Tottenham Hotspur salvaged a late point at Carrow Road despite twice falling behind to bottom club Norwich in an entertaining 2-2 draw.
Mario Vrancic gave the hosts an early advantage after carelessness in the Spurs backline. Teemu Pukki seemed to double the lead but after a lengthy delay the video assistant referee (VAR) deemed his shoulder to be offside and the goal was ruled out.
Jose Mourinho’s side hit back after the break, Christian Eriksen curling in a beautiful free kick from 20-yards out, but a comical own goal from Serge Aurier gifted Norwich the advantage once more.
Tottenham grew more threatening throughout the second half and eight minutes from time Harry Kane won, and scored, a penalty to share the spoils. Tottenham miss out on fourth place while the home side remain bottom of the Premier League table.
As is common practice during the glut of fixtures at this time of the year, both managers made four changes to their sides. Todd Cantwell was the most notable absentee for the hosts while Jose Mourinho, in his eighth league game at the helm for Spurs, name club record signing Tanguy Ndombele in the starting XI.
Despite a slow start from the visitors, with Juan Foyth in particular careless in possession but without punishment, the pick of the early chances fell to Tottenham.
Harry Kane and Dele Alli have eight Premier League goals and four assists between them under Mourinho’s tenure, and the pair threatened to add to that in the opening exchanges.
Alli blasted over from Kane’s pass twelve minutes in, and Kane himself was denied by Tim Krul in the Norwich goal moments later.
But it was the home side who drew first blood 18 minutes in.
Having escaped unscathed from earlier sloppiness, Juan Foyth was eventually punished for being reckless once again in possession. Emiliano Buendía robbed the Spurs defender as he overran the ball out from the back and fed Mario Vrancic, who coasted through on goal before sending his strike low past Paulo Gazzaniga.
The Tottenham stopper, continuing to play with regular number one Hugo Lloris recovering from a long-term injury, should have done better to prevent the opener as the ball squirmed beneath his grasp in the middle of the goal.
Norwich, and every human being watching, thought they had doubled their lead just past the half hour mark. Teemu Pukki seemed to bend his run to perfection to beat the offside trap and slot in cooly from Vrancic’s ball over the top.
But the Premier League is about so much more this season than what the human eye can detect, and the omnipresent vision of VAR was at hand to halt the Pukki party. Out came the calibration tool and after several minutes of checking and re-checking, boos rang out around Carrow Road as the goal was chalked off.
VAR rules out Pukki’s goal for offside 👀 pic.twitter.com/2mPOIE0HX3
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) December 28, 2019
Pukki’s armpit was the offending body part on this occasion and whilst the decision may have been technically correct, the delay in the decision and the margins in play do once again bring into question whether the technology, or indeed the rules in their current state, are dampening the raw emotion that makes football so special.
Regardless of the decision, Norwich went into the break leading and there was no need for another festively merry half-time team talk from Delia Smith. Whatever Jose Mourinho said ahead of the second half, however, clearly had an impact.
Barely a minute after the restart Christian Eriksen sent Alli through one-on-one. The in-form Englishman, playing once again in a more advanced and free role, took one touch too many however and his shot was excellently blocked by a sliding Christoph Zimmerman.
Eriksen was showing more and more hunger throughout the game and it was the Dane who levelled matters. Jamal Lewis needlessly handled the ball just outside his own area and Eriksen’s resulting free kick was exquisitely floated over the yellow wall in front of him and beyond Krul’s reach.
The lead didn’t last long however, and if Norwich’s phantom second goal was cruelly disallowed, the bonafide one was a calamity from a Tottenham perspective.
Pukki was looking to find space for a strike just inside the Spurs penalty area, but Jan Vertonghen thwarted the Finnish striker only for his clearance to collide with the covering Serge Aurier and wrong-foot Gazzaniga on the hour for a dreadful own goal.
Once again Mourinho’s men were behind, a common theme under his rule so far despite an upturn in results, but there was to be one last twist in the tale.
1 - Tottenham Hotspur have kept just one clean sheet away from home in the Premier League in 2019, the lowest of any ever-present side in the calendar year. Fragile. pic.twitter.com/SPkLzeLv22
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 28, 2019
With ten minutes remaining Kane - who had been quiet throughout the game - used his body cleverly to earn his side a penalty, Zimmermann crashing into him as he turned inside the area. After a VAR check, the penalty was confirmed and true to form Kane sent Krul the wrong way to salvage a point for Tottenham.
It was the England captain’s eleventh Premier League goal of the season, but Mourinho’s side missed out on the opportunity to leapfrog London rivals Chelsea in the coveted fourth Champions League spot, and Norwich meanwhile remain rooted at the bottom three points behind Watford.