LONDON :Tottenham Hotspur's hopes of regaining their place in the Premier League's top four were scuppered as they suffered a demoralising 2-0 home defeat against Aston Villa on Sunday.
Without the injured Dejan Kulusevski, Antonio Conte's lacklustre side were devoid of inspiration with his replacement Bryan Gil given little chance to shine having been handed his first Premier League start.
Villa then punished Tottenham's porous defence after the break with goals from Emiliano Buendia and Douglas Luiz.
Tottenham's France keeper Hugo Lloris, playing his first game since losing the World Cup final, was at fault for Buendia's 50th-minute opener. And when Luiz added a second in the 73rd minute, home fans began streaming towards the exits.
Chants against Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy rang out and it could have got worse as Villa sauntered to only a third win in their last 22 Premier League clashes with the Londoners.
Tottenham were booed off at the final whistle as defeat left them in fifth place with 30 points from 17 matches, two points behind Manchester United who have a game in hand, and 13 behind local rivals and leaders Arsenal.
Villa's third win in four league games since former Arsenal manager Unai Emery replaced Steven Gerrard in November left them in 12th place with 21 points.
Conte performed wonders to seal a top-four finish last season having taken charge in November 2021, but on Sunday's evidence they have slipped backwards.
The Italian's sides are usually built on solid defence but Tottenham have now conceded at least two goals in seven successive top-flight games for the first time since 1988.
"I'm sure that if we don't concede the goal, we could win the game instead," Conte said. "The goal that we conceded killed us in confidence. We have to fight and show that we are strong. The league will be very difficult for us."
If any of the fans that braved transport problems to spend New Year's Day at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium needed some extra sleep, they had ample opportunity in a dreadful first half. Tottenham were slow in possession and lacking any attacking spark while Villa were equally unadventurous.
Villa keeper Robin Olsen, who surprisingly kept his place ahead of Argentina hero Emiliano Martinez, was untroubled and three yellow cards in the space of 10 minutes for Tottenham, including one for returning World Cup winner Cristian Romero, was about the only talking point for the opening 37 minutes.
Tottenham finally created a chance when Ivan Perisic was played through on goal and forced wide by Olsen. Perisic managed to hoist a cross towards Harry Kane whose weak header was on target but cleared off the line by a diving Ashley Young.
At least Tottenham avoided trailing at halftime for a sixth match in a row but they fell behind for the seventh successive Premier League game five minutes after the restart.
Lloris spilled a shot by Luiz and Ollie Watkins was alert to nip in and pick out Buendia who slotted his shot inside the post to the joy of the Villa fans.
Conte's Tottenham side have earned 14 points from losing positions this season and almost responded when Perisic wasted a good opportunity for an equaliser.
But it was Villa who looked more threatening and they doubled their advantage when captain John McGinn threaded a ball in to Luiz who flicked a neat finish past Lloris.
Emery was full of praise for Olsen who barely had a shot to save but insisted Martinez remains Villa's number one.
"It was our plan to give him a rest but we are working with Robin too, to give him confidence," Emery told reporters.