Tottenham Hotspur 1
(Defoe – 33)
Norwich City 2
(Pilkington – 13, E Bennett – 66)
Goals from Anthony Pilkington and Elliot Bennett condemned a lacklustre Tottenham Hotspur to only their third league defeat at White Hart Lane this season.
Jermain Defoe’s strike midway through the first-half wasn’t enough to turn the tie in the favour of the hosts as Paul Lambert’s Norwich City side pulled off their most memorable win of the season to date.
Manager Harry Redknapp made five changes from the side that drew 0-0 with Sunderland on Saturday with Ledley King, Aaron Lennon, Jake Livermore, Jermain Defoe and Louis Saha all coming in for William Gallas, Sandro, Scott Parker, Rafael Van der Vaart and Emmanuel Adebayor.
Spurs looked to start the game the brighter and following Saha’s early drive straight at Canaries shot-stopper John Ruddy, many hadn’t anticipated what was to follow.
The hosts defence were at sixes and seven’s for the opener from Pilkington, who initially nicked the ball off Younes Kaboul. King blocked the ensuing effort from Aaron Wilbraham, but the ball fell nicely to Pilkington who slotted past Brad Friedel from 10 yards out.
Spurs looked to force their way back into the game and it wasn’t long before Bale was back to his marauding best down the left flank. However, Russell Martin was twice on-hand to deny the Welshman, first blocking from the charging winger before clearing Kyle Walker’s cross which seemed destined to reach the youngster.
Friedel did well to tip away Pilkington’s free-kick while at the other end; Defoe was just inches away from connecting with Bale’s low drive across the box.
The equaliser arrived just after the half-hour mark, and perhaps considerably luckily as well after Norwich had a decent penalty shout turned down by referee Michael Oliver after King felled Grant Holt in the box, after Walker won possession in the middle of the pitch. Livermore picked up the ball and he threaded an inch perfect pass through to Defoe who delicately lofted the ball over the oncoming Ruddy to net his tenth league goal of the season.
However, Norwich came close to taking the lead once again when an in-swinging free-kick fell to the feet of defender Elliot Ward. He connected well with his volley, but Friedel was able to get down low and deny the Canaries centre-back.
Redknapp was forced into a change just a minute before half-time when Kaboul pulled up injured to be replacement by Ryan Nelsen, while the Spurs boss opted to introduce Adebayor for the second-half for Saha.
Spurs started the second period the brighter of the two sides when Ward blocked Bale’s effort before Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Adebayor linked up brilliantly in the Norwich 18-yard box, only for the Cameroonian to be denied by a strong Ruddy punch away.
Bradley Johnson missed a glaring opportunity just short of the hour mark after he found himself in space just six-yards out, but the midfielder failed to make a decent connection and somehow missed the target.
The game began to open up and Bale came close to netting when his cut in from the right and sent a brilliant curler effort towards the far corner. The ball beat Ruddy but not the woodwork and Norwich were able to clear.
And just two minutes later, Norwich found themselves in front again after nobody closed down Bennett close to the Spurs 18-yard box. The midfielder then smashed home from 20-yards with a thunderbolt effort that left Friedel rooted to the spot.
Rafael Van der Vaart was introduced just after Bennett’s effort, but the closest the hosts came to scoring again was when Bale headed Assou-Ekotto’s cross harmlessly wide.
What Redknapp had to say
“Norwich played really well, they came here today and they were excellent, they really got after us,” he told Sky Sports.
“They played balls forward to the front people and I felt they were always a threat and I felt we struggled to deal with them.
“I changed one or two things around. We had a couple of injuries. Scott Parker was not fit so he couldn’t play.
“I felt that we would go 4-4-2 today and on paper it looks a real exciting, attacking team.
“Louis Saha had a bit of a groin injury, so I brought Emmanuel Adebayor on to play with Jermain Defoe, with Bale wide and Lennon wide.
“But to be fair, I felt we looked too open in midfield. People keep going on about playing 4-4-2, but it’s alright if you play a tight 4-4-2 and you get back tight when people lose the ball.
“When we play a 4-4-2, we are really open because we have people that want to play and go forward, and I think it was a problem for us today.”
Man of the match
Can’t look beyond Jermain Defoe, who took his goal exceptionally well. He looked lively all afternoon, but was unable to add to his tally as Norwich took home the share of the spoils.
Moment of the match
Gareth Bale’s curling effort just minutes before Elliot Bennett netted the winner would’ve completely turned the game on its head. After brilliantly cutting in from the right, the Welshman sent a delightful shot that looked destined for the top corner. However, despite beating John Ruddy, it struck the underside of the bar, Norwich able to clear and went down the other end and scored.
We must now begin to seriously think about life after Ledley King. Yes, he is a stalwart and he is a fans favourite beyond belief, but yesterday he couldn’t handle the physical presence of Grant Holt and looked way out of his depth against Norwich.
Achieving top four now is going to be a real struggle and it is of absolute importance that Spurs win all of their remaining games.
Spurs still have an FA Cup semi final to look forward to, but if they play like they did on Monday, it will be the only trip to Wembley this season for the North Londoners.