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Tottenham Hotspur 1 - 1 Norwich City (2-3 on penalties): Tottenham give up an early lead to tumble out of the FA Cup

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The latest uninspired performance shows how much improvement is needed at Tottenham

Tottenham Hotspur v Norwich City - FA Cup Fifth Round Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Tottenham hosted Norwich in the fifth round of the FA Cup today. With the Champions League improbable and the Premier League out of reach, the FA Cup was Tottenham’s best remaining opportunity to win a trophy this season. Spurs started the match unusually, with a back four of Serge Aurier, Davinson Sanchez, Eric Dier, and Jan Vertonghen ahead of goalkeeper Michel Vorm. Dier recently made it known that he wishes to continue his career as a center-back, not a midfielder, so the manager appears to be fulfilling his wishes. Ahead of them, Harry Winks and Oliver Skipp occupied the central midfield, while Giovani Lo Celso, Lucas Moura, Steven Bergwijn, and Dele Alli split attacking duties. Norwich threat Teemu Pukki spent the match on the bench with the flu, a boon to Tottenham’s chances: Pukki has been a menace against Spurs in recent matches. Without Pukki, Norwich’s young defender Max Aarons was by far the most threatening of the Norwich lineup. As for Spurs youngsters, Troy Parrott made the bench, but Mourinho has recently suggested a need to integrate Parrott slowly until he develops more maturity. He eventually entered the match for extra time.

After three consecutive defeats to quality opposition (at home to RB Leipzig, away at Chelsea, and home to Wolverhampton) it was crucial that Tottenham shook recent form. Lacking both Heung-min Son and Harry Kane has led to a severe deficit in attacking production, and all four of Tottenham’s attackers today wanted to display an improvement in that regard. The first half began strong for Tottenham, with Jan Vertonghen an early hero as he got on the end of a Lo Celso free kick. Spurs’ attacking woes showed signs of improving as Dele, Bergwijn, Lucas, and Lo Celso all found space in the box and kept up strong pressure against Norwich. Holding space and attacking in the final third of the pitch has been a key missing component since Son’s absence began, so these were hopeful signs indeed. Dele played in a kind of false nine role, dropping deep to create space but also joining the attack as Aurier, Bergwijn, and Lucas drove forward up the sides. Lo Celso was by far Tottenham’s best player through the first thirty minutes, while also receiving a number of heavy challenges from Norwich.

Norwich bossed the second half, finally getting a much-deserved goal just before the 80th minute. Tottenham looked incapable of putting together a continued attack as Norwich slowly worked to unlock their defense, and all of the starters looked to quickly run out of energy. The half, all in all, was another frustrating performance in which the offense failed to get off many valuable shots while the defense looked certain to give up the fragile lead. All would be well if this was a top side, but Spurs must demand better from their players against Norwich. After Norwich scored, there looked to be a bit more urgency, but the team continues to look as though they can’t sustain a full effort for more than a half each game.

The extra time period passed without Norwich pulling together a convincing attack, but all of Tottenham’s efforts came to nothing as a penalty shootout loomed. At the full-time whistle, both teams looked exhausted as the managers selected their penalty takers.

It was an uninspired shootout for Tottenham, with only Eric Dier and Giovani Lo Celso converting as Lamela, Parrott, and Gedson all missed. That’s that on the FA Cup, and one hopes some twist of fate will intervene in what seems to be an unstoppable slide in form.

First Half

1’ — Jan Vertonghen looks a bit shaky with his first touches at left back. He’s played the position occasionally but will need to step up today.

1’ — Giovani Lo Celso has been playing a bit like Moussa Dembele in recent games, and starts by holding possession for Tottenham today. If he can achieve that level of performance it will be massive for Spurs.

5’ — Trybull brings down Lo Celso with vigor. If Surs were to lose any more attackers to injury, it could be truly catastrophic for the club. That won’t stop Norwich from harassing Spurs players, though.

