Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld reveals chaotic build-up to shaky display at Aston Villa

Dan Kilpatrick
REUTERS

As excuses go, Toby Alderweireld’s was difficult to question.

He was at fault for both Aston Villa goals in Tottenham’s last-gasp 3-2 win on Sunday, but he could hardly have had a more stressful build-up, following the birth of his son and an extended journey from Belgium to Birmingham during Storm Dennis.

Alderweireld scored at both ends and was beaten in the air by Bjorn Engels for Villa’s second, but Heung-min Son bailed out the centre-half with a stoppage-time winner to extend Spurs’s unbeaten run to seven matches, including five wins. Son’s first strike — successfully following up his saved penalty — saw him become the first Asian player to reach 50 goals in the Premier League.

It was easily Alderweireld’s shakiest outing since the 7-2 mauling by Bayern Munich earlier this season, but he could be excused after an all-nighter and changes to his carefully-arranged travel plans on Saturday.

“Friday morning at three o’clock my son was born,” said Alderweireld, who had travelled to Belgium after training on Thursday morning. “A lot happened. Of course, I was very happy. I slept maybe an hour.”

Alderweireld had agreed with Spurs boss Jose Mourinho that he would spent Friday and Saturday with his wife Shani, baby Jace and daughter Ayla before flying from Antwerp to Birmingham on Saturday to join preparations for the match at Villa Park.

“There was no chance I’d miss the game because I talked through it with the manager and that was the plan,” he said. “We couldn’t know there was a storm. Because of the weather, I wasn’t able to fly, so I took a car from Antwerp to Brussels, from Brussels a train to London and then a car from London to Birmingham.

“It was like an eight-hour trip and I joined the team Saturday evening. Then Sunday I played. It was difficult. I don’t want to put it as the reason [for my performance]. Of course, maybe it was a little bit of a reason, but I’m very happy with the three points. The team helped me.”

Alderweireld had permission to return to Belgium immediately after the match but, with a little over 72 hours before Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 first-leg tie against RB Leipzig, he decided to save his energy.

“I travelled back with the team. I need to rest in London because Wednesday is a big game,” he said. “My wife is good. I think she is coming back [to London] on Wednesday. So a couple of difficult days for me because I don’t see my son, but I will be fine.”

Alderweireld put through his own net to put Villa in front (REUTERS)

It was a measure of Mourinho’s trust in Alderweireld that he started after such chaotic preparations, with Jan Vertonghen returning to the bench, but his rustiness was exposed when he turned Anwar El Ghazi’s cross past Hugo Lloris.

He made amends with a fine equaliser, swivelling to rifle into the roof of the net after Villa had failed to clear a corner.

“You make a mistake and it’s in your head, you want to help and the best way to help is get a goal,” he said.

Mourinho joked afterwards: “He had a funny game, he scored two amazing goals, [one for] the daughter and [one for] the son.

“It is time to celebrate that and, of course, to celebrate the victory and to celebrate a goal — he doesn’t score many — and to forget the goal he scores in our own goal!”

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