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Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Norwich City (after extra-time)
(Norwich City won 3-2 on penalties)
PRESSURE MOUNTED on Jose Mourinho and his Tottenham Hotspur side after the Premier League’s bottom club, Norwich City, dispatched the North Londoners from this seasons Emirates FA Cup following a penalty shootout.
Three successive defeats have left the N17 faithful questioning whether the ‘Special One’ has actually lost, or at least misplaced, his mojo?
Without the talismanic duo of Harry Kane and Heing-Min Son, Spurs have looked cumbersome, devoid of ideas and above all, toothless. The Champions League and a top-four finish are slowly disappearing over the horizon, leaving the cup Tottenham’s only viable route to ending their long-overdue search for silverware.
Mourinho recognised the spot Spurs were in: “It’s always easier to play after a victory. It’s always easier to recover from fatigue when you are happy,” he explained.
“Of course, we are not happy, but the motivation to play a game that can put us in the draw for the quarter-finals of the FA Cup is big enough motivation for the troops to be ready.
“We are not happy, but the camp is positive and motivated and we have to look forward.”
Norwich stopper, Tim Krul, thwarted Giovani Lo Celso with his feet – Lucas Moura fashioning the games first big opportunity. But when they ventured forward again minutes later, Jan Vertonghen – in from the cold – met Lo Celso’s free-kick with the meat of his forehead – this time, Krul could only look on as the ball fizzed into the bottom corner of the net.
The crowd – all but the 9,000 that had made their way to the capital from Norfolk – saw this as the catalyst for Spurs to push on efficient and effectively – the reality, at least initially, was awkward and disjointed.
Indeed, cup keeper, Michel Vorm, was forced to beat away Emi Buendia stinging effort and then scrambled back in the nick of time after spilling Lukas Rupp’s speculative strike.
Eric Dier put his body on the line to divert Mario Vrancic’s goalbound attempt to safety as Norwich continued to search for a foothold. Meanwhile, Krul saved from Moura after the visitors had made a defensive hash of clearing their lines.
Spurs were forced deeper and deeper. Vertonghen diverted over from Buendia, while Vorm saved from Rupp as Norwich continued on the front foot after the interval. Dele toe-poked at Krul and Oliver Skipper was off target but Tottenham’s threat was minimal. In between, Norwich went close again – Vrancic’s dead-ball a fraction too high.
But having asked the majority of the questions, Norwich had yet to come up with any conclusive answers. Catastrophically, Spurs – at least, Vorm, answered one for them. Josip Drmic picked up the pieces after the keeper had fumbled Kenny McLean’s strike – the Canaries collective tails were now well and truly up.
Ben Godfrey cleared off the line from Aurier as Spurs – awoken by the goal from their slumber – went for broke.
An extra thirty minutes cast further anxiety over the home crowd, Aurier’s attempt to beat Krul at his near post was unsuccessful. The introduction of Troy Parrott, replacing the ineffective Dele, brought about a sparky response from the stands – their team continued to flounder.
Krul saved from Lo Celso, while Aurier blazed the rebound over as Tottenham’s pursuit of an opening bore little fruit. Erik Lamela toiled tirelessly, while Gedson passed up a glorious chance after Lo Celso had teed him up.
There was an air of inevitability over the game being decided from the spot, and with Tottenham’s luck the way it is, the outcome to boot. Lamela, Parrott and Gedson were unsuccessful from the spot – another inquest looms – Tottenham’s campaign, arguable over.
Tottenham Hotspur return to Premier League action on Saturday, March 7 when they face Burnley at Turf Moor (5:30pm).
Tottenham Hotspur: Michel Vorm, Jan Vertonghen (Capt), Davinson Sanchez, Harry Winks, Eric Dier, Giovani Lo Celso, Dele Alli (Troy Parrott 96’), Steven Bergwijn (Gedson Fernandes 54’), Serge Aurier, Lucas Moura (Erik Lamela 69’), Oliver Skipp Subs not used: Paulo Gazzaniga (GK), Toby Alderweireld, Tanguy Ndombele, Japhet Tanganga
Booked: Oliver Skipp (foul)
Goals: Jan Vertonghen 12’
Norwich City: Tim Krul, Max Aarons, Ben Godfrey, Grant Hanley (Capt), Lukas Rupp (Adam Idah 72’), Mario Vrancic (Kenny McLean 67’), Jamal Lewis, Todd Cantwell, Emi Buendia (Marco Stieperman 97’), Tom Trybull (Alexander Tettey 88’), Josip Drmic Subs not used: Michael McGovern (GK), Teemu Pukki, Ondrej Duda
Booked: Mario Vrancic (foul), Grant Hanley (foul)
Goals: Josip Drmic 78’
Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistants: Harry Lennard and Nick Hopton
Fourth Official: Stuart Attwell
Reaction to follow…