Gareth Bale scored a wonderful hat-trick to inspire Tottenham and hand Aston Villa another crushing defeat
Gareth Bale is ridiculously talented at his job. That is all. Thanks for reading. Goodbye and Merry Christmas.
90 min: I just lost a load of Pulitzer-winning text. Oh well. There will be three minutes of stoppage time. "I'm with Thiago Carreira, except he left out the hilarious Maurizio Zamperini, maestro di Palermo," says Lou Roper. "I'm with you on the rubbish Ireland: what sort of example is he supposed to set for Villa's youngsters?" How to get resurrect a grandmother?
88 min: Though I would say that Bale is of course closer in style to Ronaldo than he is to Messi. Ronaldo was this sort of age when he started to get properly good. "I recently sneezed at breakfast, mid way through a heroically large mouthful of weetabix," says Tom Mason. "Despite putting both hands up I managed to thoroughly pebbledash my own face, the table cloth and the near flanks of both my inlaws."
87 min: Gareth Bale, who has been slightly overhyped in the past, is starting to reach an astonishingly intimidating level. He's just brilliant. I don't think he'll quite reach Messi or Ronaldo standards but in this sort of form, who would want to play against him?
85 min: And with that, Gareth Bale is replaced by Andros "Andy" Townsend.
Gareth Bale has his first Premier League hat-trick and it's another wonderful goal. On the right touchline, Walker picked out the run of Sigurdsson into the area, something no Villa midfielder was capable of doing. He could have shot but instead knocked it to his left for Bale, who set himself and then crashed the ball high past poor old Guzan with his left foot. What has Guzan done to deserve this?
80 min: Nottingham Forest beat Leeds United 4-2 earlier on today. Nottingham Forest have just parted company with their manager Sean O'Driscoll.
79 min: Tottenham replaces Emmanuel Adebayor with Gylfi Sigurdsson.
77 min: As it stands, Villa's goal difference is an extremely worrying -20. "Sorry, Matt Dony, but Serie A is not boring at all if it has the most entertaining club presidents of the whole wide world," says Tiago Carreira. "Thinkin' about Berlusconi, De Laurentis, Massimo Moratti and the one from Cagliari and all the others who sack coaches midway through the preseason only to sign them one month later. Football wud be a wasteland were it not for them."
75 min: This could turn into a proper rout. You have to feel sorry for these Villa youngsters, who are being toyed with now. Lennon breaks down the right and finds Defoe in the middle. He should at least test Guzan but instead leans back and skies it.
Villa have collapsed again and it could get ugly. Not Chelsea-ugly, but ugly all the same. They're making it so easy for Spurs, backing off and allowing them to do as they please. Lennon was allowed all the time in the world to coax a ball into the path of Bale, unmarked in the area. Bale takes it in his stride and then drills a low left-footer emphatically past Guzan from 15 yards out. That was really rather good. Villa Park empties.
72 min: Bale, offensively good, taunts Villa down the right but his curling cross is headed away from Adebayor by Herd. Ireland's attempt to stop Bale from sauntering away from him was risible there. What a waste of a footballer.
69 min: Bale is down after being cleaned out by a preposterous challenge from Delph. He's booked, thus ruling him out of Villa's next match.
68 min: This is ridiculous. A high, hanging cross is caught by Lloris, who is bundled over by Holman, causing the keeper to drop the ball behind for a corner. Amazingly a free-kick isn't awarded. Fortunately nothing comes from the corner.
67 min: Scott Parker replaces Mousa "Moussa" Dembele, who's limping off.
66 min: Villa have been done here by two goals of the highest quality, it must be said. Even so, it's hard to make a case for them deserving anything from this match. They've been gutsy, to a certain degree, but limited.
65 min: Scott Parker is getting ready to come on for Spurs. "So, that would be the Bundesliga that's been won by five different teams in the last 10 years (compared to four in the Premier League), la Liga with arguably the five best players on the planet right now, and Serie A, which yeah, is a bit boring," says Matt Dony. "But, really? Rob Green throwing into his own goal is more entertaining than all of the above?" Oh it's on!
64 min: Bale slams the free-kick into the wall. A cry of handball goes up. Nothing doing. "Being a student smoker, I once sneezed a big green one during a lecture on the seat in front of me," says Ben Dunn. "It dripped. The whole row knew it was me but I shrugged in a studenty way and they all nodded. Beautiful times?"
