Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho lamented his side’s bad luck with injuries after they edged past bottom-of-the-table Norwich to claim their first Premier League win of 2020.
Spurs have struggled for goals since losing Harry Kane to injury but ended a run of three league games without scoring when Dele Alli struck just before half-time.
The home side then lost Harry Winks to injury 10 minutes after the break and Norwich equalised with 20 minutes to go when Teemu Pukki fired a second-half penalty past Hugo Lloris, who was making his return after three months out with a dislocated shoulder.
Son Heung-min nodded in a deflected cross with 11 minutes to go to give Tottenham their first win since Boxing Day.
“We are in a situation when I have to think, think, think,” said Mourinho.
“I look to bench and we don’t have attacking players. I had to take off Erik Lamela because of fatigue but we showed an incredible reaction to score a second goal.
“When Chelsea want to win they bring on Michy Batshuayi. When Manchester City want to change Gabriel Jesus they bring in Sergio Aguero.
“We are so, so unlucky with injuries. We get back Hugo Lloris and we lose Harry Winks. It’s incredible.”
Mourinho was able to provide some positive news on Winks’ injury after the game, saying he would be out for “weeks not months” with an ankle problem.
‘Happiness to see one of world’s best goalkeepers back’
The former Manchester United boss was also delighted with Lloris’ return.
The France international had been out since dislocating his elbow against Brighton on 5 October and was a surprise inclusion in the starting XI for this game.
Lloris was largely untested and perhaps should have done better for Pukki’s penalty having guessed the right way, but it was pleasing for Mourinho to see him come through the 90 minutes unscathed.
“It’s happiness to see one of the best goalkeepers in the world to be back,” he said.
“It’s a very good feeling for us but at the same time it is one of these decisions that sometimes we must have it, but it hurts. To leave Paulo Gazzaniga out hurts.
“The good thing is that he is such a good member of the family and he is such a special friend of Hugo that I think he also shared our happiness to have Hugo back as a friend.
“For me he gave me a lot of thinking and I had to try to be cold to make a decision without emotions because to leave Paulo out is not easy.”
Victory – Tottenham’s first in the Premier League since beating Brighton on Boxing Day – means Jose Mourinho’s side move up to sixth.
Norwich, meanwhile, remain bottom and six points adrift of safety.
Alli ends Spurs’ long wait
The absence of the injured Harry Kane as the focal point of Tottenham’s attacks has been telling, with Spurs having failed to score in the Premier League this year going into the game.
And, for more than 30 minutes, the home side once again looked destined to draw a blank.
Tottenham’s build-up play was ponderous and on the few occasions they did manage to find gaps in the Norwich defence the chances were wasted, as Erik Lamela fired straight at Tim Krul and Son Heung-min drove into the sidenetting.
But, seven minutes before half-time, Alli provided the one moment of quality to break the deadlock. After 398 minutes and 48 shots, Spurs had finally scored their first goal of 2020.
The home side have the joint worst record for clean sheets in the Premier League – level on three with opponents Norwich – so a one-goal lead was always likely to leave Spurs fans nervous.
And their worries would prove founded as Norwich equalised with 20 minutes remaining, Pukki’s penalty – his 11th goal of the season – looking to have done enough to earn the battling Canaries a hard-fought draw.
But Son, aided by a touch of fortune with the wicked deflection from Alli’s cross, got the winner with 11 minutes to go and ensured Tottenham took three points that just about keeps them in the hunt for the top four.
Defeat increases Norwich worries
Norwich came into this game on the back of a morale-boosting win against relegation rivals Bournemouth and, while usually a trip to Tottenham would be a daunting prospect, Spurs’ poor recent form – particularly at home – should have given the Canaries some belief they could get a positive result.
The away side perhaps gave their opponents too much respect and a first-half Pukki chance – when he got in behind the defence only for his shot to be pushed behind by Lloris – highlighted that opportunities were there against the Spurs defence.
They finally became more adventurous after Pukki’s goal, pushing for a winner themselves, and can count themselves unfortunate not to have come away with a result.
But the Canaries are at the stage where they need positive results not performances. Daniel Farke’s side have managed just one away win all season – a record that needs to improve if they are to claw back the six-point deficit to safety.
Man of the match – Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham)
‘We are so unlucky with injuries’ – what they said
Norwich City boss Daniel Farke, speaking to BBC MOTD: “I can’t ask my lads for more. We played a side able to bring on Eric Dier, Christian Eriksen and Gedson Fernandes.
“The lads left their hearts out on the pitch. It’s disappointing to drive away with a loss. We have a special group of players. It was a fantastic away performance even though it was a defeat.
“It’s difficult when you don’t win games because it’s not good for the mood or confidence. We deserved at least one point. To lose this game because of a deflected cross is tough – no doubt. But you have to keep going.”
Wednesday win day for Spurs – the stats
- Tottenham Hotspur have beaten Norwich in three consecutive home league games for the first time since a run of five between 1989 and 1993.
- Norwich are now winless in their last 21 Premier League visits to London (D6 L15), losing each of the last seven.
- Spurs have now won each of their last 10 home Premier League games on a Wednesday since defeat against Leicester in January 2016.
- Spurs’ Son Heung-min has been directly involved in 11 goals (six goals and five assists) in his last 10 Premier League matches against newly-promoted sides.
- Norwich striker Teemu Pukki has now scored against each of last season’s top five Premier League teams (Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal) – he is the only player to have done so in 2019-20.
- Spurs defender Serge Aurier has assisted seven goals in all competitions this season – the only Premier League defender to set up more is Trent Alexander-Arnold (11).
- Dele Alli’s opener for Spurs was their first Premier League goal from open play since Alli himself netted against Brighton on Boxing Day; six hours and 55 minutes of game-time separated the two goals.
Attention switches to the FA Cup for both these clubs. Tottenham travel to Southampton on Saturday, 25 January (15:00 GMT), while Norwich are at Burnley at the same time.