Solano scissors blunt Spurs

The win, achieved without the injured Darius Vassell and Martin Laursen, and suspended Lee Hendrie, saw Steven Davis make his full debut. If the diminutive midfielder had heard O’Leary’s belittling pre-match comments that he was only in because of the lack of depth in the squad, he did not show it with a consummate performance alongside Gavin McCann.

But Villa were dominated for small periods of the game when Spurs bypassed Davis and McCann with long balls, and when Solano took the lead with a spectacular scissor-kick on 57 minutes, it was against the run of play. Frédérick Kanouté failed to head Thomas Hitzlsperger’s right-wing corner clear, and Solano, free at the back post, flicked the ball up and finished emphatically past the excellent Paul Robinson.

Until then, however, it was the England goalkeeper’s opposite number, Thomas Sørenson, who had endured the busier evening. The Danish stopper saved curling efforts from Jermain Defoe and Thimothee Atouba before smothering Michael Brown’s near-post strike just before the interval in an insipid half that had constantly threatened to grind to a halt of its own accord.

Jol was forced to make a change at half time, replacing Erik Edman with Reto Ziegler – a substitution that he had bizarrely attempted to make in first-half injury time – and the Swiss international was instrumental as Spurs took the initiative. Defoe twice went close after cutting in from the left, before Villa’s embattened back-line finally gained some rest bite when a rare attack forced the corner from which Solano broke the deadlock.

Spurs immediately had a good penalty claim turned down when Jlloyd Samuel clumsily brought down Defoe, but at the other end, their goal having been breeched, Spurs’ defence seemed to lose their composure and looked vulnerable every time the home side were in possession. Solano could, and probably should have doubled the advantage after the burgeoning partnership between Juan Pablo Angel and Carlton Cole created space for the Peruvian at the back post but the irrepressible Robinson clawed the ball away.

The Spurs keeper then sprinted off his line to deny Angel and saved an angled drive from Cole, while Davis and Angel also went close with headers, but in the end Villa had to settle for a one-goal win to move up to fifth and a likely UEFA Cup place.

Man of the Match: Carlton Cole