Norwich vs Tottenham match report: Harry Kane double adds to Dele Alli opener

Norwich 0 Tottenham 3

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The Independent Football

It is February and many cynics are just waiting for Tottenham Hotspur to fade away in the Premier League.  It is what they do, season  after season.

But Spurs now appear to possess an inner steel and that’s what they showed, without really trying too hard, in easing past a poor Norwich City side last night.

It was just about wrapped up in the opening 30 minutes, with Tottenham’s two young England stars, Dele Alli and Harry Kane, opening up a  2-0 lead.

Alli jabbed in from close range, after just two minutes, and Kane netted from the penalty spot. Kane then added a third in the final minute, his 18th goal of the season. Norwich had improved in the second half but not enough to help their precarious place near the foot of the table.

Tottenham went into the game in rude health in all competitions – four wins in a row, unbeaten in 10 games on the road and having lost only two of their past 20 matches.

 However, the loss of central defender Jan Vertonghen, absent for up to eight weeks with a knee ligament problem, had cast a shadow over the team’s hopes of nailing down a Champions League place, let alone offering a serious challenge for the domestic title.

 Could Toby Alderweireld, Vertonghen’s centre-back partner, cope without him? And could Tottenham? Prior to kick off, they had conceded only 19 goals – the best defensive record in the top flight.

 Norwich were struggling at the other end of the table, flirting with the drop after just one season back in the Premier League. Manager Alex Neil was desperately hoping that a glut of seven signings in the January transfer window, including Patrick Bamford, Steven Naismith and Matt Jarvis, would alleviate the growing fears of relegation.

 A crazy last outing, a 5-4 home defeat against Liverpool, sealed by Adam Lallana’s 95th-minute winner, had not helped Neil’s nerves nor those of his shattered players.

 It was Norwich’s third league defeat in a row, a dismal run in which they had conceded 11 goals. Ten defeats in 17 did not augur well for the visit of in-form Tottenham.

 After just two minutes in the cold Norfolk air, Norwich had conceded again. Neil’s side failed to clear their lines, despite opportunities, and goalkeeper Declan Rudd could only parry a none-too-fierce shot from Christian Eriksen.

Alli was on hand in the danger area and his close-range follow-up effort, though not as stunning as his flick-and-volley effort in the 3-1 win at Crystal Palace, was good enough to beat Rudd.

Tottenham had quickly assumed control, finding space everywhere with their slick passing. Eric Dier drove over from an Eriksen corner and Alderweireld went closer with a free header from another Eriksen corner.

At last, Norwich got going. But many of their moves petered out before they reached the Tottenham area. Dieumerci Mbokani did find a way through but his shot was saved easily by Hugo Lloris.

Tottenham soon regained the upper hand, with Son Heung-min’s audacious back-heel from Kane’s pass almost hitting the target at Rudd’s near post.

Jarvis replied, firing over after cutting in from the left flank, but Tottenham doubled their lead on the half-hour. Rudd did well to save Kane’s low drive but Sébastien Bassong, the former Tottenham defender, appeared to bring down Alli as he homed in on the loose ball.

Kane stroked in the penalty with his usual aplomb, sending Rudd the wrong way, and he almost made it 3-0 soon after. After twisting and turning on the left wing, he sent in a powerful effort to the near post that struck the upright and rebounded to safety off the diving Rudd.

So the one-way traffic continued up to the break, with Alli nodding wastefully wide from a Danny Rose cross and Eriksen shooting straight at Rudd when well placed. It was almost men v boys.

Alli failed to appear for the second half, apparently because off illness. He was replaced by Nacer Chadli and, for once, Tottenham’s dominance began to wane in what was becoming a feisty affair. Norwich were starting to mix it and were not going to go down without a fight.

Seven minutes into the half, Norwich finally fashioned a decent opening. Jarvis centred from his usual left-wing berth and Naismith met it with a glancing header. With Lloris stationary, it drifted agonisingly wide.

Yet it was better from Norwich, as it was when they thought they that had reduced the deficit in the 55th minute. A scramble in the Tottenham area ended with Bassong bundling the ball in. He looked suspiciously offside and, much to his horror, he was – as replays subsequently proved.

Kane could have made it 3-0 near the end but struck a post after racing through alone. But he did add the third in the final minute from an Eriksen pass.

 Tottenham had won almost as they pleased.  An inner steel, indeed.