It proved to be another tough and ultimately luckless night for Tottenham as worried Jose Mourinho poured over their FA Cup exit.
There was anguish in north London with Spurs finding themselves on the wrong end of penalty shoot out drama against Norwich City, who now go on to play either Derby County or Manchester United in the quarter-finals.
Certain managers have been accused in recent seasons of downgrading the famous old competition, Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, the latest. This isn’t a criticism, which could ever be levelled at Tottenham boss Mourinho however. The Portuguese was keen to forge his club to silverware in the cup this term, with strong team selections, albeit having to work without the still injured Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son.
Regrettably for Mourinho, their continued absence – Kane will be missing in action for at least another five weeks – was mightily exposed for the second time in quick succession at home, following the 3-2 Premier League defeat at home to Wolves on Sunday.
Tottenham’s performance was determined enough for spells, but they tired in the second half. It was enough for Josip Drmic to draw a 78th minute leveller for the sprightly Canaries – firing home from a howling error by keeper Michel Vorm - after Jan Vertonghen powered in an early header.
Spurs soft mentality was again obvious, despite encouraging performances from Oliver Skipp and Giovani Lo Celso, as they simply couldn’t build upon that initial position of strength – and a particularly off-colour display by Dele Alli did little to help their overall cause.
While Serge Aurier hit the post and extra time failed to separate the teams, the north Londoners faced penalty kick specialist Tim Krul in the Norwich goal, with the keeper denying Troy Parrott at the death.
The Canaries, consequently, move on. Something both Mourinho and his men must find a way of doing, starting with a tough trip to Burnley on Saturday and an attempt to haul back a 1-0 deficit away to RB Leipzig in the Champions League next week.
“I am really sad for the players and the fans but already I am thinking already about what next and am really, really worried about playing in two days,” admitted Mourinho.
“Trying to give my boys a chance to go to Leipzig with a minimum of conditions to fight against a fresh team, a team with incredible solutions and options and rotations.
“I have to think about a Saturday match and a Tuesday match and try to decide which one is the priority and which one is the one where I can give some of my boys under huge fatigue the best possible chance.”
Like the Wolves defeat, Mourinho insisted Tottenham were simply unlucky. And the manger has the additional headache of digesting the incident where Eric Dier entered a corporate area of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to confront a critical spectator as the collective disappointment took hold. The FA are now investigating.
Mourinho explained: “After the goal, after the mistake, with all the respect for Norwich, I'm not criticising them at all but we were the team that was close to winning in 90 minutes. Serge hit the post, I saw the ball inside and then in extra-time we were the team that tried. Again I would expect (Erik) Lamela to play 15 minutes, instead he played 60 minutes and he did so well.
“That's football. That's football. I think the team defended very well today. We were very solid. Very compact. Even in great difficulties, I think the boys they were quite solid in relation to the qualities they have. A clean sheet was very close. The game was controlled.
“Giovani did so well, Gedson had great opportunities to score as well,” he added. “The boys did everything they could. I think they deserved to win the game in 90 minutes and in extra-time. Penalties is penalties and they scored, congratulations to them.
“We were so close in 90 minutes, so close in 120, then we lose on penalties. It was frustrating and I repeat, I’m very sad for the boys.”