By Robson Sharuko
Marvelous Nakamba showed the great character of a Warrior to recover from gifting Tottenham Hotspur with their goal, to then produce one of his best performances this season, in London last night.
The Zimbabwe international, thrust into the starting XI by manager Dean Smith, played an influential role as Aston Villa bounced back, to erase the deficit, and leave the Tottenham Stadium with a deserved victory.
Had the visitors made full use of the chances they created, in a strong and lively team performance, they could have come out of this match with a huge victory in this English Premiership match.
Such was their dominance, in which Nakamba was a key player, that the hosts were booed by their fans, who made up the majority of this 10 000 crowd, allowed to enter this stadium, for the first team, this season.
This was Spurs’ first home Premiership defeat, under the caretaker guidance of Ryan Mason, who was picked by the club to replace Jose Mourinho, after the Portuguese gaffer was fired, during the course of the season.
Yet, things started badly for Nakamba who was robbed of the ball, after a poor touch, as he tried to turn in his half
He was then bullied by Dutchman, Steven Bergwijn, whose strength won their physical contest.
The Spurs forward stormed into the box, clearing his path to glory, and then firing a rocket, which the Villa ‘keeper Emiliano Martinez had no chance to stop, as the ball found the target in the far corner.
The Dutchman, who had scored three goals, in his first six Premiership matches, had been on such a barren run this was only his first goal, since June last year.
That last strike had come in the match against Manchester United when, just like he did yesterday, it came after another storming run into the opposition box.
After a run of 27 appearances, and 333 days without a goal, Bergwijn now could, at long last, celebrate a goal.
A lesser soul than Nakamba would have been destroyed by his early mistake, which directly led to the Spurs goal, but the Zimbabwean showed he was made of steel, as he bounced back to take control of the midfield.
His touch was assured, as he grew in confidence, which was a credit to his amazing character, passing the ball with consistency, and shielding his defence very well.
For a player who has been criticised, for sticking to his defensive role, even when the opportunity comes for him to get into the opponents half, the Warriors midfielder even started to show the other side of his game.
The big moment for him came in the 19th minute when Nakamba joined his teammates in attack and, from the left channel, swung the ball into the Spurs box, hoping to pick out a teammate.
The ball flew to the home team’s defender, Sergio Reguilon, who swung his foot, to try and clear it first time, only for him to shank it into the top corner, as his mishit clearance, beat his World Cup winning ‘keeper.
Whether Nakamba calls this an assist, given it was scored by an opponent, it’s up for the football authorities to judge but, in that moment of redemption, there was no question this was a moment of relief for the Zimbabwean.
It was also an historic moment which means that, in the history of the English Premiership, Nakamba’s name will now feature prominently.
His cross forced the 1 000th own goal scored in this league’s history, coming 10 483, days after Mark Crossley netted the very first, in August 1992, for Nottingham Forest.
Interestingly, each of Spurs’ last three Premiership own goals have come at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and they have also come this season.
Before they moved from White Hart Lane, Spurs had last scored an own goal in November 2012 when Gareth Bale, who featured in last night’s game as a substitute, scored one against Liverpool.
Villa took control, after that, with Nakamba impressive in the heart of the team’s defence, with the Birmingham club created a series of chances.
They duly went ahead when Ollie Watkins beat ‘keeper Hugo Lloris and, by the time the teams went to the break, there was no questioning which club was in control.
The chorus of boos, which rang from the home fans, illustrated the frustration.
After the break, Nakamba continued to impose himself, in the heart of that defence, and his sprint contest, with Harry Kane, to try and distract the England forward, deep into the second half, showed his full commitment.
He was eventually pulled out, with two minutes of regulation time remaining but there was no question that he had played his full part, in this contest, and victory.
The sight of Smith, and his coaching staff, all congratulating him, as he left the pitch, showed the value which the Villa technical team believed their man had put into this game.
The BirminghamLive’s Ashley Preece, who covers Villa for the publication, gave Nakamba a seven out of 10 ranking.
“The Zimbabwean was in for his first start in six matches and, like Hause on Sunday at Palace, his rustiness showed as he failed to deal with a bouncing ball as Bergwijn bullied him off the ball to strike home the opener,’’ Preece wrote.
“Nakamba improved significantly after that, though, and plugged gaps well to stop Tottenham from playing. Nakamba’s a real confidence player and he needs to believe in himself a little more when he’s in possession.
“Nakamba was the architect of Villa’s equaliser with his cross into the danger area being shanked into his own net by Reguilon.
“The defensive midfielder did well after his early error and put in a real shift.’’
Not bad for someone making his first start in six games. The Herald