The surprise Everton team news – Arouna Kone starting and Gerard Deulofeu on the bench – gave an indication that the home side were looking to contain their high-flying opponents, initially, after recent criticism about their openness at the back. With Roberto Martinez’ men defending deeply, Tottenham were allowed put the pressure on the Blues from the off, denying them room to dictate the game as they so often do. As early as the third minute, the omens looked bad for Everton, as Spurs got round the back of Leighton Baines and were denied by a last gasp tackle by Seamus Coleman. Soon after, Harry Kane was given plenty of time and space to take aim and fire low against the post from 25 yards. It was a warning they did not heed.
The nerves amongst the Goodison Park crowd were palpable and visibly seemed to have crept onto the field. Everton were at sixes and sevens for most of the half, apparently unable to deal with the multitude of angles the Spurs players were coming at them from. Therefore, it was a surprise to all that Everton took the lead – Spurs old boy Aaron Lennon finishing beautifully after a tidy knock down by Romelu Lukaku. Kone had a chance to double the lead blocked before Ben Davies rattled the woodwork again for the visitors to compound their bad luck during the half.
They weren’t to be denied for too long though. In first half injury time, a searching through ball by Alderweireld caught Stones and Funes Mori dreaming (a common occurrence recently) at the heart of Everton’s defence to allow Man of the Match Dele Alli to control and smash home a classy goal. It was the least Pochettino’s men deserved for their commanding performance, but – as Everton have found to their cost on many occasions this campaign – you always had the sense that it was an opportunity missed to secure the three points by half time .
From the beginning of the second half, Everton played at a much higher tempo and pressed Spurs much higher up the pitch – essentially mimicking Tottenham’s tactics in the first period.
The end-to-end nature of the game made it a far more even contest and with the introduction of Besic and, in particular, Deulofeu the Toffees grew in stature to the point where by the end of the game, they looked the more likely side to nick the win; and a steal it would have been given how good Spurs were in the first half.
Before the game, I am sure both sets of fans – and both managers – would have been satisfied, if not happy, with a draw. But for Tottenham, it’s the ability to win the games you dominate so comprehensively that will define how good their final placing will be come the end of the season, and today, they were found wanting in that department. It’s a weakness Everton have been dealing with all year. Welcome to our world!