63 min: Lennon speeds away from Holman, who hauls him down. The free-kick's in a decent position, 25 yards out and to the right. Bale fancies it. Step away, Kyle.
Moments after it should have been 1-1, it's surely game over. Villa had a wonderful chance to equalise when Benteke broke down the right only for the Belgian to make a dog's dinner, complete with starter and dessert, of his cutback to Ireland. From there Spurs broke. Defoe was denied by Bennett's challenge but the ball spun to Bale, who knocked the ball past the exposed Herd, steamed away from the defender at some a fair old pelt, teased Guzan, rounded Guzan and rolled the ball into the empty net. That's a sublime goal.
58 min: Villa almost hit back immediately but Benteke just can't rise high enough to reach a cross from the left.
Tottenham were all over Villa like a cheap one in the first half and despite being second-best in this half, they've taken the lead. It's an amusing old past-time. This is a lovely goal as well. It looked like Spurs were going nowhere, Defoe and Bale getting themselves into a bit of a tangle on the left of the Villa area. But Bale touched the ball back to Naughton, who sliced Villa's defence open with a brilliant pass through to Defoe, who took a touch and then slid a cool finish low past Guzan.
55 min: Benteke's played clean through on goal but Gallas steps up just in the nick of time to catch him offside. He really needs to learn to time his runs better.
53 min: Thinking about it, my most embarrassing sneeze-related moment is when I sneezed so much I got a nosebleed. On a train. As you might have guessed, not much has happened in the second half yet. Tottenham corners no longer count (they've just wasted another one).
51 min: Adebayor accidentally catches Herd in the face with a high boot. Isn't that a red card these days?
50 min: Herd does excellently to recover from his own header nearly setting up Defoe, sticking out a leg to flick the ball away from the striker. Up the other end, Benteke hassles Gallas into conceding a throw-in, not allowing him to shepherd the ball back to Lloris.
49 min: I haven't sneezed yet. Meanwhile there has been a marked improvement on Villa. They're actually touching the ball!
48 min: I'm expecting to sneeze any minute now. My record number of sneezes remains 16 at East Midlands Airport at around 7am on 11 March 2007.
47 min:Villa have already spent more time in Spurs half than they did in the first half. Lowton collects a pass on the edge of the area, cuts in from the right and flashes a drive high and wide. "It's worth remembering that Aston Villa were formed in 1874 by a group of cricketers looking for a way to keep warm during the winter," says Jon Wilde. "Judging by Villa's recent form, it would appear that their current squad are being faithful to tradition. Win or lose, who gives a monkey's? Just keep running about to keep Jack Frost at bay, that's the ticket."
46 min: Here we go again. Villa have replaced Ashley Westwood with Marc Albrighton. I sneezed twice in the first minute of the second half so missed anything that might have happened*.
"I knew that comment would lead to some johnny foreigner esque nonsense," says Hugh Collins. "Nothing says last night of the proms like a comment from an Irishman living in new york."
Well that was quite entertaining but Tottenham will be livid they're not ahead.
45 min+3: Bennett wins a corner for Villa! Whoa. Lloris catches it. Oh.
45 min+1: There will be three minutes of stoppage time. "Give me the blood and thunder of a boxing day 4-3 over yet another demonstration of tiki-taka's qualities, or bayern munich dominating the bundisliga or anything in serie a," roars Hugh Collins. "Let the purists watch a dvd of Spain work their way through another gripping 1-0."
45 min: You might want to have a sit down as you digest that news. Meanwhile Stephen Ireland is on for Nathan Baker, so Villa will have a tactical reshuffle.
44 min: Try to contain your shock after reading the following sentence. Christian Benteke is caught offside.
43 min: There's a stoppage in play as Baker gets treatment for a knock.
42 min: Adebayor sends Bale's corner wide at the far post. "You're spot on when you state that the Premier League club's level is staggeringly poor and none other than the fact that a terribly poor MANU side is currently topping the table proves it beyond doubt," says Tiago Carreira. "Methinks that come February Real Madrid will have a field day when they play MANU. God knows they need it."
