Thursday, January 31, 2013
One moment of brilliance from Tottenham Hotspur’s Gareth Bale last night denied Norwich City their first win in seven Premier League games.
Bale, who scored three times on his previous two visits to Carrow Road, struck 10 minutes from time when he produced a superb solo effort, taking the ball from just inside his own half and racing on to fire past City goalkeeper Mark Bunn.
The Canaries had taken the lead on 32 minutes through Wes Hoolahan, finishing off a fine four-man move to give his side a deserved lead with his third goal of the season.
But if Bale will get many of the headlines this morning, Bunn, potentially under pressure from the arrival of another goalkeeper in Lee Camp, could also take great credit for his all-round display. How he must love facing Tottenham.
Three months ago, making only his second appearance for the Canaries, Bunn’s late penalty save from Spurs’ Clint Dempsey booked them a League Cup quarter-final place.
Bale was also on target that Halloween evening, but after he had found the net to level the scores last night, it was Bunn who took centre stage again with a brilliant save to deny substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson a late winner for the visitors.
Chris Hughton’s team produced a vastly improved performance on their showing in recent weeks, fighting for every ball, and would have been disappointed to miss out on all three points.
City fielded only two of the starting eleven from the shock FA Cup defeat by Luton – full-backs Russell Martin and Javier Garrido – and they dominated the opening half.
First Hoolahan volleyed well wide after a Robert Snodgrass free-kick was headed clear.
Then Alex Tettey burst forward to good effect and when his cross was headed back by Anthony Pilkington, Snodgrass could not quite connect cleanly with the dropping ball and keeper Hugo Lloris gathered easily.
Bale headed wide from a Kyle Walker corner but it was Norwich who looked more dangerous and Lloris almost caused problems with a poor punch from a Snodgrass free-kick.
With 20 minutes gone, Snodgrass picked out Grant Holt with a fine through-ball but the skipper hoisted a long-range effort into the Barclay Stand.
There were vain appeals for a penalty when Holt muscled his way past Dawson and may have been tripped by Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
City went close on 29 minutes when Michael Dawson struggled to deal with a Snodgrass cross and Holt followed up with a header that Lloris dived to his left to push round the post.
But on 32 minutes, the Canaries took a well-deserved lead through Hoolahan.
Snodgrass crossed from the right, Holt headed back from beyond the far post and Pilkington turned the ball into Hoolahan’s path, where he sidefooted past Lloris.
Garrido was booked for a body check on Bale but City were well on top and almost had a second when Sébastien Bassong broke out of defence, sent Martin away and was just unable to get on the end of the full-back’s cross as he threw himself into the six-yard box.
Bunn had been a virtual spectator but made a smart save from Jermain Defoe three minutes before the break to keep City on terms after a touch from Aaron Lennon put the striker through.
After the break, Michael Turner made a timely challenge on Defoe and Bunn dived to his left to save from Bale as Tottenham at last managed to exert a bit of pressure on the home rearguard.
Pilkington was appealing for handball as one shot struck Vertonghen, and Pilkington flashed another shot wide after 65 minutes.
With less than 20 minutes left, new signing Lewis Holtby, a Germany international, replaced Dempsey for Spurs and was swiftly booked for a foul on Hoolahan.
With 10 minutes left, however, Bale levelled the scores with a stunning solo goal. Taking possession just inside his own half, he rode Tettey’s challenge and raced to the edge of the area, weaving inside Javier Garrido and firing powerfully past Bunn.
Defoe flashed an effort over the top as Spurs drew confidence from the goal. With three minutes left, Sigurdsson replaced Lennon and within 90 seconds, Bunn had made a brilliant save to keep out a powerful effort from the substitute. Justice was done as defeat would have been rough indeed on City.