Aston Villa 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Thomas Sorensen is like the sea around the polar ice caps. With every passing day, he seems to increase in height and significance.
It makes life difficult for opposing players - except, perhaps, those of West Ham United - and gives Sorensen the advantage when facing a penalty kick.
"I think my record is 11 saves out of the past 15 penalties I have faced," Sorensen said, glowing with enthusiasm and exuding pride. He saved a penalty by Jermain Defoe on Saturday and made it look easy.
The problem for Aston Villa is the opposite: they make the easy look difficult. Only they could produce their best football in months, earn the rare accolade of a standing ovation at half-time, yet still come off the pitch at the end relieved that they had secured a point.
Five more minutes and Tottenham Hotspur would have won. Had it not been for Paul Robinson, the Tottenham goalkeeper, Villa would have been five goals ahead by half-time. It was that kind of match. "A match for goalkeepers," Sorensen said. "A match where it could easily have finished in a 5-5 draw."
Villa began so well that the 4-0 defeat away to West Ham the previous Monday was already a distant memory. With Milan Baros looking sharp up front and James Milner showing quick feet and intelligence on the right flank, it looked good for Villa even against one of the Premiership's top teams.
It seemed appropriate that Milner, still only 19, should open the scoring with a low shot from 22 yards in the fourth minute. It seemed appropriate that Baros should be the player to provide Milner with the opportunity to shoot.
Then came the barrage. Then came Villa's flirtation with the finer points of football. Then came the period when Robinson proved that he is a worthy England goalkeeper.
He saved superbly from Baros, Patrik Berger and Juan Pablo Angel to keep Tottenham in the game. At the other end, in the 27th minute after Wilfred Bouma was adjudged to have handled the ball, Defoe's penalty failed to trouble Sorensen and Villa seemed in command.
It looked so good that even David O'Leary, the Villa manager, looked happy. How classy his honest bunch of lads managed to look.
"We should have won the game, end of story," O'Leary said. "By the time they scored, the game should have been beyond them. The players know they let themselves down the other night at West Ham but they usually have bounced back from such a performance and they did again today.
"We got off to a wonderful start and it then took a wonderful goalkeeper [Robinson] to keep Tottenham in the game. But we should have put it out of reach."
The second half could hardly have been more contrasting. Tottenham assumed control, Villa seemed content to play on the break and
Sorensen became the pivotal figure.
He continued to frustrate Defoe and was only beaten in the 78th minute when Robbie
Keane, who had only been on the pitch for 11 minutes, skipped past Gareth Barry, turned Liam Ridgewell and Jlloyd Samuel and poked the ball beyond the goalkeeper's flailing arms.
"It surprises me that a player of Robbie Keane's class is on the substitutes' bench," O'Leary said. "But I told him afterwards that I wish he had stayed on the substitutes' bench all match."
Three cheers for your humour, David; and three cheers for putting together a Villa team that at last looks balanced.
It was significant that Samuel, a substitute, provided more skill in 18 minutes on Saturday than in the whole of last season. Perhaps the arrival of Bouma, a composed defender, will do to Samuel what the arrival of Baros seems to have done to Angel.
It would be wrong to become too excited. After all, Villa did not win on Saturday and they did lose embarrassingly to West Ham five days before. At least now, however, there is the makings of a decent team.
You could sense it at the final whistle. No frustration. No jeers. No disharmony. Just a feeling of hope that the next Premiership match, away to Chelsea, will come quickly. On the evidence of the first half on Saturday, Villa will give Chelsea a fright but need to believe in themselves more than they did in the second half.
Villa will play worse than this and win but they are capable of playing better than this and losing. If nothing else, it will keep the Villa supporters on their feet.