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Soccer-Townsend flourishes in limelight as Spurs win

Reuters

* Townsend caps memorable couple of weeks with Spurs opener

* Tottenham beat Villa 2-0 to go fifth (Adds quotes, police arrests, writes through)

By Sonia Oxley

Oct 20 (Reuters) - Andros Townsend prospered in the glare of the spotlight as he netted his first Premier League goal in Tottenham Hotspur's 2-0 victory over Aston Villa on Sunday 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.

The match was marred just after Townsend's opener when a linesman was hit in the back by a smoke bomb thrown from the crowd at Villa Park. He was able to continue but a blue mist lingered and police later said they had arrested two people.

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 goal), 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.

"We had to pull our act together which we did after the 20th minute. We got hold of the ball, started creating and then the second half was really, really good," he told Sky Sports.

"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 be more aware of his strengths."

AIR OF CONFIDENCE

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 halftime 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.

The attention seemed to give Townsend an air of confidence as he put in a lively performance against Villa even if Spurs were uninspired for long periods despite hogging possession.

His effort just after the halfway mark was not intended to be a goal, more a dipping cross that was aimed at his team mates' heads, but it eluded everyone and drifted into the net.

Celebrations were spoiled moments later when the flare was thrown, with Michael Dawson among the Spurs players who rushed over to assistant referee David Bryan to check he was alright.

West Midlands Police said two men, aged 25 and 47, had been arrested in connection with the matter.

"Police investigating the incident at the Villa v Spurs game earlier say they believe it was a smoke bomb thrown - two men are in custody," the police wrote on their Twitter feed.

Townsend had a great chance to stretch his side's lead before halftime but was denied by diving keeper Brad Guzan who got a hand to the powerful shot to keep it out.

Where there was a big chunk of luck in their opener, Spurs had pure skill to thank for their second as they snuffed out Villa's hopes of snatching an equaliser at a time the hosts were playing well after the introduction of Christian Benteke, who has been sidelined with a hip injury.

A promising build-up was turned into a real threat when Paulinho's lightest of touches played in Soldado, who was rushing forward to finish with his right foot and put the game beyond Villa's reach.

"It was pretty tight. We had chances and there wasn't much in it," Villa manager Paul Lambert was quoted as saying by the BBC. "In the second half we came out and played really well." (Editing by Ed Osmond)

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