Everton and Spurs fought out an entertaining draw with a brace of goals apiece for Gylfi Sigurdsson and Harry Kane but, both sides will be disappointed at only having taken a point.
Two games gone out of the ten we said we had to make the big push for Europe with and Everton have only take two points from six – hardly the form we needed going into Friday evening game against Jose Mourinho and his Tottenham Hotspur side. If there was some saving grace, it’s that Spurs didn’t exactly set the world alight in going down at home to Man United last time out with that graceless article Son Heung-Min again at the centre of a controversy of sorts for his dying swan act to get Scott McTominay booked.
After the goalless snoozefest at Brighton, Everton were even more in desperate need of a positive outcome and having beaten Spurs twice already this season, Carlo Ancelotti could hopefully coax a third win over the Londoners from his injury hit squad.
He was however able to pass on some good news when addressing the media on Thursday advising, “Jordan Pickford, Allan, Andre Gomes and Joshua King are all fit to face Tottenham. In the next week we are going to have Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Yerry Mina, Fabian Delph and Bernard. It will be longer for Gbamin and Doucoure. Gbamin doesn’t need surgery but, he will be out for at least eight weeks. The plan for him is to be back for the start of the new season.”
The boss continued on the theme of the injuries effect adding, “It is true we have had a lot of injuries and we are in a difficult moment to manage this. During the season, we were able to manage the absences of Allan, Lucas Digne, Richarlison and James at times. But to have a lot of injuries all the same time is more difficult. But, while we still have some players out, I think the squad is better for tomorrow [than for the Brighton game] and I think we can compete against Tottenham.”
Knowing a win would see his team leapfrog over Spurs, the Don selected his starting eleven: Pickford, Holgate, Keane, Godfrey, Digne, Allan, Davies, Rodriguez, Iwobi, Sigurdsson (c) and Richarlison.
In the opposite dugout and coming under growing pressure is one of the most decorated managers in world football, the enigmatic and often combustible Jose Mourinho. The self-styled ‘Special One’ has lost some of his lustre in recent years and tasked with turning Spurs into trophy winners has proved more difficult than he’s found at most other clubs he’s managed to silverware.
Coming into the Goodison clash, Mourinho confirmed just two first team squad absentees through injury, left back Ben Davies and right back Matt Doherty, and speaking about the respective aims of the two clubs he remarked, “I believe that’s the same since the beginning of the season. You look at them, their investment, their improvement in players, the top coach that they have, the ambitions that they’ve never hidden, that’s Everton, the same objectives, and of course in this kind of match it’s not just about the points you get, it’s about the points that your direct opponent doesn’t get, so a big match for them, a big match for us.”
Having said it’s a big game for both clubs in terms of chasing European qualification, he drew a comparison to the rip-roaring FA Cup tie when we met back in February, “I think both teams will go for it in the same way in the sense that we both wanted to win the cup match, we both want to win the Premier League match but, a match with nine goals is not easy to happen again. I think one goal difference, one for them, one for us, reflects that reality, but a match with so many goals is difficult to happen again. But if it happens for us, a 5-4 win, I will be happy with that.”
With more options to select from, Jose Mourinho named his starting line-up: Lloris (c), Dier, Alderweireld, Rodon, Aurier, Ndombele, Hojbjerg, Sissoko, Reguilon, Son and Kane.
For a game with an awful lot of importance for both sides, our experienced referee was Michael Oliver.
Spurs straight onto the front foot before Tom Davies fouled Son, the free kick fired far too long and into the Gwladys Street seats and Everton themselves looking to get forward much quicker than they did against Brighton on Monday. The opening five minutes saw considerably more intent and pace than on Monday.
Hojbjerg was an early booking for a blatant pull on Sigurdsson ahead of Holgate striding forward to beat one man and then overhit a pass intended for Lucas Digne. Sigurdsson, Digne and Richarlison combined on the wide left with Richarlison dancing away from two defenders to fire a long cross to an area where DCL might have been and it sailed behind for a goal kick. A quarter hour gone and neither goalie had been called into any meaningful action – both sides negating each other in the early exchanges.
Ndombele went down as the Main Stand sniper got him, Ben Godfrey certainly didn’t and thankfully referee Oliver wasn’t having any of it but for some reason, didn’t book the Spurs player for either the dive or his atrociously bad ham acting.
After the event, Tom Davies saw yellow for a mistimed tackle on Sissoko and finally a shot on target came as Rodriguez made space to send a through ball into the path of Richarlison who saw his low curling shot palmed to safety by Lloris.
Aurier went down under a challenge by Digne and Everton generously put the ball out of play so the Spurs player could receive some attention.
Spurs opened the scoring on 26 minutes as Keane couldn’t get a good enough header on a cross from Ndombele and the ball fell nicely for Kane to control and plant his shot beyond Jordan Pickford and into the bottom corner.
A left wing charge by Sigurdsson saw him play a low ball to the edge of the box where Reguilon clattered into James Rodriguez from behind and referee Oliver had no hesitation in awarding the penalty, and Gylfi Sigurdsson pulled the Blues level inside four minutes sending Lloris the wrong way.