41 min: Bale's swerving, vicious effort from 25 yards out is pushed behind by Guzan, who had to adjust quickly after the shot changed direction at the last moment. I'm not sure if that took a deflection, or if it was simply the curse of the modern ball.
40 min: "Strange, six of Villa's squad of young-uns have n as the last letter in their names, even Spurs' squad has five," notes Nigel Moore. "Is that a record or maybe they should form their own Premiership team? By the way, surely Peterborough must be football's flavour of the month, with their astonishing victories and goal tally! Go on and give them a mention, after all it's still the season of goodwill."
37 min: Another Spurs corner, this time on the right. Vertonghen darts to the near post and sees his header deflected wide by a Villa defender. Goal-kick to Villa! Maybe Mark Clattenburg is quite rightly assuming Spurs have had enough attempts scoring from corners and he can't be bothered hanging around any longer.
36 min: Adebayor cushions the ball to Lennon, whose ferocious volley is deflected behind. Say what you want about Villa's abysmal passing but they are doing all they can to keep this game goalless. Well, it would be slightly easier if they stopped giving the ball away but you get the picture.
35 min: And just like that, after all that dominance, Villa almost hit Spurs with the ultimate sucker-punch. El-Ahmadi found the overlapping Lowton on the right and his excellent cross was inches too far ahead of Benteke and at the far post the stretching Holman could only turn his effort on to the roof of the net.
34 min: Heroic defending from Baker prevents Adebayor from giving Tottenham the lead. Bale broke in behind the Villa defence on the left and cut it back to Adebayor. He took a touch to set himself and then hammered a shot goalwards, Baker flinging himself in front of the ball to deflect it wide.
31 min: Herd concedes a needless corner, heading behind when there was no Spurs player near him. But then, that's down to communication. Where was the shout. The corner is Tottenham's 10th. This time Bale takes it and Adebayor rises highest but heads straight at Guzan. "Xxx," says Karen Sheldon, who may or may not be spam.
30 min: At last, Villa show up as an attacking force. From Lowton's throw-in, Holman turns away from a risible challenge from Naughton and fires a low cross into the area which is just behind Benteke in the middle. It comes to Bennett on the left and his dangerous cross just drifts out of play before Holman can reach it at the far post.
27 min: Everyone's in a hot funk after Kyle Walker is tripped by Delph, only for Clattenburg to wave play on. Tottenham want a free-kick and Villa's fans want Walker to be booked for a dive. Come on guys, it's the day after Christmas.
26 min: Spurs are winning 75%-25% on possession. Not too far away, Brendan Rodgers nods in approval.
24 min: Now Benteke loses the ball, gifting possession to Adebayor, whose clever pass through the middle sets Defoe clear of the Villa defence. The ball's not on his favoured right foot though and a slightly heavy touch allows Guzan to sprawl at his feet and deflect his poked effort behind, with the aid of a covering Villa defender. From the resulting corner, the ball momentarily falls to Sandro, all alone in the middle of the area, but he can't react in time.
23 min: Another let-off for Villa. They get themselves into a mess again, Westwood losing the ball in his own half to Defoe, who finds Lennon on the right. He turns the ball across and Herd awkwardly hoicks it over the angle of post and bar from inside the six-yard box. That could so easily have been an own goal. From Walker's corner, Guzan plunges down to save Gallas's powerful header.
22 min: When Villa get the ball, they've got nowhere to go. Admittedly it's still 0-0 but they need more options going forward but there's not a lot on the bench for Lambert to change it with.
21 min: We've just had the round of applause for Stilian Petrov in the 19th minute and it's followed by a huge roar from the Villa fans. These youngsters need all the encouragement they can possibly get.
19 min: A rare foray into Spurs territory from Villa. It's just a couple of throw-ins down the left and doesn't last very long, but you know. When it does end, Spurs counter at pace, Bale leading the charge up the left, but despite the Villa defence making it as easy as possible for him his cross is a waste.
17 min: In Villa's favour, they are defending well and Spurs haven't really created any clearcut chances yet. But you fancy they will sooner or later.
15 min: Delph is down feeling his head after a clash with Baker. That could have ki... no, let's not flog it. Meanwhile a huge chant of "Yid Army" breaks out from the Spurs end. Alert Peter Herbert!
