Dembele scores on his debut but it’s deja vu for Spurs
Premier League: Tottenham 1 Norwich 1
Mousa Dembele scored for Tottenham on his debut, but it was a case of d�j� vu as Spurs conceded a late equaliser at White Hart Lane for the second week in a row.
Dembele swapped Fulham for the Lilywhites in a �15million deal in midweek and, although he was initially named on the bench, he entered the fray at the interval and made the breakthrough 22 minutes from time.
However, the hosts failed to hold onto the lead again and, having conceded an injury-time strike against West Brom last Saturday, they were undone in the 85th minute as Robert Snodgrass fired past Brad Friedel, who had been Spurs’ best player.
There was further late misery for Andre Villas-Boas as Tom Huddlestone was sent off eight minutes into his substitute appearance, receiving a straight red card for a tackle on Jonny Howson.
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Villas-Boas’ side now go into the international break without a win from their first three Premier League games, with two points from a possible nine.
The big surprise in the Spurs line-up was the absence of both Dembele and Emmanuel Adebayor, who were named on the bench as Villas-Boas opted for Sandro, Jake Livermore, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jermain Defoe at the spine of his 4-2-3-1 formation.
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The deadline day signings Hugo Lloris and Clint Dempsey missed out on the squad altogether as they were not registered in time to feature.
That allowed Friedel to extend his record number of consecutive Premier League appearances to 307. And, although his magnificent sequence is now in danger after the arrival of France captain Lloris, he certainly fought for the No1 jersey today with a string of superb saves.
Norwich started well and showed little fear in the opening exchanges, taking the game to Spurs and putting them under early pressure.
Russell Martin met Snodgrass’ free-kick with a header that cannoned against the crossbar, and Bradley Johnson sent a powerful rising drive narrowly over.
Tottenham were badly lacking creativity through the middle of the field and were struggling to find a link between the defence and their forward players.
The hosts gradually lost confidence in their ability to dissect Norwich and consequently attempted to bypass the congested midfield by playing long balls out to the wings and over the top.
That approach was woefully ineffective – particularly since the diminutive Defoe was playing as the lone striker and was struggling to hold the ball up.
Meanwhile Aaron Lennon had the beating of Canaries left-back Javier Garrido but was typically inaccurate with his final ball, dinking the ball aimlessly into the middle and seeing it cleared time and again.
The 25-year-old, who has just signed a new four-year contract, also had a sight of goal as he ran through on the inside left channel – but he declined to shoot with his left foot and turned back inside, losing the opening.
Gareth Bale briefly showed Lennon how to cross, stealing the ball and haring down the left before sending a trademark delivery across the goalmouth, but Defoe had been unable to keep up and there was no-one in the box to take advantage.
The home crowd were frustrated – and it very nearly got a whole lot worse three minutes before the break.
Anthony Pilkington crossed for Snodgrass, who seemed certain to score with a close-range header, but Friedel somehow reacted to paw the ball away – and William Gallas was then fortunate to escape as he attempted to chest the ball back to the grounded keeper under pressure from Simeon Jackson.
Villas-Boas responded by introducing Dembele at the interval in place of Sandro, and there was a positive reaction initially as Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s low cross was deflected into the path of Sigurdsson, whose low volley was saved.
However, Norwich were soon worrying Friedel again as Snodgrass sent a free-kick wide and then crossed for Grant Holt, who headed wastefully wide.
Bale sent a rasping 30-yard effort over the angle and Defoe won a free-kick inches outside the box before shooting into the wall – but Spurs had their hearts in their mouths again as Friedel got down to deny Pilkington at the other end.
Villas-Boas withdrew Sigurdsson and introduced Adebayor, switching to a 4-4-2 system as the match became a carbon copy of the disappointing 1-1 draw with West Brom the previous weekend, with Spurs opening up and Norwich looking threatening on the break.
Once again the opening goal went to Tottenham – and it was Dembele who got it in the 68th minute, producing something out of nothing by turning neatly outside the box and sending a low drive arrowing into the bottom right corner of John Ruddy’s net.
Spurs had thrown away the lead in the dying seconds against the Baggies and, anxious to avoid a repeat, the Lilywhites’ head coach brought Huddlestone into the fray in a bid to shut up shop, retain possession and close the game out.
However, history repeated itself with five minutes left as Tottenham failed to clear the ball from their box, and Snodgrass pounced to fire past Friedel.
Another bad day was then completed as Huddlestone clattered into Howson, and referee Mark Halsey brandished the red card.
It could have got even worse for the shellshocked home side in injury-time as the ball dropped to Johnson 20 yards out, but Friedel saved once again to salvage a point.
Tottenham: Friedel, Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto, Sandro (Dembele 45), Livermore, Lennon, Sigurdsson (Adebayor 56), Bale, Defoe (Huddlestone 81)
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