Abuja – Ben Davies scored his first goal for Tottenham as the eight-time winners ground out an FA Cup third-round win over a stubborn Aston Villa side on Sunday.
After a dreadful first-half showing, Spurs improved and the Wales left-back found the breakthrough against their Championship opponents with a deft header.
Son Heung-min then wrapped up the victory when he converted Moussa Sissoko’s pass to put Mauricio Pochettino’s side in Monday’s fourth-round draw.
Tottenham have moved into third place in the Premier League on the back of a five-match winning run.
However, their second string line-up struggled to click against a Villa side set out to frustrate.
Without the rested Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen, the hosts were short of ideas and the tie looked destined for a replay.
This was however until unlikely goalscorer Davies arrived inside the penalty area.
Villa mustered one shot on target all game and Steve Bruce will now turn his attention to overhauling a seven-point gap to the Championship play-off places.
Tottenham were excellent in beating Premier League leaders Chelsea 2-0 in midweek but, perhaps unsurprisingly, were nowhere near that level in the opening hour.
Of the 11 players who started against Chelsea, only Toby Alderweireld and Eric Dier kept their places — and it showed.
Alli, Kane and Eriksen had contributed 30 of Spurs’ 51 goals this season, and 11 of 33 assists, before kick-off and without them Pochettino’s side looked toothless.
Stand-in striker Vincent Janssen, who has scored just three penalty kicks in 23 appearances now, was particularly lightweight.
It was only when Alli finally replaced him after an hour that Tottenham found a way through.
It was another replacement, Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, who crossed for Davies to head home before Son — who had moved up front once Janssen went off — buried the second.
A top-four finish remains Pochettino’s most pressing assignment but, after a dismal Champions League campaign, a first FA Cup win since 1991 is also surely high on his list.
Villa were beaten FA Cup finalists in 2015 and Bruce took Hull to Wembley a year earlier, but a repeat never looked likely.
This was because the visitors effectively played with a back six for large periods.
With top goalscorer Jonathan Kodjia away on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) with Cote d’Ivoire, they posed little threat.
Their only real chance came when James Chester and then Gabriel Agbonlahor had shots blocked from the same free-kick.
A return to league duty now awaits.
Villa were 19th when Bruce took charge in October, but after just three defeats in 14 games since then, they could challenge for a place in the play-offs.
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