7’ — Vertonghen tries a dribble but is too slow and must recover the ball and pass back to Michel Vorm. He hasn’t seen much of the ball, but nor has he impressed with it.

10’ — Lucas Moura and Bergwijn link up well in midfield to play Moura into space, who finds Lo Celso on the break. Tim Krul is up to the challenge, however, as he so often is against Tottenham. The first good moment of attacking play by Spurs.

11’ — Mario Vrancic receives a yellow card as he brings down Lo Celso hard from behind, but Bergwijn carries the advantage further up the field before winning a free kick himself. Norwich seem ready to rough up Tottenham’s players, who will no doubt be seeking to preserve themselves.

12’ — 1-0 Tottenham! Super Jan scores the free kick from Giovani Lo Celso! A great moment for the Spurs defender, and he can’t contain his joy as he celebrates—a far cry from his dejected frown earlier in the season. Good teamwork all around to earn the free kick, which was from the advantage after Lo Celso was fouled. Bergwijn and Lo Celso have looked Tottenham’s best players in recent week, and they’re showing it again today.

14’ — Aurier goes in hard and low with a sliding tackle on Cantwell. I seem to remember Cantwell being injured in the last Spurs - Norwich game, too. He’s up and moving, though: no lasting damage.

18’ — Another good attack from Tottenham, this time by way of Aurier, Lo Celso and Dele. It’s hard to pick out exactly what’s changed in the attack, but they seem to be getting into the box more, a key aspect of replacing Son and Kane’s striker play.

20’ — Time for a few observations on tactics: Aurier is a key part of the attack, spending most of his time swinging crosses in from an advanced winger position. Skipp is playing a conventional pivot role with Winks assisting but also pushing up to join the attack. Dele and Lo Celso are exchanging runs through the middle, trying to find ways to unlock Moura and Bergwijn slightly outside of them.

28’ — Tottenham continue to string together attacking moves. They’ll want to keep their guard up against a counterattack, though, and hopefully earn another goal for their efforts before long.

30’ — Norwich make their first real attempt as Spurs fail to clear their lines. The rebounds don’t fall kindly to anybody, though, and Tottenham escape unscathed.

33’ — Two nervy moments: Vorm does well to deny Buendia initially as he twists through Tottenham’s defense, but the rebound falls to Rupp, who fires from distance. Vorm spills the effort and it nearly rolls in: he must do better with that. Norwich are carving out an attack of their own, and Tottenham need to figure this out before they are punished.

34’ — Dier reaches across Rupp in the box to clear the ball, and VAR is reviewing the possibility of a penalty. It looked like a fair challenge, and the VAR confirms that there has not been a clear and obvious error.

36’ — Vrancic has another go. Tottenham have been on the back foot for the last five minutes, and Norwich are looking confident.

42’ — Moura is down after Cantwell knocked his nose as they went shoulder to shoulder. It’s bleeding,b ut doesn’t look a long-term problem.

44’ — Moura does very well to poach a slow pass to Mario Vrancic in the box, but his effort is pushed over the bar by Tim Krul. Tottenham seem to have lost a bit of the teamwork that was driving their attack earlier; in its place, players are trying to go alone.

Half Time

Only Vertonghen’s goal separates the two sides at half time. Tottenham started with a strong answer to concerns about their recent attacking efforts, but slowly lost steam as the half went on. Interplay between all attackers seems key to an effective offense, and that dwindled as players sought to take it upon themselves. Nevertheless, Bergwijn and Moura drove strong moves as Giovani Lo Celso was an absolute menace throughout the half. The defense will need to be shored up at halftime, but signs of hope are certainly there for the team.

Second Half

49’ — Norwich kick off the second half with a strong effort. Josip Drmic receives the ball from Vrancic in the Tottenham penalty area, but can’t get his shot off before it’s deflected over for a corner kick. It looks as though Tottenham haven’t found much defensive stability through Mourinho’s half-time talk, but there’s plenty of time left to make a change.

