Son pops up late to seal vital three points for Spurs

Delle Ali’s first half opener was first goal from open play since St Stephen’s Day

Heung-Min Son of Tottenham Hotspur scores his side’s second goal during the Premier League win over Norwich City. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Heung-Min Son of Tottenham Hotspur scores his side’s second goal during the Premier League win over Norwich City. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

 

Tottenham Hotspur 2 Norwich City 1

The best anyone can say for this Tottenham performance is that it was ultimately a winning one and had the effect of putting an unhappy run to bed. They had not scored a league goal in open play since Dele Alli’s decider against Brighton on St Stephen’s Day but the same player tapped in seven minutes before the interval here and then, with the game delicately poised, Son Heung-min rescued them at a time when the stadium was growling with discontent. Teemu Pukki’s equaliser from the spot had been the least Norwich merited against opponents who looked haphazard and, for the most part, worryingly devoid of ideas.

In the longer term Spurs may well be able to call on the Real Sociedad centre-forward Willian José for extra cutting edge. The 28-year-old was left out of his club’s squad to face Espanyol amid suggestions he is close to a move that would, in theory at least, end Tottenham’s quest for a Harry Kane analogue.

It was a left-field development but another José was, in the meantime, springing his own surprises. Mourinho had suggested Hugo Lloris would not return from his three-month absence, necessitated by a dislocated elbow, until February so eyebrows were raised at the sight of him starting behind a defence in which Ryan Sessegnon also began at left-back. Mourinho had also hinted at a start for Christian Eriksen but the playmaker’s long goodbye would, it turned out, drag on from the bench.

Spurs set about trying to ensure an outcome less ambiguous than their manager’s remarks. They attacked from the start with speed, if not a huge degree of control, and Érik Lamela was not far off with a free-kick sidefooted under a jumping wall. He came closer in the 10th minute with a bouncing volley from Serge Aurier’s deep cross, forcing Tim Krul to punch clear.

Yet it was Norwich who should have gone ahead. They were missing their creative force, Emi Buendía, owing to a quad injury but the bottom-placed side’s thirst for adventure is incorrigible. Tottenham’s defence is, all too often, statuesque and those two states combined when Teemu Pukki anticipated Todd Cantwell’s return pass and found himself clear. Pukki tends to gobble these chances up for fun but Lloris was not forced into any early heroics, diving to his left but seeing the shot curl a yard wide.

It was a let-off and, for some time, Norwich reversed the flow. Cantwell and Pukki both worried Lloris with 20-yard efforts and Mourinho’s concern could be seen in the ferocity with which he contested a marginal throw-in call on halfway. Son shot wide when Krul should have been worked, but Alli’s goal arrived at a time when Spurs looked short of ideas.

Norwich appeared to have cleared the danger after Aurier had sliced down the right flank, but Cantwell was caught in possession and Spurs could go again. This time Son slipped Aurier into a crossing position and his pinpoint low ball was perfectly set up for Alli to end the drought.

Cantwell is one of those footballers who, for better or worse, tends to court the attention. In the second period’s first significant action he slid in to win possession but followed through on Lamela, watching anxiously for two minutes as VAR deemed the offence unworthy of a red card. Lamela continued but Harry Winks was not as fortunate when, at the end of a fine Norwich move, Cantwell sidefooted a Sam Byram cross towards goal. Winks blocked and then appeared to be caught by Cantwell as the pair collided. There was no foul this time, nor any malicious intent, but Winks eventually hobbled off to be replaced by Eric Dier.

Norwich had emerged as if reminded by Daniel Farke that this Tottenham side is, essentially, there to be exposed. The tension around the stands was palpable and did not exactly ease with the introduction of Eriksen, whose arrival drew muted boos. Any idea that he would knit an increasingly ragged performance into shape was soon dashed when Sessegnon clipped a marauding Max Aarons inside the box. VAR again went in Norwich’s favour after another lengthy wait; Pukki squeezed the penalty past Lloris and they had exactly what they deserved.

So did Spurs. Eriksen was booed again when an attempted pass sailed beyond Sessegnon and then the discontent was aimed more widely after Cantwell lashed over again. The atmosphere could hardly have been more glum but, almost instantly, Alli’s cross-shot deflected off Christoph Zimmermann and looped towards the far post. Son could not miss from on the goalline and, while Lukas Rupp fizzed a late shot wide, peace broke out from the point of mutiny. – Guardian

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