This was such a crazy game that both managers ended up bemoaning the number of chances their sides had missed. José Mourinho said he could not remember seeing his Tottenham side create so many opportunities to score, while Dean Smith maintained Aston Villa did not deserve to lose and might even have won but for a VAR decision he called “farcical”.
“Collectively we made a bad start, but we came back and showed great personality and desire to win the game,” Mourinho said after Son Heung-min’s 94th‑minute winner had secured the points. “I’m very pleased we have won because I would have been complaining if it had finished 2-2.
“Son is a great player but the problem with him and Lucas Moura is that they have to play 90 minutes every game. If they run out of fuel then we are in trouble, but at the moment the team without [the injured] Harry Kane is finding ways to overcome the difficulties to score enough goals. We are fighting to finish as high in the table as we can. Fifth place is not just within our reach but also Manchester United, Sheffield United, Wolves, Arsenal and Everton. Everyone thinks they can do it, and they probably can.”
Smith was pleased with the way Villa defended against a top side – “their front three can cause anyone problems and sometimes their quality found us out” – but could not conceal his frustration with a VAR-awarded penalty at the end of the first half.
The referee, Martin Atkinson, originally awarded a goal kick after Björn Engels had brought down Steven Bergwijn when dispossessing him in the area, only for VAR to intervene and rule that the defender had not got enough of the ball in the tackle. “42,000 people in the stadium did not have a problem with Martin’s decision,” Smith said. “Even the Spurs player was not complaining. I wouldn’t have minded the referee going over to his monitor to have a second look, but as soon as it goes upstairs it goes to a sterile environment where there’s no feel for the game, and they watch it 10 times then give a penalty. I don’t think that was clear and obvious at all. I think the referee has had his authority taken away from him.”