While Joao Moutinho spent yesterday preparing for Porto's trip to Olhanense, Andre Villas-Boas might have silently cursed the fact the player was not here.
This was the second successive home game Spurs had drawn, recreating many of their failings against West Bromwich Albion last Saturday. There was no tempo, no imagination and no control when they did go ahead. There was no Luka Modric, and no Moutinho to replace him either.
Spurs will not get very far this season with this midfield. They have bought Moussa Dembélé and Clint Dempsey from Fulham but only Dembélé played yesterday, coming on after a dismal first half to provide the team with much-needed drive and put Tottenham into the lead with 20 minutes left. But Spurs need to stop goals as well as create them, and they could not hold off Norwich's late pressure, folding eventually to Robert Snodgrass with five minutes left. The team were jeered off.
"A goal conceded in more or less the same way [as James Morrison's equaliser last week], it was disappointing again for us," Villas-Boas said. "When things happen like this we have to work on concentration and sharpness to make sure it doesn't happen again. It is not the ideal start to the season."
When asked whether a certain Portugal international might have made all the difference, Villas-Boas demurred. "We were covered for the fact it could not happen," he insisted. "Porto are a difficult club to deal with." But everything Spurs did cried out for a passer, a problem exacerbated by leaving their new midfielder on the bench.
The result was a frustrating mix of sideways passes between the defenders and occasional long balls towards forwards. Aaron Lennon, celebrating a new four-year deal at Tottenham, managed occasional crosses to no one, and there were a few early shots from the edge of the box.
Norwich knew precisely what to do, having won here five months ago. They did defend astutely and picked their moments in attack. Snodgrass was precise in his work from the right: his early free-kick was headed on to the bar by Russell Martin before his own header, two minutes before the break, was well saved by Brad Friedel.
A proud Chris Hughton said Norwich "deserved their point", and he was especially impressed with their response to going behind.
Tottenham's goal came with 20 minutes left, after an overdue introduction. Dembélé, growing into the game, stole the ball from Jonny Howson and played it left to Jermaine Defoe. Receiving the ball back, he shuffled inside a tackle and struck the ball into the far bottom corner. It felt like the delayed arrival of the Villas-Boas era. Spurs could go into the international break with their first win recorded and Hugo Lloris and Dempsey on their way.
But the absence of Moutinho, or a true alternative, does not just limit Spurs' attacking. If you cannot hold the ball you cannot hold the lead and, for the second consecutive game, they squandered two points at the death.
Friedel had already saved sharply from Anthony Pilkington, while Steve Morison had a penalty appeal turned down. Soon after, Morison won a free-kick conceded by Jake Livemore. Snodgrass (pictured) whipped in the ball, Spurs did not clear it and Snodgrass was on hand again to drill it into the bottom corner.
When Tom Huddlestone was sent off for leaping late into Howson's legs, any hope of a first win disappeared. When Friedel dived to save from Bradley Johnson, Villas-Boas might have been happy with a point.
Tottenham (4-2-3-1): Friedel; Walker, Gallas, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto; Sandro (Dembele, 45), Livermore; Lennon, Sigurdsson (Adebayor, 55), Bale; Defoe (Huddlestone, 80).
Norwich (4-4-2): Ruddy; Martin, Barnett, Bassong, Garrido; Snodgrass, Johnson, Howson, Pilkington; Jackson (Morison, 73), Holt.
Referee: Mark Halsey
Man of the match: Snodgrass (Norwich)
Match rating: 3/10
Robert Snodgrass looked well worth the £3m he cost Norwich City, impressing on the right and scoring the equaliser. Mousa Dembele, Spurs' new signing from Fulham, shone with a goal soon after coming on.Reuse content