Gareth Bale scored a second-half hat-trick as Tottenham Hotspur handed hosts Aston Villa a second consecutive Premier League thrashing in a 4-0 defeat at Villa Park.
Smarting from their 8-0 humiliation by Chelsea, the onus was on Villa to put in some sort of defensive display, which they managed in the first half.
But they paid a heavy price for their adventure in the second period as Jermain Defoe opened the scoring before Bale smashed his second career hat-trick, all his goals coming after the hour mark.
At least Villa know they are in exalted company – Bale’s only other treble came against Inter Milan, in the Champions League.
Spurs had managed a Barcelona-esque 65 per cent possession in a goalless first half that saw Villa muster up just one corner to the visitors’ 15.
There were chances for Bale, who had two efforts well saved by Brad Guzan, the American also doing well to deny Defoe after his terrifyingly young defence parted for the England striker.
Said defence, deprived of experienced but injured leaders such as Ron Vlaar and Richard Dunne, were operating as a back five until an injury to Nathan Baker.
They were largely on the back foot as the aforementioned Baker made a couple of important blocks, while for their trouble Villa could only manage one half-chance as Brett Holman bounced a difficult finish well over after Matt Lowton’s cross skimmed the head of Christian Benteke.
Villa’s enforced switch came just before half-time, Stephen Ireland’s entry seeing Villa move to a flat back four, with Marc Albrighton introduced for the second half to provide more pace out wide.
It had an impact as the hosts started with a great deal more intent, putting Spurs on the back foot as Ireland and Albrighton dovetailed superbly, Benteke denied by two marginal offsides.
But as Villa were enjoying their best spell by far, Spurs sucker-punched them on the counter-attack as Kyle Naughton threaded Defoe through, the England striker slotting a cool finish through Guzan’s legs to net a 10th Premier League goal this season on his 400th Premier League appearance.
As if to ensure the irony was not lost on anyone, the visitors added a quickfire second from the break that followed Villa’s best chance. Benteke had been guilty of a terrible piece of play when, having gone clean through down the right, he somehow failed to pick out the unmarked Ireland, his dreadful cut-back allowing Spurs to race upfield.
Elliott Bennett gave them a helping hand with a rotten clearance, Bale scuttling away to round Guzan and slid the finish home.
That pretty much ended the match as a contest, with Bale adding his second and Spurs’ third with a crisp low finish after good work by Aaron Lennon, although Villa’s defending was atrocious.
There was more to come as, with seven minutes of normal time remaining, Bale thrashed his third goal into the roof of the net after a lovely cut-back by substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson.
That completed a dirty dozen of festive goals conceded by Villa, with Paul Lambert in danger of losing his job if he fails to restore the ludicrously marginalised Darren Bent, while rebuilding a rookie defence - provided Randy Lerner has not dispensed with him by the January window.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Gareth Bale (Tottenham): A hat-trick for the Welshman, the second of his career, although the opposition was frankly non-existent.
ASTON VILLA: Guzan 6, Lowton 5, Baker 7, Clark 5, Bennett 5, Holman 5, Westwood 5, Herd 5, El Ahmadi 5, Delph 5, Benteke 5; Subs: Ireland 7, Albrighton 7
TOTTENHAM: Lloris 7, Walker 7, Gallas 6, Vertonghen 7, Naughton 7, Sandro 7, Dembele 6, Lennon 8, Bale 10, Adebayor 7, Defoe 8; Subs: Townsend 6, Parker 6, Sigurdsson 7