All eyes were on Andros Townsend when Tottenham Hotspur visited Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon and England's new golden boy did not disappoint when playing a key role in his team's 2-0 victory.
Showing no signs of tiredness from playing a star role in helping his country book a place at the 2014 World Cup with the wins over Montenegro and Poland, or buckling under the hype of his new contract, the 22-year-old opened the scoring at Villa Park - albeit in slightly fortunate circumstances with a cross.
Sadly, Tottenham's celebrations of the goal were marred by a smoke bomb being thrown from the stands to strike a referee's assistant. But the visitors - who won at Villa last season in the league through a hat-trick from another winger, Gareth Bale - did not lose their focus and went on to make sure of the points in the second half through Roberto Soldado.
For Villa, who had started the game in organised fashion and had been looking to avenge 4-0 defeats at the hands of Spurs in their last two meetings at Villa Park, it was a tough game. Having played well in the first half, Villa eventually ran out of energy against Townsend's running to mean their home struggles continued.
Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas made four changes from the team who were shocked 3-0 at White Hart Lane by West Ham United before the international break. But Townsend kept his place in the starting line-up.
Vlad Chiriches was handed a Premier League debut at centre-back, with Jan Vertonghen pushed to left-back. Lewis Holtby had a first start while Sandro and Soldado also came in and fit-again winger Aaron Lennon was a second-half substitute.
Villa striker Christian Benteke returned from injury among the substitutes while Nathan Baker replaced Ciaran Clark in the one change to Paul Lambert's line-up. Libor Kozak was the leading striker but failed to pose any threat.
Story of the game
Predictably, England's new wing wizard, Townsend, was the man to open the scoring to provide a fitting end to his dream fortnight. His 31st minute cross was not an intentional effort at goal but he delivered the ball into an excellent area and finally got his reward having already had a division-high 26 shots in the Premier League this season without scoring. It was his first Premier League goal for Tottenham.
27 - It took Andros Townsend 27 shots to score his 1st PL goal of the season, more than any other goalscorer in the top tier. Persistent.- OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 20, 2013
It was also one of the first times in the game when Townsend had found some room to operate, having been singled out as a threat and Villa doubling up in their marking to ensure he did not have a chance to run at left-back Antonio Luna. Sky Sports expert Gary Neville explained during the game: "You can see how quickly Fabian Delph and Gabriel Agbonlahor get over to that side to prevent the space for Townsend." As a result, Townsend had finished the first half with the second-lowest pass completion rate of 72.7 per cent of any Tottenham outfield player behind only Soldado.
Villa's plan had been to force Tottenham into errors in their own half by allowing the visitors to have possession, of which they had a 69% first-half majority, but applying pressure in the organisation of their players. It worked for the majority of the first half, with the poor pass completion rate before the interval of Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris (50%) providing an example of the difficulty the visitors had in playing the ball out from the back.
And with Villa's defence squeezing the space and Tottenham's central midfielders - Sandro and Paulinho - sitting too deep and occupying almost identical positions, Soldado had been isolated in the first 15 minutes. He received only two passes in that time, from Vertonghen and Townsend, and was to go on to have a quiet game despite scoring.
Soldado's lack of movement was a contributing factor, as the formerly prolific Valencia striker, who had scored only two Premier League goals from penalties before kick-off, failed to run the wide channels in order to give his team-mates an outlet pass.
Neville had said: "I do not think Villas-Boas will be fooled by all this possession. I think he will understand Tottenham need to shift it far better out of the back and through midfield. It is far too slow and predictable. They need more movement from their frontmen."
Townsend's goal changed the context of the game and meant inconsistent Villa, who despite stunning Manchester City in their previous home outing have infamously won just six league games at Villa Park under Paul Lambert, had to try and set the attacking agenda of the second half rather than simply aiming to frustrate Tottenham.
That brought about the introduction of Benteke in the 61st minute and he had an impact with three shots - one on target. But, likewise, the necessity for Villa to open up provided more space for Tottenham's attackers, including Townsend, with the tireless Delph and Agbonlahor given less of a remit in their defensive duties. Luna had also been run ragged and his fatigue allowed Townsend to capitalise with much more of the ball in advanced areas in the second half. Townsend finished the game with 76 touches, 38 passes at a success rate of 78.9%, three created chances, and five shots - the highest number of any Tottenham player - with two on target.
Ultimately, with a sense of inevitability, the visitors capitalised when Soldado made it 2-0 in the 69th minute from a superbly weighted touch for an assist by Paulinho, who was another player to capitalise in getting forward as Villa opened up. It was a cool finish from 12 yards for Soldado's first goal from open play in the Premier League. But it did not mask a tough game for the Spaniard. He went off in the 87th minute having touched the ball just 36 times.
"I have seen the progress since the start of the season and, if we play like that, we will win more games than not. I did not think there was too much in the game in the first half, it was pretty tight. I thought we started the second half well and looked as if we were going to get a goal. I thought we were playing well and looked pretty decent. I cannot fault the lads for effort, that was great, and on another day we might have got something."
"In the second half, we were really, really good. After we reached 2-0, we could have gone on to score more. After the setback [against West Ham], particularly at home, we have to respond and I think we did it in a good fashion to keep ourselves in touch with the top [of the table]. I think we deserved the result. We want to build on from here and continue to gather the most amount of points as possible."
Glenn Hoddle's view
"Townsend was Spurs' best player. He was the best player on the park. He looks as though he has got a level head. He has got the ability, he has come in from nowhere and he now believes. He will have more tests down the line. At the moment, everything is going great for him - his touch, he is playing with his head up, he is playing with confidence and he believes he can create and score. He will have a spell when it does not work out and that will be his test as a young player."
Townsend was the man of the match. However, Paulinho was not far behind after coming into his own in the second half. The Brazilian was heavily involved at both ends of the pitch, could have scored and his touch for the second goal was simply fantastic.