13 min: Paul Lambert's tactical masterclass isn't quite working yet. His side look shellshocked at this 0-0 shellacking they're on the end of at the moment. "Teams at the bottom are being beaten by teams at the top," says Michael Onwubya. "Hardly a case for Premier League being "staggeringly poor". Granted, I'm lucky enough to not have has to actually watch these games." And English teams are struggling against proper opposition in the Champions League.
11 min: I fully expected to be typing GOAL! here, because this looked in all the way from Bale. The Welshman worked a yard of space 25 yards out and whipped a beautiful shot towards the top-right corner that looked certain to fly in, only for Guzan to stretch out an arm and turn it over. That's a splendid save. He might have to make a few more.
10 min: And still Spurs pour forward. Bale isolates Lowton on the left and curls a lovely cross into the middle which Baker heads away from Adebayor. But only as far as Walker, whose low volley is deflected wide and into the side-netting. Another ridiculous corner from Walker follows.
9 min: "With the sad death today of Thunderbirds creator, Gerry Anderson, I do hope Emmanuel Adebayor will continue his season-long tribute to Supermarionation by playing like a puppet again," parps Gary Naylor. Here all week, ladies and gentlemen.
8 min: Villa almost get out of their half.
7 min: Bale tries to lift the free-kick over the wall. No dice; his effort flicks up and over the bar off someone's head - he could have killed him! - for another corner. Walker expertly sends it out for a throw-in.
6 min: Villa have barely been out of their own half yet. This could be a long evening. Adebayor lays it off for Walker, whose shot from 25 yards out is blocked. There's no respite though. Defoe nips away from Herd on the edge of the D and is unceremoniously sent flying through the air. This is one-way traffic.
4 min: These are nervy moments for Villa. El Ahmadi loses the ball in his own half, leaving his defence exposed, but Defoe's pass through to Adebayor isn't good enough. Adebayor tries to play it back to Defoe but there's no way through. The ball comes over to Bale on the left and his fizzing cross into the six-yard box is turned over his own bar by Bennett; from the corner, Lowton gets ahead of Bale to turn it behind again. Goal-kick to Villa!
3 min: Delph steams through the back of Sandro near the halfway line. He tries to look bemused at the whistle being blown but he's fooling no one. Tottenham are enjoying most of the possession so far - it's already eminently clear that Villa will sit back and try to hit Spurs on the break.
2 min: It's not 8-0 to Tottenham yet. Result!
Peep! Tottenham get the game going, attacking from right to left. Villa Park is loud. Emmanuel Adebayor has his serious face on. Mark Clattenburg's hair is supremely gelled. Let's do this. "As it's the Season of giving I'm pleased to announce that : you, Jacob Steinberg, win the award of My Favourite MBM-Officiator of 2012!" says Ryan Dunne. "(There's no actual trophy or anything but, still, it's the though that counts). I'm looking forward to tonight's MBM as I think I might be one of the only regulars without a hangover (drinkers: GIRFUY!)"
In your face, Smyth and Murray.
Here come the teams. Aston Villa are in their claret and blue shirts, Tottenham are in their white shirts and blue shorts. Happily for Villa, the only side to have won in the bottom half this afternoon were Sunderland, who beat Manchester City 1-0. The standard of football in the Premier League is staggeringly poor.
Festive update: I feel sick.
And it wasn't the end of the world because Aston Villa lost 8-0 to Chelsea on Sunday. Sure, no one wants to lose any match 8-0. It's pretty humiliating. But it doesn't mean the club has to fold or the season's over or that they're definitely going down. Sometimes it just means that Chelsea have loads of world-class players and Aston Villa have loads of young players, who might, in time, be better for what was a chastening experience. Villa are being written off this evening but while Tottenham are in good form, and their speed on the break is suited to away matches there's every chance we could see a reaction from Paul Lambert's side.
Aston Villa: Guzan; Lowton, Herd, Clark, Baker, Bennett; Westwood, El Ahmadi, Delph, Holman; Benteke. Subs: Given, Ireland, Albrighton, Bowery, Bannan, Lichaj, Carruthers.
Tottenham: Lloris; Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Naughton; Lennon, Dembele, Sandro, Bale; Defoe, Adebayor. Subs: Friedel, Parker, Dawson, Sigurdsson, Livermore, Townsend, Caulker.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)