On Friday Chelsea’s manager, Jose Mourinho, declared that Tottenham had been “the champion of the transfer window, by a distance”, and after an outlay of almost £110 million they were entitled to be. The question yesterday was whether they could show on the field why the money had been spent.
This victory would not have sent any Spurs fans home dreaming of a championship of another kind next May, or even make them forget Gareth Bale, whose sale to Real Madrid for £86m made much of the spending possible, but there were enough promising signs to make them believe that this could be a season to enjoy.
After two wins from their first three matches, both single-goal victories gained by penalties from Roberto Soldado, Andre Villas-Boas’s team look as if they are coming out of their shell, and the latest arrival, the 21-year-old Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen, looked an exciting creative force on his debut in English football, having a foot in both goals and bringing the crowd to its feet on other occasions. Signed from Ajax on transfer-deadline day, he has been compared by Villas-Boas to two other former Ajax players, one-time Spur Rafael van der Vaart and Champions’ League winner Wesley Sneider, and all the signs were good yesterday.
“A great debut for Christian,” Villas-Boas said. “For a player of his age he has great experience and he’s a pure No 10, a creative player. He bonded [with the team] very easily. His individual quality made a difference.”
At £11.5m Eriksen was a comparative bargain. Unlike fellow newcomers Paulinho, Erik Lamela and Soldado, he would not have broken the previous club record of £16.5m, paid for Darren Bent in 2007, but he drew audible gasps after 11 minutes as he took Danny Rose’s pass from the left and glided between two defenders before shooting hard and low for the near post. John Ruddy could not hold the ball and Soldado was first to it, only to see his back-heeled effort come back off the upright.
As Eriksen took a corner-kick the crowd showed their appreciation with chants of “Yiddo”, in defiance of a warning from the FA this week that supporters could face criminal charges if they use the word. An earlier chorus of “We’re Tottenham Hotspur, we’ll sing what we want” made their feelings on that subject clear.
They soon had plenty of other things to sing about. Soldado had a goal-bound shot blocked by Sébastien Bassong after Moussa Dembelé had created the chance with a low cross from the left, and the goal that had been coming arrived in the 29th minute. Eriksen, receiving the ball from Soldado, apparently employed telepathy to anticipate the run of Gylfi Sigurdsson from his left before slipping an exquisite pass into the stride of the Iceland midfield player. Sigurdsson gleefully ran on to the ball and smacked it past Ruddy’s left hand with his right foot to score Tottenham’s first goal in open play this season.
But Norwich could have levelled seven minutes later. Michael Dawson slipped as he tried to cut out Nathan Redmond’s cross from the left, leaving Ricky van Wolfswinkel unmarked. His first-time shot was on target, but Rose slid in at the last second to deflect the ball wide.
Instead Tottenham doubled their lead four minutes after the restart, and Eriksen was involved again, finding Paulinho on the right. The Brazilian hit the ball low across the face of goal and Ruddy failed to cut it out, leaving Sigurdsson to tap in from four yards.
Ruddy did much better to deny Sigurdsson his hat-trick when the latter’s 25-yard shot arrowed towards the top corner, but his team could not capitalise. Rose denied Van Wolfswinkel a second time, throwing himself in the way of the Dutch forward’s shot after Redmond’s shot had ricocheted his way.
“A very good performance today,” Villas-Boas said. “We had so many levels of quality.”
Tottenham (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Rose; Paulinho, Dembelé, (Lamela, 82); Townsend, Eriksen (Holtby, 71), Sigurdsson (Sandor, 79); Soldado.
Norwich (4-4-1-1:) Ruddy; Whittaker, Turner, Bassong, Garrido; Snodgrass, Johnson (Howson, 65), Fer, Redmond (Pilkington, 74); Elmander (Tetey, 74); Van Wolfswinkel.
Referee: Lee Mason.
Man of the match: Eriksen (Tottenham)
Match rating: 7/10
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