victory, as Spurs moved up to fifth, but their manager will know his side have bigger obstacles to clear. And they are behind them.
Their race for Europe is no different to Mourinho's recent trip to the barber. It's going to be a close shave.
Spurs are a top-four side going forward and a bit of a muddle in reverse. Their schizophrenic tendencies made for a madcap 3-2 win at Aston Villa, but the circus antics masked some clowning at the back.
Manchester City's two-year Champions League ban now makes fifth spot a backdoor into the continental cash machine and Spurs are in pole position.
But Mourinho accepts he can't play a relegation-threatened side with an equally inconsistent defence in blustery conditions every week.
His 4-2-3-1 line-up betrayed his lack of trust in Tottenham's defence. With the ageing Jan Vertonghen relegated to the bench, Toby Alderweireld partnered Davinson Sanchez and managed to have a hand in three out of five goals.
When the hosts launched a long, speculative ball on the counter-attack in the ninth minute, Anwar El Ghazi beat Ben Davies and whipped a terrific ball across the six-yard line. Alderweireld hesitated. Hugo Lloris hesitated.
So Alderweireld tapped the cross past Lloris.
The Belgian made amends in the 27th minute, turning in the Villa box and smashing a ferocious half-volley into the top corner.
But Alderweireld also allowed Bjorn Engels to out-jump him and nod an equaliser past Lloris.
Earlier, on the stroke of half-time, Son had put away a penalty rebound in an engrossing game that seemed to cut out the middle man.
Eric Dier scarcely resembled the young English star once expected to shine as a midfield enforcer for club and country for a decade. He was substituted on the hour mark after failing to provide adequate cover.
Davies, in his first game back from serious injury, enjoyed a productive partnership with Tottenham new boy Steven Bergwijn along the left flank, but he was vulnerable at left-back.
Serge Aurier was little better on the right, struggling to handle Matt Targett's pace and Jack Grealish's ingenuity. Indeed, Aurier expended far too much energy testing the referee's patience with a number of yellow card-worthy fouls.
Even in goal, Lloris flapped and floundered like a goldfish in a drying puddle, often clutching at thin air as crosses passed him by.
At 33, the French veteran doesn't have his manager's full confidence. Another shaky performance will further convince Mourinho that his entire back five - or six, if Dier is included - needs forensic dissection at the end of the season.
But Spurs never stopped pouring forward.
Fortunately, Bergwijn's relationship with his new team-mates continues to blossom and he went close on a couple of occasions, but the evergreen Pepe Reina was up to the task.
Unfortunately, Dele Alli didn't go close on a couple of occasions, missing the target with both a header and a clipped strike. He remains more of an enigma than a reliable goal source under Mourinho.
But Spurs wouldn't be denied. After mustering nine goal attempts on target, they finally beat the indefatigable Reina. Son spared his defence's blushes with his dramatic winner, his second of the night.
On the touchline, Mourinho couldn't contain himself.
He managed to plug enough holes to contain the leaks against a side tipped to go down.
He'll need something more substantial to get his back four into the top four.