Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Norwich City
STUTTERING SPURS returned to winning ways but made heavy weather of seeing off struggling Norwich City in what was a scruffy, although well-contested, Premier League encounter at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
One win in five league outings, rumours of a rift with Danny Rose and the Christian Eriksen transfer saga – certainly plenty for Jose Mourinho to digest ahead of a clash with the divisions bottom side. Nevertheless, the Spurs chief prefered the positive approach when facing his pre-match press duties.
“We’re very optimistic. We know them well, we played them a month ago. We’re playing well, we’re not getting the results we should & that we deserve – we’re not scoring the goals we could.” the Portuguese boss explained.
“We believe that better days are coming – we’re positive,’ he added.
“We know Norwich come from a victory and closed the gap to their targets. But we believe in ourselves and we are ready. Tomorrow is going to be our day.”
There was a surprise for the N17 faithful, who arrived to find Hugo Lloris – out since receiving that horrendous elbow injury at Brighton back in early-October – had been handed a start by Mourinho.
Spurs certainly started on the front foot – Tim Krul beating away Erik Lamela’s powerful volley during the game’s infancy. Meanwhile, Teemu Pukki passed up a glorious opportunity to hand the Canaries a shock lead – sidefooting wide with only the recalled Lloris to beat.
Norwich’s single-goal success over Bournemouth at the weekend had ended a winless run stretching back ten games. Todd Cantwell fizzed over as the East Anglian outfit looked to build on that platform. Spurs responded – Heung-Min Son firing into the side netting, much to the anguish of the home crowd.
Indeed, the scrappy nature of the contest had brought about an all to familiar nervousness amongst the Lilywhites following – Pukki sent another left-footed strike the wrong side of an upright as Norwich continued to match their hosts blow for blow.
But Tottenham clearly possessed the greater quality and it came as little surprise when they took the lead eight minutes before the interval.
Dele arrived to supply the finish – this after Son and Serge Aurier had fashioned an opening from the right.
Son blazed over as Spurs threatened to double their advantage immediately after the interval. Meanwhile, Pukki again went close – the wrongfooted Lloris relieved to see the Finnish internationals effort drift wide.
Again, Tottenham looked far from comfortable. The arrival of ‘wantaway’ Eriksen, replacing the ineffective Lamela, brought about a muted – at best – reception from the agitated masses. And when Ryan Sessegnon came together clumsily with Max Aarons – the mood dipped dramatically as Pukki dispatched the resulting spot-kick following a lengthy VAR check.
But with twelve minutes remaining Spurs reestablished their lead. Dele’s effort looped up off Christoph Zimmermann, eluded stopper Krul, allowing Son the simple task of nodding home at the far post – all smile again!
The North Londoners had been far from vintage. Eriksen poked wide in stoppage-time, while Son and Lucas Moura indecisively wasted a glorious chance to seal the deal with the games’ final action.
But with those around them continuing to falter, Spurs remain handily placed for an assault on the top four. But boy, will they have to improve!
Tottenham Hotspur now turn their attention to the Emirates FA Cup, facing Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium in a fourth-round tie on Saturday, January 25 (3pm).
Tottenham Hotspur: Hugo Lloris (Capt), Serge Aurier, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen (Gedson Fernandes 74’), Ryan Sessegnon, Harry Winks (Eric Dier 56’), Giovani Lo Celso, Lucas Moura, Dele Alli, Erik Lamela (Christian Eriksen 62’), Heung-Min Son Subs not used: Davinson Sánchez, Paulo Gazzaniga (GK), Tanguy Ndombele, Japhet Tanganga
Goals: Dele Alli 37’, Heung-MIn Son 78’
Norwich City: Tim Krul, Max Aarons, Christoph Zimmermann, Grant Hanley (Capt), Sam Byram, Alexander Tettey (Onel Hernández 82’), Kenny McLean (Marco Stiepermann 90+3’), Lukas Rupp (Josip Drmic 86’), Ondrej Duda, Todd Cantwell, Teemu Pukki Subs not used: Jamal Lewis, Tom Trybull, Ibrahim Amadou, Michael McGovern (GK)
Booked: Todd Cantwell (foul)
Goals: Teemu Pukki (penalty) 69’
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
Assistants: Constantine Hatzidakis and Sian Massey-Ellis
Fourth Official: Robert Jones
Reaction to follow…