Bale supershow stuns brave Norwich
Mark my words, Norwich played well against Spurs on Tuesday. For 30 thrilling minutes we matched them as play swung from end to end. For almost 15 minutes either side of the half time break we held them and after 54 minutes I began to dream of a 0-0 thriller with City keeping their first clean sheet of the season in exciting circumstances. Then Gareth Bale struck twice in twelve minutes with two superb goals to wake me from my reverie, and gamely though they battled, the Canaries never looked like scoring themselves.
With Tierney injured in training, and Kyle Naughton suspended as well as ineligible to play against his parent club, there was a rare first team start for Adam Drury alongside the recalled De Laet at full back. Both sides started brightly as Morison and Fox tested Friedl and Van der Vaart and Bale had chances at the other end. Holt was lucky to escape a booking when his arm caught Assou-Ekotto, and Spurs appealed in vain for a penalty when Morison appeared to trip Gallas. So even Steven at half time, but as the hour mark approached Bale found the back of the net after good work by Adebayor and added a second ten minutes later from Modric’s pass. De Laet later pulled up injured and was replaced by Barnett. After 74 minutes Lambert abandoned the diamond, and sent on Bennett and Pilkington in place of Drury and Crofts. Spurs did not add to their goal tally, and Martin’s injury time header flashed wide. The Spurs fans found their voices and burst into song, enquiring if any Arsenal fans were watching on the box. So that was that. A 0-2 scoreline.
Both Lambert and former Canary reserve Arry Redknapp paid tribute to Spurs’ performance. It really was no disgrace to lose to this side. In midfield their passing was outstanding. Bale and Modric in particular caught the eye. The statistics show that Spurs had 64pc of possession and 19 attempts on goal. Fortunately their shots, although not lacking in power, often went high and wide. Luckily I do not sit in Row Z.
I enjoyed the game and applauded both sides off the pitch at the end. To me the game brought home that there are two mini leagues within the Premier League. Just look at the league table. 14 points separate Man City in top spot from Newcastle who are seventh. It is already clear that the two Manchester clubs and Spurs stand head and shoulders above the rest. One of those three will be champions, and any of the top seven has a chance of qualifying for the Champions’ League and Europa League. Those seven will also almost certainly provide the winners of the FA and League Cups too. Only those seven have a realistic chance of winning anything. None of them are in any danger of being relegated.
On the other hand 13 points separate Stoke in eighth place from Blackburn who are bottom. Apart from the top seven, the rest of the Premier League is engaged in a mini league whose sole object is to avoid the dreaded relegation to the Championship and the financial loss and player exodus that would follow. None of us has a cat in hell’s chance of winning any silverware and all those who manage to claw their way to safety will raise a glass as soon as another season in the lucrative top flight is assured. The best players will naturally gravitate to the top clubs where they have a chance of winning something and earning big money. There is a self- perpetuating elite within the elite league.
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So I am not too dismayed at losing to Spurs. Much more relevant and important are the upcoming games against Fulham, QPR, and WBA where we stand some chance of adding to our haul of points. One day the City board will have to decide whether to spend the resources to try to break into the top six or seven and if so how and when, or whether to set our sights only on maintaining our top flight status and hoping to win a Cup occasionally (i.e. do we wish to emulate Liverpool or Everton?), but for the moment that debate can wait. Let us ignore the all too frequent comparisons being made between Norwich and Blackpool, and concentrate on accumulating the points necessary to stay up this season and prove our critics wrong. One step at a time. We have a seven point cushion over the bottom three. Let us add to that. Keep the faith and OTBC.
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