As Tottenham and Everton both chase a top four finish and a fabled Champions League place, a win in yesterday’s game could have made all the difference.
Instead White Hart Lane bared witness to a frantic tug of war, ending in the two sides sharing the spoils.
Spurs couldn’t have started better. 34 seconds gone and the outstretched foot of Adebayor met Jan Vertonghen’s deceiving cross. 1-0. Though this goal came to be a hindrance, lulling Spurs into a false sense of security. As our conviction diminished, Everton’s grew, immediately trying to make amends for the early goal.
Frequent attacks from the wings saw Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman pressure the Spurs full backs. Whilst Victor Anichebe asserted a dominance over Michael Dawson and Steven Caulker that would last the length of the match. A deserved equaliser came from a Baines corner in the 14th minute. Phil Jageilka towered above Vertonghen to head through the legs of Hugo Lloris. 1-1.
As the first half continued Spurs dominated possession, but Everton absorbed and thwarted every attack. The frustration showed as we were limited to a handful of poor long range efforts. The dynamism of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon was sorely missed today. Without them, our long spells of passing came to nothing. Mousa Dembele provided the only source of direct attack. The Belgian occasionally sauntered through the Everton midfield but without the influence of our two best attacking players, opportunities were bleak.
The game turned to one of attrition with Scott Parker and Leon Osman the most combative, frequently clashing in the centre. It was here Everton missed one of their absentees. The suspended Marouane Fellaini often affects games, the way Bale does for Spurs.
Another interesting battle was the one between Kyle Walker and Leighton Baines. Both fullbacks make formidable partnerships with their respective wingers. But with Lennon and Pineaar both out and the other midfielders tucking into the middle, the England defenders faced each other alone on that flank. Walker certainly attacked more but Baines defended well against the speedster, displaying another side to his ever-impressive game. The on-looking Roy Hodgson may well have been predicting a defensive dilemma for the World Cup next summer.
Everton started brightest in the second half. A low shot from Darren Gibson fired inches past the post before Kevin Mirallas produced another brilliant goal on 53 minutes, mirroring his stunner against Stoke. Vertonghen was caught in possession, allowing Mirallas to drive towards goal. He darted past Scott Parker and was met by Caulker on the edge of the box. He bobbed and weaved like Ali in ’74, sending the defender this way and that. Once the gap presented itself, the Belgian pulled the trigger and Lloris was helpless to watch Everton’s second rifle into the net. 2-1.
Compatriot, Dembele almost levelled the score minutes later when his pinball effort ricocheted off John Hetinga before being pushed onto the crossbar by Tim Howard.
Due to injuries, game-changing attacking substitutions were restricted. Whilst I concurred with Tom Huddlestone’s introduction, Dembele’s exit was bizarre. He was clearly our most dangerous player and the decision to withdraw him from the game was one that Andre Villas-Boas could have regretted if the draw had been a loss, especially with a fruitless Clint Dempsey playing.
Nonetheless, Huddlestone introduced a slight change to Spurs’ game. I forgot how good a passer of the ball he is and we were able to widen our attacks with the big man scoping the pitch. Whilst Huddlestone anchored, he was also issued with the task of keeping an eye on Anichebe in a match up to rival Hulk vs The Thing.
As strength contested that battle, speed decided that which led to the blessed equaliser. It was Walker who sprinted down the wing, knocking the ball past Baines and leaving him in his dust before cutting the ball back to Adebayor. The striker hit the post from 15 yards but thankfully Gylfi Sigurdsson was quickest to the ball and poked home the rebound in the 87th minute. 2-2.
Though, Everton could have grabbed all three points in added time. Anichebe got the better of Dawson yet again and could have capped a fine performance if not for a crucial save made by Lloris.
Despite salvaging a point, Spurs drop to fourth due to Chelsea’s better goal difference. What’s more, both the blues and Arsenal have a game in hand to play. If Arsenal wins, Spurs go fifth.
The only respite Spurs can take from this is that with no game next weekend, Bale and Lennon have an extra week to recover before we face Man City on April 21.
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