It might not have been the day that Harry Kane scored his first Premier League goal of the Antonio Conte era but still. A solid if unspectacular victory over bottom side Norwich that was obtained courtesy of Lucas Moura’s brilliant first-half strike and second-half goals from Davinson Sánchez and Son Heung-min lifted Tottenham up to fifth spot and, perhaps more importantly, above Arsenal.
As first months in a new job go, Conte could hardly have asked for much more. Yet had Norwich taken the chances that came their way at crucial moments in the game, the Italian will know this could have been a very different story.
Kane’s solitary Premier League goal of the season against Newcastle in mid-October predated the appointment of Conte and the Spurs manager insisted this week that he has been “very satisfied” with his performances so far. But this should have been the perfect opportunity to put that statistic right against opponents who had conceded an average of two goals a match so far and where Kane spent half a season on loan back in 2012-13.
Yet Norwich arrived in north London on the back of an unbeaten four-match run and having enjoyed a significant bounce since the arrival of Smith. His decision to make three changes from the team that drew 1-1 at Newcastle last Tuesday was good news for Pierre Lees-Melou, 19-year-old defender Andrew Omobamidele and Republic of Ireland striker Adam Idah, who made his first Premier League start of the season.
With Billy Gilmour at the base of a midfield three and Idah in tandem with Teemu Pukki up front, it was clear that Smith’s intention was not to simply get men behind the ball despite their five-man defence. Had Pukki taken the opportunity presented to him on a plate by his strike partner in the third minute then Norwich’s chances of achieving an upset would have improved dramatically.
Sadly for Smith, however, Pukki’s weak first-time effort that went straight to the grateful Hugo Lloris proved costly almost immediately. Oliver Skipp warmed the gloves of Tim Krul with a rasping drive from the age of the box after picking his way through the middle but the Norwich goalkeeper could do nothing about Moura’s brilliant goal soon after. The Brazilian exchanged a one-two with Son Heung-Min on the edge of the box, jinked his way past two defenders and let rip with a shot that flew into the top corner.
Tottenham’s plans were somewhat interrupted when Sergio Reguilón was forced off with a suspected thigh injury and replaced by Ryan Sessegnon midway through the first half. Also without the service of his other first-choice wing-back in Emmerson Royal due to illness and Japhet Tanganga standing in, Conte may have worried that his side would lack the usual width that is so vital to his gameplan. But even if Norwich had the majority of possession in their luminous orange shirts and created very little of note, a couple of lung-busting runs from Sessegnon suggested that he can be an able replacement for the Spaniard when required.
Kane’s big moment of the first half came five minutes before the break when he was put through by Moura. The stadium held its breath waiting for the net to ripple after the England captain attempted to chip the advancing Krul but there were only groans as the ball sailed way off target.
Newcastle’s win over Burnley on Saturday which left Norwich bottom of the table again meant the onus was on the visitors to take the initiative after the break. Had Kane made more of a header from an early corner in the second half then it might have been game over already. His time at Norwich comprised only three Premier League appearances due to a broken metatarsal bone early in his loan spell before eventually Kane made the breakthrough with his parent club at the end of the following season.
Idah can only have dreamed of the chance he had to score his first Premier League goal on the hour mark when a surging run from Brandon Williams created a rare opening. Pukki’s mishit shot diverted the ball perfectly into the 20-year-old’s path but he somehow contrived to miss from six yards out.
Kane’s next attempt was much better and drew a smart one-handed save from Krul, although he could do nothing about the resulting corner. Son’s ball struck the unfortunate Ben Gibson in the unmentionables and Sánchez was there to lash home the second goal.
From then on, it was all about how many Tottenham could win by. But despite his best efforts, Kane left the pitch empty handed as instead it was Son who rounded off a powerful run from Ben Davies to wrap up the points.