Two arrested after linesman hit by flare at Villa Park
On-song Townsend stars in victory over Aston Villa as Spurs move to fifth in table
Two men were arrested after an assistant referee was struck by a flare thrown from the stands during Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-0 Premier League win at Aston Villa on Sunday.
The pair, aged 25 and 47, were later released on bail pending further inquiries, police said on Monday.
Spurs had just taken a 31st-minute lead through Andros Townsend at Villa Park when a canister trailing black smoke was lobbed towards the playing surface, apparently from the away supporters’ section.
It hit assistant referee David Bryan on the back, causing him to stumble forwards, but after a brief stoppage in play while referee Phil Dowd spoke to his colleague, the game continued.
The Football Association said it would wait for Dowd's match report before deciding on what action would be taken.
Townsend prospered in the glare of the spotlight as he netted his first Premier League goal to continue what he called the best few weeks of his life.
The 22-year-old, who signed a four-year deal with Spurs on Friday having scored on his England debut the previous week before finding himself at the centre of a racism furore, put his side ahead in the 31st minute with a cross that found the net.
Roberto Soldado doubled the advantage on 69 minutes after a sublime touch from Paulinho set up the Spanish forward for a neat finish.
Victory lifted Spurs to fifth in the standings with 16 points from eight games, level with fourth-placed Manchester City. Arsenal are top on 19 with Chelsea and Liverpool two points behind. Champions Manchester United are eighth on 11.
“It’s been one of the best few weeks of my life,” Townsend told Sky Sports. “I’m not going to take credit for it [the goa]), it was a cross but I’ve been unlucky in the past so I’ll take that and it set us on our way to a great three points.”
Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas was pleased with the way his side had survived a tricky opening spell where Villa had played some long balls forward and also reserved some praise for man-of-the-moment Townsend.
“He [Townsend] has this ability to drive and jump the man whenever he takes the ball forward so was always a threat and I think he is starting to be more aware of his strengths.”
“We improved with time because the beginning was difficult, as we had lots of long balls to deal with. It was a great performance,” said Villas-Boas.
“The opening goal was important to bring confidence and we really played well in the second half. We deserved to go 2-0 up.
“It was the right response after the defeat by West Ham and it is good to see us near the top.”
It was a first defeat in four league games for Paul Lambert’s Villa, who now find themselves 13th, but it was a marked improvement on their 4-0 capitulation to the same side in the League Cup last month.
“I didn’t think there was too much in it,” Lambert told Sky Sports. “I can’t fault the lads for effort – the effort was great. On another day, we might have got something.”
Spurs had arrived at Villa Park keen to bounce back from a 3-0 mauling by West Ham United in their previous league game a fortnight ago.
Since that match, Townsend has had time to make his first and second England appearances – scoring in the 4-1 win over Montenegro and featuring in the 2-0 victory over Poland that sealed the country’s place at next year’s World Cup.
After the Poland game he found himself in the limelight again after England manager Roy Hodgson referred to an old joke about monkeys in space in his half-time team talk when telling Chris Smalling to pass the ball to Townsend.
Townsend described the comment as complimentary rather than offensive but it did not stop days of newspaper stories on the matter and he was back in the headlines on Friday when he penned a new contract.
Agence France-Presse and Reuters