Soccer

Spurs beat Aston Villa 2-1 in Premier League

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LONDON (AP)

Rafael van der Vaart scored a goal in each half Saturday as Tottenham come from behind to beat Aston Villa 2-1 in the Premier League.

The Netherlands midfielder struck in first-half stoppage time and in the 75th minute after Marc Albrighton's first goal for Villa had given the visitors a 16th-minute lead.

Van der Vaart has now scored four goals in three matches at White Hart Lane since moving to Spurs from Real Madrid on the last day of the transfer window for 8 million pounds, a deal that is looking like it could become the bargain of the season.

''He's going well - he's going great,'' Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said. ''He's always looking to get on the ball and he's always looking to score. He's got that knack of scoring goals.

''He's a good footballer and they always like a good footballer,'' he added of the fans.

The result also ended Gerard Houllier's winning start as Villa manager as Tottenham moved to 11 points while Villa stayed on 10.

Tottenham fielded a makeshift center-back partnership of Tom Huddlestone and Sebastien Bassong - the team's 10th different pairing in 12 games this season - after Ledley King failed a late fitness test.

''We're short of central defenders,'' Redknapp said. ''I had to play Tom back there today and I just felt that we were open all the time.''

After a couple of halfhearted penalty appeals, Villa went ahead after terrible defending from Bassong. The Senegal international was robbed by Emile Heskey, who sprinted along the touchline near the goal before crossing for Albrighton to slide home.

Heskey was soon replaced with a leg injury after Tottenham had a penalty appeal turned down for handball, and Spurs striker Roman Pavlyuchenko missed a great chance in the 39th minute by hooking Gareth Bale's low cross wide from six meters.

Van der Vaart leveled three minutes into stoppage time, climbing above Villa defender Richard Dunne to nod home after Peter Crouch had headed Pavlyuchenko's ball back across goal.

''I was just not happy with the equalizer because the game had elapsed quite a long time after the two minutes which were indicated,'' Houllier said. ''But that's the referee; the law says it's a minimum of two minutes. He decided it was three minutes.''

After halftime, Van der Vaart was moved from the right into a more central role with Pavlyuchenko replaced by Aaron Lennon.

Spurs had the better of the chances after the break but failed to capitalize until Van der Vaart imposed himself yet again. Crouch again claimed the knockdown and Van der Vaart kept his cool to blast the ball past goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

''I've got mixed feelings because, at the same time that I'm proud of their performance, I'm disappointed with the result,'' Houllier told the Press Association. ''A more fair result would have been a draw.

''The only thing we can blame ourselves for is probably the fact that we didn't take our chances. A couple of times, we could have sealed the game.''

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