Norwich City 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur: Player Ratings
Gareth Bale scored a superb individual goal to rescue Spurs and stretch their unbeaten league run to eight games.
As Spurs dominated their hosts but struggled to create chances, Bale sprinted from his own half and curled the ball past Mark Bunn with just 10 minutes left at Carrow Road.
André Villas-Boas’ side only really threatened after the introduction of Lewis Holtby, who made his debut after his recent switch from Schalke. His impact emphasised Spurs’ lack of quality up front, and Villas-Boas will surely be pressing home to his chairman Daniel Levy the need to invest in a striker before the transfer window shuts.
The Spurs manager made five changes from last weekend’s FA Cup fourth-round defeat at Leeds United.
Hugo Lloris was back in goal in place of Brad Friedel. Kyle Walker replaced Kyle Naughton at right-back while Michael Dawson, Mousa Dembélé and Jermain Defoe replaced Steven Caulker, Tom Huddlestone and Gylfi Sigurdsson, all of whom were poor at Elland Road.
They were also boosted by the presence of Holtby on the bench.
Despite that Cup disappointment, Spurs went to Carrow Road on the back of some good Premier League form. They were buoyed by a much-deserved equaliser against Manchester United, which maintained an unbeaten record going back to the late collapse against Everton in early December.
Norwich, meanwhile, were on a run of no wins from six games that included five defeats.
In blustery conditions, the start of the game was messy with neither side able to establish an early pattern.
The home side looked more threatening, pressing Spurs and hitting Grant Holt with direct balls.
That tactic paid off when Wes Hoolahan finished from close range after Anthony Pilkington teed him up.
Spurs had little control in midfield and only started to put Norwich under pressure as the second half went on.
But just when it looked as if they were not going to get the equaliser, Bale surged forward in typical style to finish brilliantly into the far corner.
Spurs kept up the pressure in the last 10 minutes but lacked the class to get the winner. It is the second time they have drawn 1-1 with Norwich this season.
They have a lot of work to do—and surely must add attacking options—if they are to stay in the hunt for fourth.
Read on to see how we rated the players.
Hugo Lloris: 6
Lloris made a complete mess of an early punch but was fortunate to see the ball go wide.
He redeemed himself slightly when he saved from Grant Holt, but he inexplicably put the ball out when he could have picked it up.
He couldn’t be faulted for the goal and had nothing to do in the second half.
Kyle Walker: 6
The first time he attacked, he ran across the pitch and won a throw-in on the left. It summed up the lack of coherence and direction in Spurs’ first-half struggles.
He was the victim of a retaliatory tackle from Grant Holt as he tried to give Spurs some punch going forward.
His work ethic remained high as he pressed forward in the second half and covered well.
His set-piece delivery, though, was very poor.
Michael Dawson: 6
Dawson was seriously missed at the weekend as the Spurs defence crumbled when straightforward balls were lumped forward by the home side. Steven Caulker, in particular, was culpable on a number of occasions.
It was a horrible evening for him at Carrow Road as Norwich repeatedly opened up the away defence in the opening 45 minutes.
A moment in the second half illustrated his side’s lack of imagination going forward: Receiving a short throw from Lloris, he fired an aimless, wayward ball up field, and possession was lost again.
He was under little pressure after the break as Spurs dominated.
Jan Vertonghen: 6
Norwich applied the same tactics as Leeds, and the centre-back pairing were under plenty of early pressure from long balls launched into the box. He made one important interception, but Spurs were lucky to go in at the break just one goal down.
Norwich then claimed a penalty when the ball hit his arm, but it would have been harsh to penalise him.
He has not been the threat at set-pieces that Spurs fans expected, but that has a lot to do with poor crosses.
Holt was less of a nuisance in the second period as Norwich sank ever deeper.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto: 5
He was shaky at times against Leeds United, which was to be expected given how long he had been out.
However, he was awful for Norwich’s opening goal, and his positioning in general was erratic. That was a microcosm of Spurs’ problems at the back early on.
