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Saturday, September 1, 2012
Norwich holds Tottenham to draw

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Tottenham conceded a late equalizer for the second week running as Andre Villas-Boas' wait for his first win in charge continued after a 1-1 draw with Norwich on Saturday.

After a hugely disappointing performance in the first hour, Moussa Dembele thought he had saved Villas-Boas' blushes by scoring on his debut with an 18-yard strike.

The 15-million-pound ($23.8 million) man's goal was not enough to give Villas-Boas the victory, though as Robert Snodgrass scored five minutes from time after Spurs buckled under pressure in the same way they did against West Brom last week.

Villas-Boas' approach had failed to excite the majority of Spurs fans during his first two games in charge and Saturday's offering hardly set the collective pulse of the home crowd racing at White Hart Lane.

The London club lacked penetration up front and was almost totally devoid of ideas in midfield and on the flanks until the introduction of Dembele and Emmanuel Adebayor and the home fans made their feelings known at the final whistle by booing their team off.

Villas-Boas understands the fans' frustration, but insists he is doing everything he can to put things right.

"You have to accept their disappointment. It has not been the ideal start to the season, but it doesn't mean that we haven't been working hard to get the wins that our fans want," Villas-Boas said. "They have to understand that we are doing everything in our power to get that win."

Worryingly for Villas-Boas, Tom Huddlestone was also sent off for a very poor tackle on Jonny Howson with one minute left.

Had it not been for an excellent performance from Brad Friedel, Spurs could have been 3-0 down by the time Dembele struck.

The American goalkeeper, whose first-team place is in doubt following the signing of France stopper Hugo Lloris Friday, pulled off brilliant saves from Snodgrass and Anthony Pilkington in his 307th consecutive Barclays Premier League game.

"Brad deserves to keep his place at the moment," Villas-Boas said. "In the first half he was outstanding. Brad deserves full credit for what he has been doing in pre-season and throughout his time in the Premier League. You also have to look into the future and we have done a good transfer in bringing Lloris in."

There was no sign that Spurs would put in such a poor first-half performance at the kickoff.

Aaron Lennon, fresh from signing a new four-year contract before kickoff, burst down the right flank and cut back for Gylfi Sigurdsson, but he shot wide in the opening minute.

That proved to be Spurs' only attempt on goal for the first 15 minutes as Norwich took hold of the game.

Snodgrass floated in a perfect cross for Russell Martin who headed on to the bar via the fingertips of Friedel.

Martin then made light work of shrugging off Jermain Defoe and released Simeon Jackson, who ran 50 yards before slipping a shot just wide of Friedel's goal.

Defoe looked isolated up front and his only effort at goal was a tame shot that dribbled in to John Ruddy's arms.

The home fans were getting angry with Spurs for their failings on the pitch, the Londoners resorting to passing the ball across their back four on many occasions.

Norwich, in contrast, grew in confidence by the minute. Howson's cross was cleared only as far as Bradley Johnson, who belted a screaming half-volley just over.

The level of Spurs' desperation was summed up 10 minutes from the break when Sandro resorted to a 35-yard shot that sailed in to the stands.

Norwich then almost took the lead just before halftime when Pilkington crossed for Snodgrass who was denied by a brilliant one-handed save from Friedel.

Norwich felt it should have had a penalty moments later when William Gallas clattered in to Jackson, but Mark Halsey waved play on.

Villas-Boas brought on Dembele for Sandro at halftime and the Belgian impressed early on. Sigurdsson also sprung into life, volleying a powerful shot but Ruddy saved with ease.

Pilkington curled a clever free kick just wide after a clumsy foul by Gallas, but Spurs hit back through Bale, who thumped a powerful drive just over the bar.

Spurs still lacked a cutting edge, however, and Villas-Boas turned to Adebayor for inspiration. The striker came on for Sigurdsson.

Spurs were given a potential route back in to the game when Leon Barnett hacked down Defoe on the edge of the box but the England striker could only shoot at the wall from the resulting free kick.

Friedel once again proved his worth by saving a powerful low shot from Pilkington.

The tense atmosphere inside White Hart Lane was eased after 68 minutes when Dembele opened the scoring.

Defoe drifted into the left-hand side of the box and laid the ball off to the Belgian, who shot beyond Ruddy, whose sight was partially blocked by Howson.

Villas-Boas expressed his delight at both the performance of Dembele and the deadline-day capture of Clint Dempsey, even if a play for Porto playmaker Joao Moutinho did not come to fruition.

"We agreed player terms late (with Moutinho) but there were situations regarding the contract that were not right so we didn't complete the transfer," Villas-Boas said. "We have enough cover without him. Moutinho's transfer not happening should not overshadow the fact we have pulled off one of the biggest coups of the transfer market with Clint Dempsey, who is a player who can really help us to go one step further."

Aware that his team surrendered a 1-0 lead in injury-time last weekend, Villas-Boas looked to pack his midfield by bringing on Huddlestone for his first game in just over a year.

The move did not work, however, as Norwich snatched an equalizer through Snodgrass.

Moments after Kyle Walker had cleared off the line, the former Leeds man seized on a loose ball by smashing home through a crowded box with five minutes left.

"Arguably we deserved to win," Norwich manager Chris Hughton said. "This is a tough place to come but we created a lot of chances."

Huddlestone thumped a powerful drive wide but his return ended in disappointment two minutes from time when he was given a straight red for a horror tackle on Howson.

"It was extremely harsh," Villas-Boas said. "We will probably look to appeal it."

Bale was also booked for dissent shortly after as Tottenham lost its discipline.

Johnson almost won it with 30 seconds left when he powered a fierce shot which Friedel did well to save.

The home fans made their feelings clear at the final whistle, greeting their team's draw with a huge chorus of boos.

"Obviously this is not the start we wanted and the start we deserve," Villas-Boas said. "We had two good games, Newcastle and West Brom, that we didn't win. Everybody wants to build more confidence but getting those first three points. Today it was disappointing for us to suffer again in the dying moments of the game and we have to work on our sharpness and concentration to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Information from Press Association was used in this report.




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