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Norwich v Spurs, 30.01.13

(7.45 PM)

Norwich scorer:-
Hoolahan, 32

Spurs scorer:-
Bale, 80

Attendance:- 26,818

Referee:- Mr. N. Swarbrick
Assistants:- Mr. A. Halliday & Mr. J. Brooks
Fourth official:- Mr. A. Woolmer

Norwich (4-4-1-1):- Bunn; Martin, Turner, Bassong, Garrido; Snodgrass, Tettey, Johnson, Pilkington; Hoolahan (sub Howson, 81); Holt (Capt.)

Subs not used:- Camp; Whittaker, R. Bennett; Fox, E. Bennett, Jackson

Booked:- Garrido (foul on Bale), Holt (foul on Walker), Snodgrass (foul on Assou-Ekotto), Hoolahan (unsporting behaviour)

Spurs (4-4-2):- Lloris; Walker, Dawson (Capt.), Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (sub Sigurdsson, 87), Parker, Dembele, Bale; Dempsey (sub Holtby, 71), Defoe

Subs not used:- Friedel; Gallas, Naughton, Caulker; Livermore

Booked:- Holtby (foul on Hoolahan)

Lewis’s endeavour; Bale’s quality goal; deserved draw.

It was another tough game for Spurs who had struggled in the first half in the face of some uncompromising and high energy football from a Norwich team smarting badly from their FA Cup exit at the hands of non-league Luton. Spurs played well in the second half though, and when new signing Lewis Holtby replaced Dempsey with 20 minutes to go, Spurs suddenly had dynamism and touch in the midfield, where it had been absent. Holtby was involved in the move through the middle which led to Gareth Bale’s equaliser, but Bale must take the credit for a goal of sheer quality, as he raced down the right channel from deep, left Norwich players in his wake, cut deftly to his left before firing a simply exquisite shot across goalkeeper Mark Bunn, who could do nothing to prevent the ball hitting the net.

From then on, Spurs looked the only likely winners, and Bunn did well to keep at bay a low powerful shot by late substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Holtby is not a tall player, but he looks every inch a quality signing. Playing behind Defoe, and across the midfield, the German born man with an English name looked as if he had been playing with his new team-mates for ages, and not the two days since his signing (brought forward from the summer) had been announced. Holtby seemed to know where his team-mates were, and his pass rate was near 100%. Most of them were quick and clever touches too. Where Spurs had been frustrating and disappointing to watch for much of what had gone before, the trip became worthwhile just to see Holtby’s skill. The Bale goal was simply glorious icing on the cake.

Former Spur Sebastien Bassong was in the Norwich team, managed of course by Chris Hughton. The “Canaries” ruffled Spurs feathers with their approach, and sought to put the pressure on with a run of attacks, which had no end product. Once again though, the Spurs defence was looking none too steady, with Dawson and Lloris uncertain, and Walker sometimes unaware of what was going on behind his back.

Spurs won a corner after 8 minutes, taken by Walker from the right and headed over from the near post by Dawson. At the other end, Lloris failed to get a good enough punch on a free kick from the right, but the ball did end up in his hands. Norwich were closing down Spurs players in all areas, making it very difficult for them to play their desired passing game. Space was at a premium, but off the ball movement was not good enough either. Dempsey’s ability to hold a pass was lacking too.

Parker started a nice Spurs move after 17 minutes from the right wing, and the ball was moved forward swiftly and effectively by Defoe and Bale, before Dempsey was on the ball in the box, but Norwich cleared their lines. Holt had a chance at the other end, having got goalside of the defence, but fired over. I think Dawson had made a mis-judgement in positioning, and he couldn’t look at Vertonghen after that move for fear of admonishment by his team-mate.

Holt got a header on target from a cross from the right hand side, and Lloris stretched to save at the foot of his left post, conceding a corner. Three minutes after that, a Spurs attack broke down because of Dempsey’s failure to hold the ball. Once again, Assou-Ekotto had committed forward to join the attack, and Spurs were caught out when Norwich attacked down the right wing, with Snodgrass crossing deep from that side, beating the hands of Lloris and the heads of Vertonghen and Dawson. First Holt, then Pilkington were allowed touches in the box, before Hoolahan fired home from close range, checking for the linesman’s flag, before starting his celebrations.

Norwich left back Garrido got the first booking of the night from referee Neil Swarbrick, halting Bale’s run down the right at the half-way line. Once again, Bale was turning up everywhere, and once or twice I spotted him on the same wing as Aaron Lennon, but ultimately, his goal came from his licence to roam across the pitch. Norwich had a dangerous attack on the break after 36 minutes, and once again Lloris looked less certain than usual, hampered by the gusting wind, against Spurs in this half. It was a back-heeled clearance by Dembele that prevented a goal this time.

Defoe had a great chance after 41 minutes, after Lennon’s ball into the box, but Bunn saved with a fingertip save and Norwich managed to clear.

Holtby was seen warming up more actively than the other substitutes, and it looked as if he might join the fray immediately after the break. We had to wait though. He has taken Cudicini’s number 23 in the squad list.

It wasn’t a good start to the second half by Spurs, as a Vertonghen attempt to head clear fell short, and a shot came at the Spurs goal from the right. Spurs put an attack together through Bale and Defoe, and this move ended with a flicked shot by Bale, held by Bunn. Gradually, Spurs started to play with more authority, and Parker started another attack, with Bale heading into Dempsey’s path, and Defoe hitting a shot over the target.

Spurs put some pressure on the Norwich defence after a free kick, with a corner or two following, but they could find no end result. Then, on came Holtby, and his presence was like a breath of fresh air with his astute passing skills. Holtby can carry the ball too. He likes a run and has a shot. I am sure all Spurs fans will enjoy him. The Spurs equaliser came after a Holtby pass from his own half, through the middle to the feet of Defoe, who simply put the ball into Bale’s path around the half-way line. Bale was being tracked closely, but managed to evade the challenges and keep the ball at his feet, continuing his fine run, concluding with such a magnificent goal.

Spurs had the best chances thereafter. Dembele put the ball out to Assou-Ekotto on the left, and when he crossed, Defoe stuck a foot out, but the shot passed over Bunn’s bar. Sigurdsson replaced Lennon and had a great effort on goal from outside the box, having been found by Bale. Bunn saved low to his left to deprive Sigurdsson of what would have been another sensational Spurs goal. Sigurdsson then teed up Assou-Ekotto, who at this point was for some reason towards the Spurs right. Benoit his a powerful shot which looked on target, but was deflected out for a corner.

The point was less than we hoped for, but more than we perhaps expected at half-time. It keeps us ahead of Everton by that point, and four points above Arsenal, who drew at home to Liverpool. Spurs face a third tricky away fixture in 8 days, next Sunday at The Hawthorns, where we will once again hope for a win. I am sure we will see Holtby from the start in that game. I look forward to that!

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