Spurs 2-1 Norwich City: Home side limp to a vital victory, Dele Alli at the heart of both goals
Alli opens the scoring, connecting with an Aurier cross (Photo: Getty Images)

 

Tottenham Hotspur reignited their hopes of Champions League qualification as a nervy victory against struggling Norwich propelled them back into the top six, moving within that very number of points behind Chelsea in fourth.

Norwich remain six points adrift of safety, a gap that could have been eight had West Ham defeated Leicester, but now with only 14 games remaining to turn the tide.

Rupp makes debut as Lloris returns

Both sides made two changes to their starting line-ups with Spurs welcoming back Hugo Lloris, originally feared to be out for the season, after recovering from a dislocated shoulder he sustained in October.

Jose Mourinho opted for Ryan Sessegnon at left-back with Danny Rose not even part of the 18 - fuelling further speculation about his reported bust-up with the manager and that he could be on his way from North London this month. 

Sessegnon went toe-to-toe with Max Aarons, two of the hottest young English prospects at Championship level that haven't quite progressed, yet, during their time in the top-flight. Aarons was bolstered by debutant Lukas Rupp making his first start in yellow down the right, replacing the influential Emi Buendia who was out through injury.

Grant Hanley also came in for the suspended Ben Godfrey after replacing another new face at Norwich, Ondrej Duda, when the Slovakian impressed against Bournemouth on Saturday.

Norwich thwart bright Spurs start

Hunting their first Premier League goal from open play since Boxing Day, Spurs started with a real tempo to their game, Eric Lamela pulling the strings in midfield. With Norwich struggling to string any passes together, the hosts had the first chance of note on ten minutes when Serge Aurier picked out the sliding Lamela who saw his effort palmed away by Tim Krul.

If Norwich are to stay in the Premier League, they will need top goalscorer Teemu Pukki to keep finding the net and he went close to his 11th of the campaign on 16 minutes. The energetic Finn had the arduous task of chasing down every ball on a solo mission but a rare spell of Norwich possession resulted in Todd Cantwell finding the striker who curled an effort just inches past Lloris' post.

Spurs had spent hefty periods of the opening quarter attacking down the left but a bright start transitioned into a flat spell before Son Heung-Min cannoned over from range.

As the home side were left frustrated with just one shot on target in the opening 30 minutes, Norwich continued to carry an occasional threat at the other end with their destructive partnership at the start of the campaign. After Spurs failed to clear their lines from a corner, Pukki recycled to Cantwell who struck across the ball, flying just over the crossbar with Lloris scrambling.

Alli opens the scoring

Whilst Lucas Moura looked lost in attack, Giovani Lo Celso saw more of the ball in the opening 30 minutes than any other player on the pitch, completing all 18 of his passes. Yet the pair combined with the Argentine threading a ball to Son at an angle but his effort was slashed wide.

But it was one of the sharpest Norwich players of the first half who made an error for the opening goal, despite his side defending so resolutely. With Aurier losing possession, Cantwell had the opportunity to clear but was robbed by the right-back who crossed for Dele Alli to prod home Spurs' first league goal from open play of 2020.

Whilst Norwich looked shaky trying to play the ball out from the back, Spurs ended the half full of confidence, pulling out the flicks and tricks, particularly through Lamela and Alli who were inches away from playing teammates through on goal.

But there was still a dwindling threat from the Canaries as a neat interchange between Aarons and Pukki resulted in Rupp poking wide on debut just before the break.

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Cantwell at the centre as Norwich push for equaliser

After his error for the opener minutes before half-time, Cantwell flirted with causing his side more problems just minutes into the second half, leaving his foot in a challenge on Lamela that was reviewed by VAR. Yellow card only.

Norwich are used to being involved in VAR decisions this season and Cantwell was at the centre again down the other end as his strike hit the elbow of Toby Alderweireld. No penalty. But moments later Sam Byram found Cantwell whose shot was charged down by Harry Winks, the midfielder injuring himself in the process, before the rebound fired off Pukki and wide.

With Norwich feeding their way into the game, Jan Vertonghen slipping to almost let Pukki through again, Mourinho turned to Christian Eriksen despite strong speculation linking him with an £11 million move to Inter Milan.

But Norwich were eventually rewarded midway through the half as Aarons was caught by Sessegnon. Pukki stepped up to squeeze his penalty past Lloris for a second spot-kick success in as many games.

Son responds

A clearly agitated Mourinho opted to hand Gedson Fernandes a home debut in response to the equaliser as a leggy Vertonghen slipped off to the bench.

But it was Alli, during a week of continuous injuries to England internationals, who provided another telling moment for the hosts. Despite seeing plenty of the ball but only completing two-thirds of his passes, the midfielder saw his deflected effort loop into the air off Christoph Zimmermann before being nodded home by Son virtually on the goal line.

Yet Norwich were not willing to give in without a fight and Rupp went close to a debut goal again, his ripped effort deflecting just wide from a Pukki lay-off.

As Rupp was replaced by Josip Drmic, Norwich appeared to run out of steam despite the boost of six minutes additional time. Eriksen went closest to a fourth goal in the game as his deflected effort spiralled wide and Spurs ultimately held on for a shaky but vital three points.

Key Takeaway - Aurier rejuvenated under Mourinho

Before his new manager arrived at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Serge Aurier was somewhat a liability at right-back, seemingly capable of a red card or defensive error every time he took to the pitch.

But, in a defence that has looked shaky this season, Aurier has been the pick of the bunch under Jose Mourinho, underpinned by another professional display here.

A willing runner, Aurier created more key passes than the rest of his teammates combined in the opening 45 minutes and was rewarded with an excellent assist for Dele Alli at a time when the home crowd were becoming frustrated against a resolute Norwich defence.

That was the Ivory Coast international's third assist in seven matches for Spurs.

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