Gareth Bale’s late solo effort rescued a point for Tottenham in a 1 – 1 draw against Norwich City at Carrow Road. After a disappointing first half which Norwich dominated with their work-rate and commitment to take the lead through Hoolahan, Spurs improved in the second half. Their increasing pressure on the home defence brought a deserved equaliser with ten minutes to play. Spurs pressed on in search of a winner in the final minutes with goalkeeper Bunn making a crucial save from substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Norwich City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 1
Scorers: Hollahan Bale
Team: Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (Sigurdsson), Parker, Dembele. Bale; Dempsey (Holyby), Defoe Subs: (unused) Friedel, Gallas, Naughton, Livermore, Caulker
Andre Villas-Boas selected the team which has kept Tottenham on an undefeated League run since their unfortunate injury time loss at Everton in early December. The following weekend Norwich recorded their last League win having taken only one point since then. Hugo Lloris returned in goal with Kyle Walker at right back and Michael Dawson partnering Jan Vertonghen in central defence. Mousa Dembele played alongside Scott Parker in the middle of the pitch while Jermain Defoe had recovered from injury and started. New signing Lewis Holtby was on the bench.
Norwich, playing with a strong wind behind them, started the better and were quicker to the ball with Tottenham struggling to cope with the home side’s competitive approach. They harried Spurs at every opportunity and broke quickly causing the Tottehnham defence problems on a number of occasions as they failed to clear their lines putting themselves under more pressure. Norwich used the long ball forward effectively, forcing the Spurs defenders to turn and cover back towards their own area.
An early corner by Walker was headed past by Bale but the greater threat was coming from Norwich with a series of high balls. Grant Holt got onto the end of a long ball forward but shot over. Lloris had to save from a Holt header and then from a series of high crosses was forced to come and punch clear. Defoe was isolated with no support in difficult conditions and any Tottenham forward play was breaking down through poor control and passing as Norwich stepped in quickly to tackle.
Norwich took the lead after 32 minutes with a ball played down the right wing for Snodgrass. His run and deep cross was headed back by Holt and with the Spurs defence at a loss, Pilkington played the ball across the area for Hoolahan to score. The goal had been coming as the Spurs defence had looked constantly uncertain under the Norwich pressure.
Towards the end of the half Spurs put some passes together and when Bale tried to get away on the right he was body checked by Garrido who was booked. From Spurs’ free-kick, however, it was Norwich who threatened as they broke quickly with Bassong rampaging forward in support. The cross from the right, into the area fell to him but he was unable to get a touch on the ball.
Tottenham’s best chance of the half was from Defoe four minutes before the interval. He took the ball from Sebastien Bassong when the defender miscontrolled, played a one-two with Lennon and fired in a shot which Bunn did well to save. The ball bounced over the heads of two Spurs players following up in support.
Spurs’ play through the first half had lacked any direction or impetus with Norwich showing the greater urgency and desire to win.
The second half started with Norwich again quicker to the ball and Spurs’ passing continuing to be sloppy. Gradually as Norwich sat deeper to defend their lead, Spurs increased their possession and pressure but without troubling the Norwich goalkeeper. Bale had a low shot saved and after an hour, Defoe shot over, but Norwich threatened on the break, shooting wide. Spurs introduced Holtby for his first appearance in the Premier League after 71 minutes in place of Clint Dempsey. He set up Lennon for a dangerous cross which had the goalkeeper at full stretch but within seven minutes he received his first yellow card.
The Tottenham pressure was increasing as Norwich battled all over the pitch to defend their slender lead. Shots were blocked, tackles went in and Spurs had a number of corners which were cleared and then with ten minutes to play, Bale collected the ball inside his own half. He evaded an attempt to bring him down and went on a powerful solo run down the centre of the pitch with Norwich players in pursuit. At the edge of the area he hit a fierce shot to give Bunn no chance. Bale has now scored four goals against Norwich in his last three visits to Carrow Road.
Spurs continued through the final ten minutes in search of a winner but Norwich held on thanks to Bunn’s save from Sigurdsson’s shot which took a deflection on its way through.
Tottenham’s first half performance was poor, the defence lacked composure while they offered little threat going forward. They improved in the second half with 63% possession but rarely troubled the goalkeeper as Norwich defended in depth. Holtby in his cameo appearance showed confidence and a good touch on the ball with greater pace than Dempsey whose first touch had been poor.
Tottenham retain fourth place but are only a point ahead of Everton who defeated Spurs’ next opponents, West Bromwich Albion, 2 – 1 at Goodison Park. Arsenal’s home draw with Liverpool keeps them four points back in 5th with Liverpool a further three points behind. Chelsea could only draw at Reading so remain four points ahead of Spurs.