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10 Apr 2012 08:21
Tottenham is clinging onto the final Champions League qualification place after losing 2-1 to Norwich in the Premier League on Monday.
Elliott Bennett powered the ball into the far corner of Brad Friedel’s net in the 66th minute from outside the penalty area for the winning goal.
The strike calmed Norwich manager Paul Lambert, who had been furious that two potential penalties were not awarded.
The first spot kick appeal was waved away just before Jermain Defoe completed a blistering counterattack to equalise in the 33rd.
Anthony Pilkington had put Norwich in front in the 13th after seizing on a mix-up in Tottenham’s disorganised defence.
“I thought they bullied us a little bit,” Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp. “It was a difficult day for the boys at the back.
It was a bad day, but we have to pick ourselves up.”
Spurs only remained in fourth place because Chelsea was held to a 1-1 draw.
Tottenham is trying to return to the lucrative European competition after an impressive debut in the 2010/11 season, when it reached the quarterfinals.
But Tottenham’s fortunes have rapidly plummeted since the start of March, when it had a 10-point lead in third place over the then fourth-place Arsenal.
Norwich, though, continued its impressive run in its first season back in the Premier League after a six-year absence. Avoiding relegation was the priority, but the club is 11 points clear of the relegation zone in 10th place.
“That is probably the best performance in the three years I have been here,” Lambert said. “From start to finish, we were brilliant. I told the players I have seen some big games in my time and that was colossal.”
Tottenham has now won just one of its past eight league games, with the latest collapse starting after a breakdown in communication in the back four gifted Norwich its opening goal.
Aaron Wilbraham’s shot was blocked by Younes Kaboul but Kyle Walker fluffed his attempt to clear the danger, the ball ricocheting off Tottenham defender Ledley King and Pilkington pouncing to fire it past goalkeeper Brad Friedel.
Tottenham was relying on Bale’s powerful runs down the left to rip Norwich apart, but his 24th-minute shot was saved and Defoe failed to connect with his cross on another occasion.
The first penalty claim came when Norwich striker Grant Holt appeared to be shoved by King, prompting his manager to charge from the bench to near the tunnel to complain to fourth official Phil Dowd.
“How he has missed that, I don’t know,” Lambert said. “Everyone in the ground saw that. It is bizarre.”
As the official was being admonished by Lambert, Tottenham launched a swift counterattack that produced the equaliser. Defoe raced onto Jake Livermore’s pass and lifted the ball over advancing goalkeeper John Ruddy.
Norwich came close to regaining the lead but Pilkington’s effort was blocked by Friedel throwing himself at the ball.
Still incensed at the end of the first half, Lambert waited by for referee Michael Oliver to leave the pitch to confront him.
Norwich was denied another penalty on the hour when Emmanuel Adebayor’s push on Wilbraham went unpunished.
The visitors were then rescued by the crossbar when Bale’s shot from the right came off the underside before Bennett’s winner.—Sapa-AP
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