He pushed much further forward after half-time, but when he did get a chance to cross as Spurs attempted to get back into it, he hammered the ball straight at Mark Bunn.
He provided much more of an outlet on the left as the game went on, but it looks like he will need a few games to recover his sharpness.
Aaron Lennon: 4
Like most of his midfield colleagues, he was anonymous in the opening 45 minutes.
Spurs have seriously struggled when teams drop two players in front of Lennon and Gareth Bale.
Worryingly for Spurs fans, there seems to be no plan B when that happens, and their approach play is completely stilted.
It was only when Holtby came on that Lennon sparked to life. He chipped one ball to the back post but was sluggish getting back onside on another occasion.
This was his second poor game in a row following an uninspiring return to his previous club.
Scott Parker: 4
For all his admirable qualities, he’s not the most positive on the ball. A couple of times early on his instincts were to pass backward rather than turn and look forward.
It got worse as the first half went on and Norwich dominated.
He was dispossessed a couple of times in dangerous positions as Spurs pinned Norwich back.
In games like this, Spurs need a deep-lying playmaker to build moves intelligently, but Parker is not the man to do it.
Mousa Dembélé: 5
He retains the frustrating habit of giving away the ball easily when he attempts to dribble. It was the same here as he and Parker struggled to compose themselves against a pressing home side.
He scored his only league goal thus far against Norwich in September but never looked likely to do the same here.
He wasn’t helped by a clueless attack as Spurs struggled to put any constructive play together.
Sometimes he thinks he has to take too much on himself, and this was one of those occasions. A really frustrating evening for him.
Gareth Bale: 8
Bale was Spurs’ biggest—and sometimes only— threat against Neil Warnock’s Leeds, and he attempted to kick-start his side with a couple of surging runs in the first half.
From one of them, he was crudely fouled and suffered a dead leg but was able to carry on after some treatment.
He then shot straight at Mark Bunn as Spurs pressed for the first time in the game early in the second half.
Turning up more centrally, he tried to instigate some positive moves, but his teammates couldn’t find the necessary space.
Then, when it seemed his side were out of ideas, he sprinted clear from his own half and curled the ball around Bunn for an outstanding individual goal.
Jermain Defoe: 4
Defoe has been troubled by injury and missed out on the defeat at Elland Road on Sunday.
He was able to take his place in the side here, but he has gone completely off form recently.
And when Spurs’ first real chance presented itself, he shot way too close to Bunn.
When he finally got a run at Norwich’s back four, he lashed a wild shot over the crossbar with his left foot.
After Bale had hauled Spurs back into it, Defoe had a half-chance from an Assou-Ekotto cross but scooped over.
He then failed to spot the same player making an overlapping run as Spurs tried to find a winner.
A poor, poor night for the England man. Whether injury is to blame, we’ll have to wait and see.
Clint Dempsey: 4
The American has been far more effective up front than Emmanuel Adebayor, whose departure to the Africa Cup of Nations was seen by very few as a blow to Spurs.
Before facing the Canaries, Dempsey had scored eight goals for Spurs, including five in the league. He has also contributed significantly more in Spurs’ general play than Adebayor, who carried his lethargy into the tournament in South Africa.
He was out of the game in the first half, though, and his only contribution was a foul on Sebastian Bassong.
He was continually shrugged off the ball as Spurs attempted to find some rhythm after the break. He could have been taken off sooner.
He had one of a number of anonymous performances.
Lewis Holtby (for Dempsey, 71 mins): 7
He made an immediate impact when he set Lennon away down the right. That contribution emphasised the quality Spurs lacked everywhere else on the pitch.
Five minutes later he received his first booking in English football.
He showed a couple of neat, clever flicks and looks like he will become, if he is not already, a class act. Spurs really need to sign another striker to complement his intelligent movement and touch.
Gylfi Sigurdsson (for Lennon, 87 mins): Not on long enough to be rated
He almost scored with his second touch, but Bunn got a fingertip to his shot from outside the box.
Follow John Kelly on Twitter @JKelly1882