Gareth Bale struck a superb late equaliser to salvage a point for Tottenham Hotspur from a match in which they struggled for long periods. Norwich had deservedly gone into the break in front thanks to a goal by Wes Hoolahan but Spurs improved in the second period without coming close to scoring until Bale made up for an otherwise ineffective performance with a wonderful goal in the 80th minute.
Tottenham's January recruit from Schalke, Lewis Holtby, began on the bench while efforts continued away from the action to capture a new striker. Unless those efforts bear fruit, however, Jermain Defoe will likely have to continue unsupported up front, especially as Togo's progression to the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final just before kick-off means André Villas-Boas will be without Emmanuel Adebayor for at least two more matches.
Defoe has been bothered by pelvic trouble for the past month and was omitted from Sunday's FA Cup defeat at Leeds United in the hope that rest would alleviate the problem. He was full of zest early on at Norwich, charging down an attempted clearance by Norwich goalkeeper Mark Bunn in the first minute. It quickly transpired that the home players were far sharper than visitors. Seemingly unperturbed by a six-match streak without a win in the Premier League and humiliation in the FA Cup at the hands of Luton Town, Norwich dominated the first period. Like Tottenham, Norwich are seeking new strikers but Grant Holt seemed determined to show they do not need Luciano Becchio of Leeds or Celtic's Gary Hooper. He squandered his first chance to prove his point when he thrashed a 20-yard shot over the bar in the 20th minute but continued to trouble Tottenham and could have been given a penalty when a burst into the box four minutes later led to him going down under a challenge from Jan Vertonghen. He eventually forced Hugo Lloris into a save on the half-hour mark, outjumping Vertonghen to aim a downward header at goal from seven yards.
Two minutes later Norwich got their reward for the bright start, as Snodgrass raced down the right and sent a cross to the far side of the box. Anthony Pilkington fired it back into the centre for Wes Hoolahan to sweep into the net. At every stage in the move that led to the goal Norwich had been quicker to the ball. That was symptomatic of Spurs' sluggishness and Norwich were not going to make it easy for them to get back into the game. Former Tottenham centre-back Sébastien Bassong ran the length of the pitch in the 38th minute in an attempt to do more damage but fractionally failed to connect with Ryan Bennet's cross. Gareth Bale and Aaron Leeon were barely visible but in the 41st minute the latter did materialise and thread a pass through to Defoe, whose 18-yard shot brought Bunn's firsts save.
Bale swapped positions with Clint Dempsey for the second half, playing just off Defoe in the hope of getting more involved and in the 51st minute he at last made an impact, bringing a decent save from Bunn with a 25-yard drive. Spurs' improvement continued and Norwich had to endure bouts of ball-chasing, though Chris Hughton's men retained their threat on the break. Neither side, however, were creating many chances.
Holtby was introduced for his debut in the 71st minute and hinted at fine things to come with some elegant touches. Within seven minutes he was booked, however, as he found Norwich's intensity tough to contend with. Spurs needed inspiration – and Bale provided it. He collected the ball inside his half, galloped past opponents and into the Norwich box before poking the ball into the net from 16 yards. Bunn had to repel a long-range shot from Gylfi Sigurdsson two minutes from time to secure the draw.