Conte praises ‘big achievement' after Spurs finish fourth

Tottenham back in the Champions League after thrashing Norwich 5-0, with Heung-Min Son scoring twice to share the Premier League Golden Boot

Sunday, 22nd May — By Dan Carrier

Spurs White Hart Lane Tottenham wall badge_0_0_0_5_1_5

Premier League

TOTTENHAM 5 (Kulusevski 16, 64, Kane 32, Son 70, 75)

THE season started with a miserable debut in a basement European tournament – the Europa Conference League – which Tottenham left quietly.

It has ended with Spurs roaring back to Europe’s top table after an empathic 5-0 win away at Norwich this afternoon (Sunday) sealed fourth spot and a place in the coveted Champions League.

Goals from Dejan Kulusevski and Harry Kane were topped off by two bring the house down efforts by Heung-Min Son – strikes that saw the forward share the Golden Boot with Liverpool’s Mo Salah.

Speaking after the game, Tottenham boss Antonio Conte said his players had reached the high standards they had set themselves. He explained: “Honestly, it was very difficult to imagine in November to get a place in the Champions League.

“We have to be pleased for this big achievement. To bring the team to fourth place, with great results, also, to score a lot of goals and today, another clean sheet – we finished the season with 16 clean sheets – it means the team became stable.

“I felt the atmosphere around the team, so positive, they understood the importance of playing Champions League next season.”

Thanking his squad and coaches, Conte added: “I’ve said before, important teams, teams who want to win, teams who want to fight for something important, have to be stable, not up and down. This group of players improved a lot in this part.”

Spurs went to Norwich knowing if they brought their game with them, fourth was theirs. Such is the influence of Conte on this squad that this was nothing short of a demolition job.

Early on, Kulusevski slalomed into the Norwich box. His cut back found Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – not the sharpest arrow in the quiver – and despite steadying himself, the midfielder fired over.

The reprieve for Norwich was brief. On 16 minutes, Rodrigo Bentancur combined with Kulusevski to start the party in the away end.

Bentancur tidied up on the edge of his own box and after bringing Hojbjerg into play, set off for the return. Bentancur then burst into space, and laid the ball to Kulusevski to finish.

Tottenham fans have a special relationship with Norwich goalkeeper Tim Krul. His performance for Newcastle against Spurs in 2013 has become folklore after he foiled the north Londoners singlehandedly. Aged 25 at the time, Krul made an astonishing 14 saves in an inspired 90 minutes at White Hart Lane as Newcastle held out for a 1-0 win.

But those heroics seemed a long time ago at Carrow Road: it was Krul’s mistake that effectively sealed fourth spot for Spurs.

The goalkeeper dithered in possession and made a hash of a clearance, which Bentancur seized on. The midfielder spun the ball back across the penalty area and, with Krul out of position and the goal open, Kane steered a header home.

As the pace dropped, attention turned to whether Son could score the two goals he needed to overtake Salah in the race for the Golden Boot.

Spurs sprung Norwich open down the right and Kane curved an inch-perfect cross into the six-yard box for Son, whose goal-bound effort was blocked by Krul’s torso and spun wide.

A third goal was due, and it came when Kulusevski glided inside and smashed a 25-yarder into the top corner.

Attention again switched to Son, and he answered in empathic style. His 22nd and 23rd of the season came in a five minute burst. The first on 70 was a low finish from a Lucas Moura pass, the second a belter from outside a crowded box. It was a stunning way for Son to end a season of memorable contributions.

Conte got Tottenham into their stride three months ago after a post-Christmas stutter. They went on a run that brought eight wins and two draws in 11 games. There were dips in form and days when things didn’t go quite right, but in seven months Conte has steadied, then delivered what was needed.

Competing in the Champions League next season with Kane and Son upfront and Conte on the touchline promises to be an adventure.

Norwich: Krul, Aarons, Byram (Zimmermann, 36), Hanley, Sorensen, Giannoulis, Dowell (Springett, 61), Normann, Lees-Melou (Rupp, 71), Rashica, Pukki
Substitutes not used: Gunn, Placheta, Tzolis, Tomkinson, Gibbs, Rowe

Tottenham: Lloris, Sanchez, Dier, Davies, Royal (Bergwijn, 73), Bentancur (Winks, 73), Hojbjerg, Sessegnon, Kulusevski (Moura, 68), Son, Kane
Substitutes not used: Gollini, Rodon, Craig, White, Devine, Scarlett

Related Articles