Tottenham frustrated by Defoe-defying Norwich

Tottenham Hotspur 0 - Norwich City 0
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The Independent Football

The Tottenham three, the source of local pride after the London club had a triumvirate represent England last week for the first time in 17 years, carried on where they left off last Wednesday in every way except by providing victory.

Three points and their best-ever Premiership start were denied them but it was not for the want of trying. Yet while the threat and class of Jermain Defoe is constant, the current darling of the England football team would have to admit that his Spurs team-mates Ledley King and Paul Robinson deserve a more equal sharing of the stardust after this display.

Defoe's goal in midweek against Poland was a delight in its execution and he appeared determined to keep going in that vein. At the other end of the pitch, a meaningful contribution by King and Robinson seemed unlikely but as the match wore on their interventions - as Defoe was growing ever more frustrated - prevented a surprise defeat.

While Norwich may have watched Defoe on television in midweek, after 18 minutes he showed the Canaries first-hand just how dangerous he is. A short pass from the pony-tailed Pedro Mendes was picked up and he turned his marker, ran five yards and hit a low shot that beat Robert Green but not the post, the ball rebounding to safety. In such form, Green would not countenance being beaten again.

With Defoe also on song, the Norwich manager, Nigel Worthington, felt he had no option but to go on the defensive and try and contain him and Freddie Kanouté. He placed Youssef Safri in front of his back-line, and with a combination of some luck and fine goalkeeping they held firm for only their third point of the season which lifts them out of the bottom three.

But Defoe was irrepressible. With 24 minutes gone there were claims for a penalty but play was waved on and the ball came to Defoe from Adam Drury's misdirected clearance. Turning swiftly and shooting, in the manner of his England goal, Defoe was only denied by Safri's goal-line clearance.

Hitherto Robinson and King had been untroubled but as Spurs pushed forward, they were bound to expose themselves in defence and Darren Huckerby almost profited with 62 minutes gone. In a counter-attack he was one-on-one with Noureddine Naybet and he sped past the Moroccan, but Robinson was quickly off his line to block the low shot.

Goals have been at a premium for Tottenham this season, but on the hour Defoe tried once more to break the deadlock. From 20 yards out he took aim but a flying save by Green turned his shot away.

Cries of "England's number one" for the man who has not played for his country erupted from the visiting fans as soon as he pulled off a brilliant reaction save after 68 minutes. Simon Davies, on as a substitute, added pace to the right flank and this time it was Thimothée Atouba who met his cross with a powerful volley that somehow Green got a hand to.

Watched by the England manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, that was impressive, but better still was King's intervention with 15 minutes remaining. He had been caught out for Poland's goal last week but he was in the right place at the right time when Huckerby rounded Robinson and he executed the perfect tackle with the striker poised to roll the ball into the empty net.

Robbie Keane came off the substitutes' bench and could have eclipsed Defoe nine minutes from time. Atouba fed Defoe but his shot was deflected to the Irishman who saw his low shot saved low down.

Worthington said later he felt Green deserves further consideration by Eriksson, who has a squad to pick next month. He said: "Robert is a quality man and player and has all the potential to go to the top in international terms."

The Spurs manager Jacques Santini felt moved, however, to thank his goalkeeper, saying: "Without Robinson's saves we could have lost this game. But my team had a good game today with seven or eight chances to score."

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Edman, Naybet, King, Pamarot; Atouba (Jackson, 83), Redknapp, Mendes, Brown (Davies, 67); Defoe, Kanouté (Keane, 72). Substitutes not used: Keller (gk), Gardner.

Norwich City (4-4-2): Green; Drury, Fleming, Charlton, Edworthy; Holt, Safri (McVeigh, 76), Francis, Bentley (Helveg, 89); Doherty (McKenzie, 83), Huckerby. Substitutes not used: Ward (gk), Svensson.

Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).

Booked: Tottenham: Mendes, Redknapp; Norwich City: Charlton, Safri.

Man of the match: Defoe.

Attendance: 36,095.