Redknapp hails Rafa, Houllier rues defeat
Harry Redknapp believes there is more to come from Rafael van der Vaart after the Dutchman scored both of Tottenham Hotspur's goals in their 2-1 victory over Aston Villa. The 27-year-old has now been on target four times in his last four outings, and is already looking a bargain after his £8m move from Spanish giants Real Madrid on transfer deadline day.
Van der Vaart brought Spurs back into the game against Villa on the stroke of half-time. He then secured the points 16 minutes from time, after being brought in from the right wing to operate in a more central role in the second half.
On both occasions, Van der Vaart's goals came following knock-downs by England striker Peter Crouch, and Redknapp praised the former Ajax and Hamburg player's ability to switch roles effectively.
"Rafael was excellent again," said the Tottenham manager following a victory that elevated his side to fifth in the Premier League. "I changed it at half-time. I thought in the first half we were very open with two up front, and in the second half we changed it and stuck him in behind one striker.
"He'll score goals. He gets on the ball, he always wants to receive the ball, he's always looking to score. When the ball goes up to Crouchy he's always around there looking for it. He's got a real knack for scoring."
Redknapp added of Van der Vaart: "He's started well. He's going great, he'll get fitter as it goes but he's a good footballer. The fans always like a great player."
Redknapp reckons his team's ability to switch from the 4-4-2 formation he favoured last season was crucial to the final outcome. "It's not easy to play with two strikers, it's almost impossible really," he explained. "Two out-and-out-strikers is difficult, because Rafa doesn't play wide right, he floats off the line and Luka Modric does almost the same, so that leaves you very open.
"You're not going to keep two strikers on your team with Rafa and Gareth Bale. You have to change the whole shape of your team. It's an attacking team that is very open to the counter-attack.
Houllier rues Heskey loss, missed chances
Villa manager Gerard Houllier tasted defeat for the first time in his third game for his new club, and admitted he was frustrated at the outcome after seeing his side fail to build on Marc Albrighton's 16th-minute opener. The Frenchman added Villa had enough chances to take control of the game and cited the loss of Emile Heskey in the 35th minute as crucial to the defeat.
"Emile had a bad dead leg," said Houllier. "It happened when he made the goal. We missed him. Don't get me wrong, I think John Carew did a good job when he came on but he's not the same player.
"I've got mixed feelings because I'm proud of their performance but disappointed with the result. A more fair result would have been draw. The only thing we can blame is ourselves for was not taking our chances. A couple of times we could have sealed the game."