52’ — Buendia nearly feeds Cantwell through on goal, but Vorm is off his line fast to smother the pass. It’s been all Norwich since the half, and Tottenham look in need of a jump-start. It will come by way of Gedson Fernandes replacing Steven Bergwijn. Bergwijn has looked alright today, but he’s played a lot recently and the substitution seems reasonable. Fernandes will want to make an immediate impact.

54’ — The commentators say that Bergwijn has walked down the tunnel, presumably to receive treatment for a knock.

55’ — Gedson makes the introduction he’d want with a powerful turn on the edge of Norwich’s box to get off Spurs’ first shot on target of the half. It has little pace, and Krul stops it comfortably, but a moment of encouragement for the team in white .

55’ — No sooner has Gedson got the shot off than Krul fires the ball back down field, and Rupp immediately has a go at Vorm, which is kept out. Norwich have taken almost twice as many shots as Tottenham this game, indicating that still Spurs are suffering for shot production.

56’ — Cantwell was pushing in toward Tottenham’s box and Skipp concedes a free kick in a dangerous position after bringing him down from behind. Vrancic takes the kick but it’s over the Tottenham net.

60’ — Dele wins a free kick after Lo Celso pressures Vrancic and the ball spills free. Tottenham take quickly, but are being pushed away from the Norwich penalty area at every attack. Somebody needs a moment of creativity to find a way through.

66’ — Norwich makes their first substitution of the match, with Mario Vrancic making way for Kenny McLean. Erik Lamela is in the wings, suiting up for Tottenham. He’d likely replace Moura, but Dele could also make way.

68’ — Happy 28th birthday to Erik Lamela, who comes onto the pitch for Lucas Moura. He’s been something of a super sub for Spurs at times, and he’ll hope to do the same today.

71’ — Dele gives the ball away cheaply as he fails to set his body to receive the ball and is easily muscled off of it.

71’ — Norwich substition: Adam Idah is on for Lukas Rupp.

75’ — Drmic is found by an effective cutback and volleys just wide. Norwich have looked more likely to score, and are continuing to create high-risk shots against Vorm. A second goal for Spurs can’t come soon enough as the defense looks shaky. Honestly, trying to skate by on a one-goal lead against a bottom-half side seems beneath a team that wants to be among the best in England, but on recent form, we’d take it.

76’ — 1-1 Norwich. Vorm absolutely fumbles a strong shot by McLean from distance, the second time he’s failed to smother a long shot tonight. This time, Sanchez leaves Drmic free to push the spilled ball across the line. It’s been coming for a while, and Tottenham are, once again, at odds and ends.

80’ — Harry Winks makes way for Tanguy Ndombele. So we won’t see Troy Parrott tonight, but Ndombele represents a more effective attacking option than Winks, so this might unlock new routes for Spurs to get some much-needed shots off.

83 — Jan Vertonghen has put up an incredible fight after sprinting half the pitch to earn a free kick on the end of a long ball from Gedson Fernandes. Lovely spirit tonight from the Tottenham senior statesman.

85’ — Aurier was in with space and an open net, and at last ditch his effort was cleared off the line by a Norwich defender. Tottenham’s far best opportunity so far this half, and they seem hungry for a goal.

88’ — Dele Alli goes for a header over the top and Tim Krul punches the ball away. It looked promising as a penalty challenge, but on second viewing the tackle seems a fair one. Tottenham are running much harder now than they were before Norwich scored. It seems the offense were hoping to skate by with one goal and are now fighting to make up for their lethargy.

90’+1 — Tottenham keep up the pressure and eventually the ball goes behind for a Spurs corner. Dier heads across the goal, but nobody is there to finish the flick. Spurs are really going for it.

90’+3 — Eric Dier can’t get up to a perfect cross from Aurier, and the game will go to extra time.

Extra Time

93’ — Aurier takes Tottenham’s first chance of extra time, firing directly at Tim Krul after carrying the ball in from the wing. More importantly, Troy Parrott is getting suited up, and Dele, who’s been somewhat lackluster today, seems like the likely one to make way.

