Son scores late winner as Spurs overcome Norwich
Jose Mourinho says he 'did not have the attacking players available to change the game' as Tottenham grind out 2-1 victory
23 January, 2020 — By Dan Carrier at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
SPURS 2 (Alli 38, Son 79)
NORWICH 1 (Pukki 70 pen)
TOTTENHAM earned a vital three points this evening against lowly Norwich – but this was an ugly, ugly win.
Jose Mourinho’s stuttering team got themselves over the line through goals from Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son but any sense that the winter travails are about to melt in sunlit Spring uplands would be putting a spin on a performance even Mourinho the great post-match manipulator would find hard to say with a straight face.
This was a game where Tottenham showed up for brief periods – and if anything was clear, it is how shorn of confidence this side currently is.
Speaking after the game, Mourinho admitted his his charges were having to dig deep. “It is obvious this was a very important result, a very important three points. It was fantastic because it comes at a difficult moment for us,” he said afterwards.
With Harry Kane sidelined for the foreseeable future, and Spurs yet to find a striker to fit their budget during this transfer window, Mourinho pointed out he could only make the best use of the limited means at his disposal.
He added: “I did not have the attacking players available to change the game for us. The team is feeling the fatigue. Lucas Moura has played alot, and Erik Lamela is coming back from along term injury, so how do you change the game?”
The Tottenham boss praised his players efforts to drag themselves over the line. “We showed spirit and character – and that is what I need,” he explained.
“The team fought for this. They want to do well, and they know the situation is not easy and they know that each and every point is a point that helps you in the table and closes the gap.”
Yet despite the struggles the second half would bring, Spurs started well. There was intent and purpose across the pitch in the opening 25 minutes, with Giovani Lo Celso showing he is ready to take on the mantle of string puller when Christian Eriksen’s protracted farewell finally ends with the stadium door hitting his backside on the way out.
Their initial burst saw a Lamela shot parried by Tim Krul and Son hit the side netting when he should have done better.
Then, it was as if Norwich asked Spurs if that was all they had to offer, and they began to work some spaces themselves. It meant the opener, which came on 38, was barely deserved.
It came through a well-timed run by Dele Alli. He slipped into the box to connect with Serge Aurier’s inch perfect low ball.
A horrible tackle on Harry Winks early in the second period from Todd Cantwell made it even harder for Spurs to react to Norwich’s determination to earn something from the game. Cantwell had already received a yellow for a dangerously high and late challenge that left Lo Celso hurt in the first period, a challenge that on other days would see a red.
And when Winks hobbled off – and he looked really hurt, clutching the ankle that has given him trouble in the past – Spurs lost a performer who puts his foot on the ball.
It led to prolonged spell from the visitors as the Tottenham lapsed into a bout of ball watching and poor choices.
After 20 minutes of Canary pressure, right back Max Aarons was fouled by Ryan Sessegnon in the box as he went for the give-and-go, winning a penalty. The returning Hugo Lloris dived the right way and got close, but Teemu Pukki’s effort had just too much on it.
Norwich deserved as much for their second half efforts. And as they got their tails up, it looked like Spurs might face another confidence sapping defeat. Mourinho’s men did not look like they were going to trouble Krul’s goal.
But finally, after a second half of disjointed play, they strung together a move that saw Alli get goalside. His shot on the angle struck a defenders boot, spun over Krul – and Son popped up at the back post to force the ball home with his head from less than a yard out.
If you can’t play well, you have to win ugly – and in Mourinho fashion, Spurs did exactly that tonight.
SPURS: Lloris, Alderweireld, Vertonghen (Fernandes, 75), Son, Winks (Dier, 55), Lamela (Eriksen, 61), Lo Celso, Sessegnon, Alli, Aurier, Moura.
Substitutes not used: Gazzaniga, Sanchez, Ndombele. Tanganga.
NORWICH: Krul, Aarons, Byram, Hanley, Zimmerman, Rupp (Drmic, 85), Cantell, Pukki, McLean (Stiepermann, 90), Duda, Tetty (Hernandez, 81).
Substitutes not used: McGovern, Lewis, Trybull, Amadou.