Norwich City gained three valuable points and put a dent in Tottenham Hotspur's top-four challenge with a 1-0 victory over Spurs at Carrow Road on Sunday in the Premier League.
After a first half of few chances, Robert Snodgrass scored the game's only goal in the 47th minute with a curled finish. Tottenham had multiple opportunities to equalise, but Norwich had perhaps the best chance for a second goal when Bradley Johnson hit the crossbar in the closing minutes.
Norwich 1-0 Tottenham FT: Shots(OT) 13(3) - 9(2), Possession 40% - 60%, Tackles 27 - 20 http://t.co/9oKwZlQKHD— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 23, 2014
It was Norwich's first win in the league since Jan. 18, at home to Hull. The Canaries had not beaten Spurs at home in the league since April 1991, per SoccerBase.com.
The result eased pressure on Norwich manager Chris Hughton, following comments last week from club chairman David McNally. In an interview with the Eastern Daily Press (h/t The Guardian), McNally hinted that Norwich could replace Hughton if the team's results did not improve, saying, "it would be almost delinquent of the football club to not be aware of potential candidates if for any reason your manager left."
For Tottenham, it was a missed opportunity to keep pace with Liverpool in the race for a top-four finish. Spurs, currently in fifth place, are now six points off the pace for the Premier League's final UEFA Champions League place.
Norwich moved up to 14th on 28 points, but the Canaries remain just four points above the relegation places.
5 - Norwich have now won five PL games by one goal to nil this season; the joint-most along with Tottenham and Crystal Palace. Narrow.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 23, 2014
As the season continues building to its climax, Tottenham have a challenging fixture list ahead, both in England and abroad. Next up is the return leg of their UEFA Europa League Round of 32 tie against Dnipro on Thursday, when Spurs will hope to turn around a 1-0 deficit from the first leg.
Tim Sherwood's side then return to the league and their top-four challenge next Sunday with a home game against Cardiff. Then come the true tests, first at leaders Chelsea on March 8 and then at home to rivals Arsenal eight days later.
According to Sherwood, Spurs have a strong enough squad to compete on both fronts.
“The priority of the club is to win both a place in the Champions League and a trophy at the end of the Europa League," Sherwood said last week, per the Daily Telegraph. "I think we have a squad that is big enough to do that."
Norwich, despite Sunday's positive result, remain squarely in the relegation fight, and the Canaries' upcoming fixture list is full of teams in the bottom half of the table. Up next for Norwich is a trip to Aston Villa next Sunday, followed by a home match against Stoke City six days later.
Hughton made one change to the side that lost at West Ham last time out, drafting in striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel in place of Gary Hooper. Sherwood made two changes for Spurs, with Michael Dawson and Danny Rose replacing Kyle Walker and Younes Kaboul.
Norwich created the first moment of danger in the third minute. Snodgrass' corner from the left bounced invitingly in Tottenham's box, but van Wolfswinkel was unable to apply the final touch—first with his head, and then with his foot—before Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris collected.
Injury forced off Tottenham midfielder Etienne Capoue in the 13th minute. Nacer Chadli entered the match in his place.
Paulinho sent Spurs' first shot of the day off target in the 23rd minute. Norwich's Snodgrass had an attempt blocked four minutes later after cutting inside from the right.
The hosts had another half-chance in the 33rd minute, when Rose's misplaced defensive header sent Snodgrass' cross toward the back post. Sebastien Bassong attempted a volley but was unable to connect.
The teams went into half-time scoreless, but within moments of the restart, Norwich were ahead.
Van Wolfswinkel won possession on the right flank and started a swift attack in the 47th minute. Johnson took possession in the middle and freed Snodgrass with a fine, angled pass back to the right. Snodgrass curled his finish in at the far post to give Norwich a 1-0 advantage.
Spurs nearly had a lifeline in the 61st minute after a mistake by Bassong gifted possession to Emmanuel Adebayor behind Norwich's defence. Adebayor was unable to keep the ball under control, though, and goalkeeper John Ruddy raced off his line to clear the danger.
Adebayor had another opportunity in the 64th minute, trading passes with Paulinho along the edge of Norwich's box. But Adebayor's touch on the return pass was too heavy, and Ruddy again raced off his line to avert the danger.
Sherwood responded by introducing striker Roberto Soldado for Paulinho in the 65th minute, and Soldado nearly scored with his first touch. A flowing move in the 66th minute saw Adebayor lay off for Soldado on the right side of Norwich's box, but Soldado blasted his shot high and wide.
Soldado had another chance one moment later, but he headed wide from Aaron Lennon's cross.
Spurs' attacks were growing in danger, but the next chance was Norwich's as Snodgrass curled a free kick narrowly wide in the 80th minute. At the other end a minute later, Moussa Dembele's angled pass set up Chadli for a shot at the near post, but Ruddy saved with his legs.
Norwich came within inches of a second goal in the 84th minute, when the woodwork kept out Johnson's rocketed free-kick. The ball bounced off the underside of the bar, but as replays confirmed, it did not cross the goal line.
Suddenly Spurs were reeling, and in the 87th minute, Hooper, who replaced van Wolfswinkel in the 72nd minute, raced free down the right and pulled back for Alexander Tettey. The latter only needed to take a touch to score, but he missed with an attempted back-heel.
In the end, Tottenham managed just two shots on target and failed to score in a league match for the first time in Sherwood's tenure.
.@SpursOfficial boss Tim Sherwood: "We were poor in the first half. It's bitterly disappointing to drop points in the race for fourth place"— Premier League (@premierleague) February 23, 2014
|Nacer Chadli (for Capoue, 14')||6.7|
|Roberto Soldado (for Paulinho, 65')||6.0|
|Andros Townsend (for Rose, 82')||6.1|
|Ricky van Wolfswinkel||6.0|
|Gary Hooper (for van Wolfswinkel, 72')||6.2|
|Wes Hoolahan (for Redmond, 86')||6.3|
Norwich play at Aston Villa next Sunday.
Tottenham host Dnipro in the second leg of their Europa League Round of 32 tie on Thursday. Spurs return to the Premier League next Sunday with a home match against Cardiff City.