95’ — Erik Lamela goes it alone from halfway and is wrapped up by a number of Norwich defenders. Spurs lack any sort of coherence across the pitch, instead relying on individual efforts to get the job done.

96’ — Troy Parrott is on for Dele Alli. The two appear to share a quick word of encouragement as he enters the pitch. Hopefully the ambition of youth will accomplish what Dele’s experience could not. For Norwich, meanwhile, Emiliano Buendia has been replaced by Marco Stiepermann after coming up with a cramp during the extra time.

104’ — Both sides look pretty exhausted at the moment, and are halfheartedly running at each other. Discipline will become increasingly importance as we tick toward the full-time whistle.

HALF TIME (Extra Time)

108’ — Lamela and Gedson are providing a good amount of energy for the Spurs attack. In this case, Lamela fights to get free and shoots low at Krul’s near post, but Krul parries it. Aurier volleys the rebound far over. Unless something exceptional happens, this looks destined for penalties. On the other hand, Norwich have given up all hope of an attack. Perhaps Spurs could save themselves the risk of losing in penalties by mustering one coordinated effort now.

112’ — Lamela works hard and wins a Tottenham free kick off of Jamal Lewis near the right-side corner flag. He curls the corner directly into Tim Krul’s gloves. Still no real threat from Spurs, but hardly any running at all from their counterparts.

116’ — Lamela is running the game right now: he drives into the Norwich penalty area again but is rebuffed. He seems like a man on a mission.

117’ — Incredible movement from Lo Celso to open up the pitch, then cut it back for Gedson Fernandes. Gedson has looked good today, but fires well over the crossbar with Spurs’ best chance of the extra period.

FULL TIME: It will go to penalties. Tottenham really should have done better. Norwich looked vulnerable, yet Spurs could barely coordinate an attack after the first half. Now it’s more or less a roll of the dice. Mourinho is giving a spirited talk to the group, but without Son, Kane, and the recently-sold Eriksen, it’s difficult to imagine who might take them for the team.

Penalties:

Eric Dier (Tottenham): SCORED! Dier took a massive penalty for England in the World Cup, and he kept the same composure here, shooting low to Krul’s right. Krul went the right way, but couldn’t get down in time.

Kenny McLean (Norwich): SAVED BY MICHEL VORM! The shootout is off to a dream start as Vorm guesses right and gets to his left quickly, pushing McLean’s effort wide.

Erik Lamela (Tottenham): Miss. Lamela hits the bar on his birthday as he lets his body get under the ball.

Adam Idah (Norwich): Scored. It’s all level as Idah aims powerfully at the top right corner and Vorm goes the wrong way.

Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham): SCORED! Lo Celso takes a stuttering run up and fires past the wrong-footed Krul even as he slips in his run-up..

Marco Stiepermann (Norwich): Scored. All is level after three penalties each. Stiepermann shoots low to Vorm’s left and the Spurs keeper can’t get down fast enough.

Troy Parrott (Tottenham): Saved. The youngster did well to keep the penalty on target, but telegraphed the penalty to Tim Krul, who pushed it wide, and Norwich are in control of the shootout now.

Eric Cantwell (Norwich): Scored. Cantwell shoots under the crossbar to put all the pressure on Gedson Fernandes.

Gedson Fernandes (Tottenham): Miss. It’s all over for Spurs.

Takeaways:

  • These days, it’s tiring being a Spurs fan. This long, uninspired performance hasn’t helped.
  • Lo Celso was far and away Tottenham’s best player
  • Vertonghen showed great spirit and was involved in a number of good moves
  • The central midfield was ineffective: Oliver Skipp doesn’t seem like he fits well in the system, and Harry Winks played an average game
  • Tottenham can’t sustain a top-tier performance for more than a half. This seems like a huge problem. They started well, and rapidly lost all coherence in attack and defense. Something must change.
  • A shootout is more or less a dice roll. The bigger problem was failing to score more than one goal in 120 minutes against the worst side in the Premier League.