The Tuckster on the fantastic win over Spurs – meaning that City are the only team other than Man Utd or Man City to defeat Spurs at home this season. Phenomenal…
Two games in two days would always lead to changes in personnel, and so it proved here, albeit they weren`t wholesale changes. The trip to North London to play Harry Redknapp`s Tottenham looked pretty tough on paper.
In late December, Spurs gave Norwich arguably their most comprehensive defeat as a rampant Tottenham destroyed City with a virtuoso display from Gareth Bale.
Spurs are also the only team that Norwich had failed to score against on this return to the top flight.
In midfield, Johnson and Pilkington returned while upfront a first Premier League start alongside Holt for Aaron Wilbraham – I think his recent cameos from the bench have earned him that start.
The game was only minutes old when Elliot Bennett nicked the ball past Ledley King to put Holt away. Unfortunately the Spurs defence were alive (this time) and Assou-Ekotto was able to sneak the ball away from our number nine.
But with only thirteen minutes on the clock it was Norwich who took the lead with a smart finish from Pilkington after a comedy of errors.
Pilks ran at the Spurs defence and had a stroke of luck as the ball bounced through Kaboul and back to him.
He tried a one-two with Wilbraham but Aaron`s return was blocked and bounced towards King and then the ball bounced off him and back into Pilkington`s path just six yards from goal – his first time shot was low into a corner leaving Friedel stranded.
Around the half hour mark, City had a stone wall penalty shout turned down.
Holt found himself ahead of King in the penalty area with just the keeper to beat. But King was all over him, he had Holt`s arm and was also tugging his shirt as he wrestled him to the ground and ball rolled harmlessly to Friedel. Replays showed that the ref had fluffed his lines. How either he or his assistant didn`t see this is incredible.
Michael Oliver is a young referee and one that always seems involved in controversy.
I wasn`t filled with glee when I saw him on the match team sheets before kick off, to say the least!
Almost immediately this penalty was turned down (and it would`ve meant a sending off for King too) Pilkington lost the ball in midfield to Livermore who played a lovely pass that put Defoe away. He beat his man with pace and lifted the ball over the on rushing Ruddy to equalise.
The City players were still furious and surrounded Oliver to make their feelings known – obviously to no avail. At half time it was one goal each with Norwich not being outclassed or overawed, in fact they`d had the best of the first half.
In the second half, Harry immediately replaced Kaboul with Nelsen and Saha with Adebayor, clearly seeing that his team weren`t performing.
Despite not performing, they have such quality that they will always create chances, and so it proved here.
Assou-Ekotto was put clean through with only Ruddy to beat after a clever one-two. As he advanced on goal he seemed certain to score, only to see his shot batted away with the Norwich keeper`s massive left hand.
It was a great save, the sort that Ruddy has been making all season – if he doesn`t make the Euro squad for England it`ll be a travesty.
Gareth Bale also almost scored. He cut in from the right onto his left foot and curled a shot off the underside of the crossbar before Norwich made it two – one.
MOTD and Harry made a bit of the fact that Spurs didn`t perform here. But to be fair to the BBC, Lawro pointed out that Norwich didn`t give Spurs a moment`s peace.
They harried and chased and made one challenge after another to continually stifle their opponent`s ability to use the ball.
Harry will argue that his team didn`t perform but I would argue that we didn`t allow them to play, and why should we? We want to win as well. Perhaps we actually wanted this one more.
Mr Oliver missed another stone wall penalty when Adebayor shoulder barged Wilbraham in the back with the ball high in the air – what do you have to do to get a penalty at a big club!?
Elliot Bennett then played in Holt on the right of the area and his cross to the back stick found Johnson completely unmarked 10yds out. Bradley`s shot was high and wide with the goal gaping – chance for a second goal missed, but not for long.
Bennett picked up the ball about 35yds from goal and headed for the Spurs area.
His luck this season with shooting has been non-existent. Last season for Brighton he scored eight and made over twenty assists, stats that prompted me to initially add him to my fantasy footy team last August. But he hasn`t scored all season despite plenty of shots and chances.
Against Everton on Saturday he could`ve scored a couple of times when in good positions but didn`t get it right each time. Match that with Pilkington who has now scored seven league goals having played a similar amount of game time to Bennett.
But anyway, today was to be Elliot`s day as he was not closed down 20 yards from goal.
He was almost cordially invited to shoot and he duly did.
What a goal! Friedel stood still as Bennett struck through the ball adding tremendous swerve to the shot. Indeed, replays from behind the goal showed that the shot was going wide of the post before bending back and into the bottom corner – hence Friedel`s lack of movement.
You might then think that it would be kitchen sink time as Spurs would pour forward, but you`d be wrong. They huffed and puffed but other than a Bale header from distance (that was wide) they didn`t really trouble Ruddy.
Norwich wouldn`t allow it, they continued to hustle Spurs and could even have added a third goal when Howson`s poor centre didn`t reach Morison (on for Holt) who would`ve had a free shot at goal.
Add that chance to Bradley Johnson`s and the two definite penalties and Spurs could`ve been on the end of a thumping here.
After the match, Paul Lambert used the words “Phenomenal”, “Colossal” and “Brilliant” to describe our team`s performance. He is spot on – every season a newly promoted team has an unexpected win against one of the top sides, and this is our best result of the season, so far.
I thought the draw with Everton was a good game but this was even better. Only Man Utd and Man City have beaten Tottenham at home, this term.
After the way Spurs outplayed City at Carrow Road, most commentators would`ve had this down as a home win. But that doesn`t account for Paul Lambert, his tactics and nous and the will to win of an extraordinary group of players.
Before this season, only a couple of lads in the squad had any Premier League experience and that was limited. What they did have was the famous hunger and will to better themselves and above all win.
Momentum is often underrated but look what it has done for Southampton and look what it has done for us. Last week, The Daily Mail had an article about Brendan Rogers that said he was the favourite for Manager of the season – that`s all very well and Swansea have been great this season, their famous passing game has won them many fans, but consider this…
Norwich have beaten them home and away, scoring three goals in both games.
Norwich have so far scored 46 goals home and away to Swansea`s 35.
We know they play pretty football but it hasn`t been as effective as Norwich`s style, which is more direct while we still play lovely football – it`s not like we`re the crazy gang, is it?
If we finish ahead of Swansea in the league then you`d have to say we`ve been more successful – of course that might not happen, we have a tough run in.
But also consider the fact that Rogers` Swansea were already a stable Championship side tipped to challenge for promotion when he took the reins.
By Lambert`s own admission, when he took over at Norwich the club were weeks from administration and he wondered if the players he had were good enough to get out of League One, never mind win it and then get a double promotion to the Premier League.
So, to take nothing away from Swansea because they are a great side who, like Norwich, have proved everybody wrong this season, if you`re talking about manager of the season then there`s only one serious candidate – Paul Lambert, phenomenal, colossal, brilliant.