Sigurdsson and Richarlison exchanged short passes for the Brazilian to win a free kick in a good position just outside the box and left of centre, Sigurdsson seeing his shot charged down by the substantial Spurs wall. Everton were looking now to take a lead and Lloris held onto a shot from Rodriguez, Iwobi saw a shot blocked and then Lloris denied Rodriguez for a second time, gathering the ball at the second attempt. Good pressure from Tom Davies made Kane go backwards and pass all the way back to Lloris, Everton definitely looking the hungrier side as we reached the 40-minute mark.
Rodriguez and Sigurdsson worked another opening for Richarlison to shoot, his effort looping behind for a corner off Alderweireld, the set piece seeing a header from Richarlison easily held by Lloris. A clash of heads saw both Holgate and Davies need some treatment before continuing. Three added minutes were announced as Aurier fouled Lucas Digne and Rodriguez sent a terrific free kick to the back post where Godfrey arrived but, couldn’t direct the ball on target.
Sigurdssonh to Rodriguez and another instant pass released Richarlison into the Spurs area where he seemed to trip and the chance to get a shot away was lost.
In summary, after going behind, Everton responded well to get level and perhaps count themselves a tad unfortunate not to have taken a first half lead to the dressing room.
Half Time: 1-1
Neither manager made any changes for the start of the second half, 45 minutes that could have a huge bearing on the potential involvement in European football for both clubs next season.
Everton started brightly with Lucas Digne forcing Aurier into conceding an early corner that saw Rodon head behind for a second, Rodriguez finding the head of Richarlison but, he couldn’t keep his header down or on target. Godfrey put and end to some head tennis in the Blues area and when Iwobi lost possession, Spurs got forward and a cross from the left saw Digne concede a corner that was cleared by Iwobi.
Kane fed Son to get around Keane with Jordan Pickford narrowing the angle and force the ball behind for another Spurs corner that was hammered clear. Iwobi released Richarlison and when he tried to find Sigurdsson on the overlap, Alderweireld got back in time to deny the Icelander. More Everton pressure led to Godfrey having a shot blocked by Ndombele and another spell of good passing saw the Blues keep Spurs in their own half, and when Spurs did try to break, Tom Davies got a terrific tackle in on Reguilon to deny a possible opportunity.
Kane getting the ball from Son fed Ndombele and his shot looped over the bar off Digne, the corner from Son finding Alderweireld at the near post and his header hitting the outside of the post and going behind for a goal kick. Approaching the hour mark, the game was competitive and nicely poised, it was time for one of these sides, preferably Everton to really seize the initiative.
Everton were denied the go-ahead goal as Allan chipped a ball over the Spurs backline for Richarlison to finish but, be ruled offside. Seamus Coleman was the Blues first change in the 61st minute replacing Alex Iwobi.
And the introduction of our club skipper and 60-grand man was sensational as he played a sweet one-two with Richarlison to overlap and cross first time and find Gylfi Sigurdsson for a really classy sidefoot volley that gave Lloris no chance.
Jose Mourinho responded to falling behind with a double change, Lamela replacing Ndombele and Lucas Moura replacing Reguilon and needing to chase the game, they got an enormous slice of luck as a cross from Lamela saw Keane head against Holgate and the ball rebound straight to Kane who lashed it past Pickford before the Blues keeper had a chance to set himself.
Twenty minutes to play and the game really was in the balance, both sides clearly wanting to win and Kane went for a hat-trick as he flicked on a cross from Moura and it shaved the outside of the far post. It was now the visitors asking the more pointed questions and Lamela fired over as the Blues defence allowed him too much space to get forward.
A neat turn by Coleman on a ball from Godfrey saw him release the former Norwich player for a cross that was blocked and cleared and on the next Spurs raid, Kane saw a shot partially blocked and gathered by Pickford before play was halted while Rodriguez received some treatment on an earlier knock.
Ten minutes to play and could either side find a winner, Allan getting back to deny Lamela and a through ball from Davies for Richarlison seeing a corner won and cleared by Spurs.
Josh King made an 83rd minute appearance replacing Tom Davies to hopefully add a bit more firepower up front, and after Coleman saw a shot slide wide of the target, the change nearly worked, Richarlison found Rodriguez and his excellent ball through for King saw his shot cannon back off Lloris to Richarlison who blazed his effort over the bar.
Rodriguez – again at the heart of just about everything good for Everton – lofted a ball over for Digne to cross instantly, Alderweireld clearing in a hurry. Rodriguez was driving Everton forward in search of a late winner and won another corner only for Keane to be penalised for climbing on the back of Rodon.
As with the first half, three added minutes were signalled, and again Rodriguez got Everton forward for King to win another corner, with Godfrey unable to get a contact on target while Keane was clearly having his shirt pulled. Kane went down holding his right ankle and limped off very gingerly with Dele Alli replacing him. Another late chance saw Sigurdsson find Rodriguez who couldn’t get his left-footed shot on target.
In summary, better from the Blues in an entertaining game for neutrals watching but, an outcome neither club wanted in the yearning for European qualification.