WEDNESDAY 22ND JANUARY, 2020
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2(1) NORWICH CITY 1(0)
Pukki (pen), 70
Referee:- Chris Kavanagh
Assistants:- Constantine Hatzidakis, Sian Massey-Ellis
Fourth official:- Robert Jones
VAR:- Mike Dean
Assistant VAR:- Simon Long
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Aurier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen (sub Gedson Fernandes, 75), Sessegnon; Lo Celso, Winks (sub Dier, 56); Lamela (sub Eriksen, 62), Dele, Son; Lucas Moura
Subs not used:- Gazzaniga; Sanchez, Tanganga; Ndombele
Norwich (4-1-4-1):- Krul; Aarons, Zimmerman, Hanley (Capt.), Byram; Tettey (sub Hernandez, 82); Rupp (sub Drmic, 86), Duda, McLean (sub Stiepermann, 90+3), Cantwell; Pukki
Subs not used:- McGovern; Lewis; Trybull, Amadou
Booked:- Cantwell (foul on Lamela)
Unconvincing Spurs win and go level fifth
It wasn’t a convincing performance (those are such a rarity these days) against the bottom club, who threatened Spurs throughout the game, but goals from close range by Dele Alli and Son Heung-min (our first of 2020) gave us a much-needed first league win of the New Year and also gave us a share of fifth place. Spurs are only below Manchester United (who lost at home to Burnley) on a marginal goal difference of one. Results, such as United’s defeat and Chelsea’s home draw last night against Arsenal, have conspired to still put Spurs within reach of the top four, incredible as it may seem.
Hugo Lloris made his return between the sticks after an absence of over three and a half months. Jose Mourinho picked an attacking line-up with Lo Celso (often the star for Spurs in this game) playing beside Harry Winks, but often supporting the attack. Serge Aurier gave another impressive attacking performance, but once again we desperately missed a line-leader, because Lucas Moura is struggling to fill that role. With Lo Celso’s position, Spurs perhaps replicated what looked like a 4-1-4-1 by Norwich, with Tettey in front of the defence and four man in support of Pukki.
Spurs kicked off and played towards the North Stand. Spurs had a free kick within a minute after a foul on Lamela who took the kick which was deflected for a Spurs corner. Lamela had the first real chance of the game after 9 minutes when Aurier crossed from the right. Erik took an early touch but Krul saved. Pukki had a chance after 15 minutes, following Cantwell’s pass, but the Finnish striker pushed the shot wide. Spurs won a corner on the left after Dele’s effort from another Aurier cross. Son took this kick, but it went straight into Krul’s hands. Son had a right foot shot go wide after some driving play by Spurs through the middle.
After a Norwich corner taken on the right, Pukki became provider for Cantwell, who fired over the target. At the other end Son found Lucas Moura with a good pass, but Lucas hit the side netting. Pukki received a ball by Byram from the left, but pulled this shot wide. Lo Celso hit a good diagonal ball to Aurier who crossed into the danger zone, but Norwich cleared. Spurs took a welcome lead in the 38th minute. It followed swift play in and around the area by Spurs with Son pushing the ball out to Aurier who crossed low and hard for Dele to convert from within the 6-yard-box.
Four minutes later following another Aurier cross, Dele back-heeled the ball to Lamela who tried to deliver to Lucas Moura with the ball running to Krul. Spurs attacked again, carrying the ball from midfield. Lucas Moura crossed from the right to Dele who tried to tee up Son, but again Krul was alert to the threat and picked up the ball. There was one more chance for Norwich before the break with Aarons crossing from the right and Pukki trying to set up Norwich signing Lukas Rupp, whose effort was wide. Spurs needed another goal.
The half-time guest was Eddie Clayton, who played for Bill Nicholson’s Spurs for 10 years between 1958 and ’68. Eddie is now 83, and looks well on it too. He played in the first game I saw at White Hart Lane in November 1965 (on the Shelf) in a friendly against a Hungarian Select XI. Spurs won that game 4-0. Maurice Norman (signed from Norwich) suffered a broken leg, and never played again.
Norwich kicked off the second half and within two minutes Cantwell had clattered Lamela, after which he was shown a yellow card. There was a lengthy VAR consideration regarding a possible red card offence, but the foul was not deemed that bad. Toby Alderweireld hit a high long ball to Son looming on the left side of the area, but Son skied his shot.
Norwich were now playing towards their enthusiastic fans and always carried a threat. Pukki sent the ball out to Rupp, who crossed before Cantwell’s shot was well blocked by Alderweireld at the expense of a corner. After the corner and attempts to clear by the Spurs defence Pukki had a chance but fired wide. Harry Winks suffered a severe knock somewhere in the mix and after treatment had to hobble off and was replaced by Eric Dier. We won’t see Winks now for a while I fear.
There was a dodgy moment for Spurs when Vertonghen slipped as Pukki attacked on the right of the area, but Lo Celso and Dier recovered the situation. Eric Lamela was replaced by Eriksen (when will he play his last Spurs game?). Much as some Spurs fans continue to berate the midfielder, it remains a fact that he often is and looks our only playmaker. Eriksen faded towards the end of the game, but he did hit a number of good passes, provoking attacks. One such ball went to Son who got to the right of the Norwich area, but I am afraid Son dawdled with the ball, and lost it ultimately.
Norwich were awarded a penalty by referee Chris Kavanagh after 67 minutes when Sessegnon brought down the advancing Max Aarons. There was another lengthy VAR review before finally the spot-kick was confirmed and Pukki scored to the left of Lloris, who did get a hand to the ball. Now Mourinho took off Vertonghen, moving Dier into the back four with Gedson Fernandes playing beside Eriksen behind the front four. Spurs had a couple of corners following the third substitution, but nothing came of them. Norwich broke forward from one of these corners with Byram advancing and Duda threatening before Cantwell had a shot off target.
Spurs regained their lead in the 79th minute. Aurier and Lo Celso had been involved on the right. Lo Celso fed Dele who hit a shot from the right which looped up off a defender, falling nicely for Son to head home from close range at the back post.
Daniel Farke replaced Tettey with Hernandez and clearly Norwich were going to throw everything into attack to try and satisfy their desperate need for at least a point. Rupp hit a low shot which took a deflection, leading to a corner on the left. This was superbly claimed by Hugo Lloris, much to the relief of the home crowd. Now Aarons was replaced by Drmic, but Spurs had the better of the closing stages which included a full 6 minutes of added time, thanks largely to those VAR delays.
Lo Celso fed Lucas Moura who passed to Eriksen who shot. The shot had little power, but Eriksen wanted a corner, which did not come. Lucas Moura and Son made a mess of a break, having been sent clear by Dele, and in the end Son had a shot blocked.
Next up for Spurs is a difficult FA Cup game at in-form Southampton. You won’t want to be reminded (when I publish the preview) of what happened the last time we travelled to St Mary’s very soon after losing 1-0 in a league game.
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