- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
As they headed home in the Sunday afternoon drizzle, Tottenham’s supporters could reflect on the type of largely worry-free day that had so often been lacking under recent managers.
When Jose Mourinho was at the helm, the players frequently looked forced into doing things they did not want; during Nuno Espirito Santo’s short reign, there simply appeared to be no plan to follow.
Now, after three successive Premier League wins under Antonio Conte, the Tottenham fans can start to believe they have their club back. It was no wonder the new manager’s name echoed around the ground at the final whistle.
Sure, their opponents here were a Norwich side sat bottom of the table, but no task had seemed too easy to avoid a stumble over much of the past year. Prior to their victory over Brentford in midweek, they had not won a league game by more than a single goal all season.
Thanks to an early Lucas Moura thunderbolt, second-half goals from Davinson Sanchez and Son Heung-min, and some typically wayward Norwich finishing, any sense of a trip-up faded into the afternoon gloom. Suddenly, a place in the top four is just a win away, although Conte has no intention of basking in the fans’ adoration.
“I want to say thanks to all the fans that sang my name,” he said. “I’m very happy and enthusiastic for this. On the other hand, I feel a lot of responsibility. Maybe it’s too much, too early. I want to show that in the future I deserve this.”
It was Moura who delivered the standout moment. Much has changed since he secured his status as a club hero by propelling Tottenham to the 2019 Champions League final. Back then, Thursday night Europa Conference League trips to small Slovenian towns under a third post-Mauricio Pochettino manager seemed a world away.
Yet while seemingly destined to frustrate and amaze Spurs supporters in equal measure on a weekly basis, Moura’s capacity to produce moments of wonder endures.
Less than 10 minutes were on the clock here when he produced a goal-of-the-season contender that featured no fewer than four individual strokes of majesty, packaged together in one spectacular goal. The Brazilian spun round Billy Gilmour with a wonderful piece of skill, played a neat one-two with Son to render a couple of Norwich defenders stationary, shifted his body weight to cut the ball from left to right, and then smashed past a helpless Tim Krul from 25 yards.
It was some way to score his first league goal of the season, but Conte remained measured in his praise.
“I think he scored an amazing goal,” he said. “But he has the quality to score more goals in the rest of the season. Up front we have great quality with important strikers. Surely my expectation is to see more goals like this.”
In spite of Norwich’s greater possession, Conte’s side proved a constant threat through the impressive, speedy interplay between Moura, Son and Harry Kane. If there was one minor gripe, it was the England captain’s continued failure to cast off his struggles that have yielded just one Premier League goal this season.
The best of multiple chances that fell his way arrived approaching half-time when he was played in by Moura and spotted Krul some way off his line. The chip from range that followed was the type of audacious effort he would have scored in seasons gone by.
With just the one league goal to his name this campaign, it was no surprise to see it drift wide; nor for Krul to dive full stretch and tip a later shot round the post.
Thankfully for Spurs, it was from the resulting corner that they scored their second after 67 minutes. Davies flicked Son’s corner straight into Ben Gibson’s midriff, where it fell kindly for Sanchez to lash home from a couple of yards.
Ten minutes later it was 3-0. Davies, on one of his frequent forays forward, played a one-two with the excellent Oliver Skipp, passed to Son inside the Norwich penalty area and the South Korean drove across Krul into the far corner.
But for the type of wasteful finishing that has seen them score only eight goals this campaign, Norwich might have taken something from the game. The visitors should have gone ahead less than three minutes in, only for Teemu Pukki to scuff his effort from close range. On his first league start of the season, Adam Idah was also gifted a prime opening on the hour when he prodded wide from inside the six-yard box.
“I’m disappointed, frustrated,” said Smith after his first defeat in charge. “The performance is a step in the right direction. The result obviously isn’t. We have to learn how to defend better, certainly from set pieces.
“If we hadn’t conceded that set-piece goal, I think we might have got something out of it.”