Tottenham’s hopes of securing European football were dented as came from behind to claim a deserved Premier League victory in front of 10,000 fans at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
As speculation increases about Harry Kane’s future before the summer transfer window, chants of “He’s one of our own” were sung by the returning home fans, who were welcomed back by Steven Bergwijn’s thumping eighth-minute opener after he had stolen possession from Marvellous Nakamba.
Villa’s response warranted an equaliser and it was Sergio Reguilon who delivered it as the Spurs left-back sliced Nakamba’s cross into the top corner of Hugo Lloris’ goal.
Ollie Watkins completed the turnaround before half-time, collecting Reguilon’s weak clearance and holding off the challenge of Eric Dier before finding the bottom corner to continue his fine first season in the top flight.
Watkins was thwarted by Lloris either side of half-time, and although Spurs did test Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez more regularly following the restart through Bergwijn and Kane, they failed to find an equaliser.
Spurs – booed at the final whistle as fans stayed long after full-time to protest – remain in sixth, level on points with both West Ham United – who face West Bromwich Albion later – and Everton going into Sunday’s final round of fixtures.
The game began to a backdrop of reports this week claiming Harry Kane has a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ in place to depart the club – and has even formally asked to leave.
With the England captain having a six-year deal running until 2024, the club has said “finishing the season as strongly as possible” is its only focus and prior to kick-off interim boss Ryan Mason said speculation surrounding Kane’s future had not been a distraction.
However, Spurs were notably poor following Bergwijn’s emphatic opener and fighting for sixth place and Europa League football on the final day is unlikely to do much to convince Kane that he can win silverware if he stays.
Reguilon endured a first half to forget as, under no pressure, his swiped attempt at a clearance sent the ball beyond Lloris to score the 1000th own goal in Premier League history before surrendering possession for Villa’s second.
The hosts were much improved after the interval, registering more shots in the first five minutes (four) than in the entire first half – although Bergwijn’s attempt from close range was the closest they came to earning a valuable point.
Even the introduction of on-loan Gareth Bale, potentially making his final home appearance before returning to Real Madrid, could not inspire a fightback – indeed they were second-best for large periods of the match and a nasty injury to Japhet Tanganga compounded a miserable evening.
Spurs, whose Europa League aspirations may be out of their hands on the final day, end their campaign away to Champions League hopefuls Leicester City before what could be a summer of significant change at the club.
While Villa’s hopes of a top-half finish have ended, there was no evidence that Dean Smith’s side regard their season as over as they inflicted a damaging defeat on opponents who in theory have more to play for.
In a microcosm of their 2020-21 campaign, Villa impressed in the first half in defeat by Crystal Palace at the weekend but failed to sustain that level.
But, buoyed by the return of Jack Grealish – who created the game’s most chances on his first start since 13 February – they made no such mistake on Wednesday as they turned the tide after a slow start to earn a deserved victory.
Having earlier had claims for a penalty waved away after he was felled by Lloris, the tireless Watkins demonstrated what he could offer if he is named in England’s Euro 2020 squad next week as he married hard work for the team with a well-taken goal.
In defence, the return of centre-back Tyrone Mings helped protect the advantage as did some key saves by Martinez, as Villa added yet another win to their best Premier League season since 2009-10.
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