Four-goal Bent goes to town
David Cuffley One look at the list of substitutes for Tottenham Hotspur told us all we needed to know about the task facing Norwich City in their first home pre-season game last night - even if it was billed as a friendly.
Norwich City 1, Tottenham Hotspur 5
One look at the list of substitutes for Tottenham Hotspur told us all we needed to know about the task facing Norwich City in their first home pre-season game last night - even if it was billed as a friendly.
Any side that can leave players of the calibre of Dimitar Berbatov, Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale and Tom Huddlestone on the bench is liable to prove too stern a test by far for Championship opposition, and so it proved.
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But unsettled Bulgarian ace Berbatov was not required for a single minute as, to City fans' discomfort, former Ipswich striker Darren Bent stole the show in front of a Carrow Road full house with four of his side's five goals.
How manager Glenn Roeder, still trying to complete his attacking armoury for the new campaign, would love to get hold of a player with even half of Bent's quality, but as he jokingly admitted, a season-long loan for the England international was not an option.
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“Ramos said definitely no. It looks like he's getting better all the time in that team,” said Roeder, especially impressed with the second of Bent's goals from a cross by substitute Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
“It was a fantastic diving header - the quality of that cross was also magnificent. It was a nightmare for a defender to try to cut out, but where I'm sitting, the cross shouldn't have been allowed to come in. We didn't get tight enough.”
In fairness, for half an hour the Canaries gave as good as they got against their Premier League guests, and there were signs that new signing Wes Hoolahan, playing in a free role behind striker Jamie Cureton as opposed to the orthodox wing position he occupied in Sweden, will give less accomplished defences than Tottenham's a difficult time this season.
Spurs went ahead after less than 10 minutes, though it took a bizarre goal to put them in front as Serbian defender Dejan Stefanovic, making his first appearance in City colours, diverted a low cross from Mexican teenager Giovani dos Santos past 'keeper David Marshall off the inside of his right foot.
Six minutes later, the Canaries drew level through Cureton, his third goal in three pre-season games. England defender Ledley King slipped over as he tried to cut out a Jon Otsemobor through-ball and Cureton tucked the ball coolly past goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, one of Tottenham's new recruits.
Both sides lost players before the break, Spurs defender Michael Dawson departing with a cut head after an elbow from Hoolahan, and City taking no chances with on-loan defender Ryan Bertrand after he was left clutching his ankle following a challenge by Jermaine Jenas.
Marshall denied King and Jamie O'Hara before the visitors regained the lead two minutes before the interval. Elliot Omozusi, City's other recruit from Fulham, appeared to step on the ball, leaving O'Hara to pounce and set up Bent for a clinical finish.
t Half-time: Norwich City 1, Tottenham Hotspur 2
After the restart, Marshall saved twice from Dos Santos in the space of two minutes but Bent scored his second after 56 minutes with a splendid header from Assou-Ekotto's wicked cross.
Marshall again saved well from Dos Santos before, in the 71st minute, parrying the Mexican's effort into the path of Bent, who completed his hat-trick from the rebound.
Bent made it 5-1 four minutes later from a cross from Chris Gunter.
Substitute Darel Russell almost reduced the arrears four minutes from time after Lee Croft teed him up, but Gomes dived to his right to keep out the midfielder's left-foot volley.
Roeder admitted it had been the proverbial game of two halves for City.
He said: “I think it was two different performances. I thought in the first half we didn't do badly at all - but conceded two rotten goals, shocking goals and you certainly can't do that against teams of the quality of Tottenham.
“I think they've got a genuine chance of breaking into the Champions League at the end of the season.
“At Premiership level you can't give the opposition chances. In the Championship, they may well miss those and often do. At this level they don't.
“In the second half we really struggled to get any toehold and they gave us a chasing.
“There's no point having your head in the sand thinking genuinely we're going to come here and compete for 90 minutes and do as well as Tottenham. We'd like to but let's get real.
“When everybody's fit - and there's still three or four players to come in before the window closes - the squad that we'll end up with at the end of August will be a lot better than the squad I inherited in November. There's no doubt about that.”
t Result: Norwich City 1, Tottenham Hotspur 5
Shots on: City 4, Spurs 11
Shots off: City 0, Spurs 3
Corners: City 2, Spurs 4
Fouls: City 3, Spurs 7
Offsides: City 4, Spurs 3
t Norwich City: Marshall, Otsemobor, Bertrand (Russell 38), Stefanovic (Shackell 60), Omosuzi; Clingan, Fotheringham, Croft, Pattison, Hoolahan (Chadwick 80), Cureton (Martin 67)
t Spurs: Gomes, Gunter, King (Assou-Ekotto 45), Dawson (Huddlestone 27), Gilberto (Bale 60), Zakora, Jenas, Modric (Lennon 45), O'Hara, dos Santos (Taarabt 80), Bent
t Attendance: 25,243