Norwich City 1 Tottenham 0
Will Chris Hughton and Tim Sherwood still be in their current jobs come next season?
Norwich chief executive David McNally seems to have been itching to sack the former for months, while if the latter can’t get Tottenham into the Champions League then Daniel Levy will soon get someone who can.
But, really, who can tell with these two unpredicatbles? This was not the first time that Hughton had seen his players come up with the goods right when he appeared doomed and Carrow Road celebrated the final whistle like a cup final victory. At that moment, McNally appeared to be wiping away a tear, though a family bereavement was surely the underlying reason for that show of emotion.
One thing is for sure, though: Houdini Hughton has escaped again with his players having conjured up their best performance so far of a troublesome season to move Norwich three points off 10th place and leave Spurs stalled on a weekend when the four clubs above them all won.
“It feels like a big win,” said Hughton, the former Republic of Ireland defender and assistant manager.
“As a manager you have to go with the ups and downs and you have to get on with your job but ultimately you are always going to be judged on results.”
The first half was a real struggle and neither goalkeeper was required to make a save and itwas noticeable how far Tottenham’s lone striker Emmanuel Adebayor was roaming in search of a decent ball.
Incredibly it took just 84 seconds of the second period for the picture to change completely as Robert Snodgrass, having been played inside the trailing Danny Rose by Bradley Johnson, arrowed a low left-footer past Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris and into the far corner. Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Norwich’s non-scoring striker, had been instrumental in the build-up by robbing Nabil Bentaleb on the halfway line.
A reaction was required by the visitors, not all of whom had jet-lag from Thursday’s Europa League assignment in Dnipro in Ukraine as an excuse. Rose tried to make amends with a foray into Norwich territory but found touch rather than Adebayor.
Suddenly, however, the Spurs striker did have the opportunity he craved, having stolen the ball off Sebastien Bassong to go clear. But his control betrayed him and Norwich keeper John Ruddy came out to make a brave save at his feet.
Norwich were undeterred and Snodgrass stung Lloris’ palms with a fierce effort but it wasn’t long before Ruddy again had to launch himself at Adebayor’s boots. Again he came away with the ball.
Sherwood made a second change with 25 minutes remaining, with Roberto Soldado replacing the listless Paulinho. Immediately Adebayor set up the Spaniard — guilty of an open goal miss on Thursday — only for the ball to end up in the side-netting.
This was Spurs’ strongest spell but the luckless Soldado nodded an Aaron Lennon cross just wide, as did Adebayor soon afterwards.
Jan Vertonghen was booked for hacking down substitute Gary Hooper and Snodgrass curled the free-kick just wide. The next chance was Tottenham’s, however, but Nacer Chadli, an early replacement for the injured Etienne Capoue, could not beat the magnificent Ruddy.
Snodgrass wasted a great chance to finish the contest by ballooning over before Johnson smashed a 25-yard free-kick off the bar and Redmond was denied by Lloris.
Then Hooper squared past Lloris but beyond any colleague. It didn’t matter; Tottenham threw men forward in desperation but Norwich held out to bank three precious points.
It also left Tottenham stuck in fifth, six point behind Liverpool and five ahead of Manchester United.
More Europa League football, or no passports required at all, seem much more likely outcomes than a top-four finish therefore.
“If you don’t take your chances — which we clearly had — then you ain’t going to win football matches,” said Sherwood, a former Carrow Road favourite as a player.
“It’s the first major setback I’ve had and we will have to show what we are made of.”
NORWICH (4-2-3-1): Ruddy 9; Martin 7, Yobo 7, Bassong 7, Olsson 7; Tettey 6, Johnson 7; Snodgrass 8, Fer 7, Redmond 7 (Hoolahan 86); van Wolfswinkel 7 (Hooper 72).
SPURS (4-1-4-1): Lloris 7; Naughton 7, Dawson 7, Vertonghen 7, Rose 6 (Townsend 82); Capoue 5 (Chadli 14, 6); Dembele 6, Bentaleb 5, Paulinho 6 (Soldado 65, 5), Lennon 7; Adebayor 6.
Referee: Craig Pawson.
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