Tottenham Hotspur played some of their best football all season at White Hart Lane on Sunday, putting together 90 solid minutes and scoring twice to defeat Everton 2-1. Christian Eriksen and Roberto Soldado both scored for Spurs in another come-from-behind victory.
The match started tentatively with both sides feeling each other out and probing for weaknesses, but it was Everton that opened the scoring. Kevin Mirallas found himself with the ball at the top of the box in the 13th minute and put an absolutely gorgeous shot into the top right corner to put the Toffees up 1-0. It was an outstanding and well-deserved goal, and once again Spurs found themselves chasing the game after conceding early.
The lead didn't last long, though – eight minutes later, Harry Kane ran through Everton's defense and fired a shot that was palmed away by Tim Howard. Eriksen got on the rebound and showed great composure, chipping in the equalizer over Howard, his fifth for Spurs this season.
The match settled down a bit after the equalizer and it looked like the teams would head to half-time all square, when in extra time Roberto Soldado received a great through ball from Aaron Lennon in the box and scored his first league goal for Spurs since last March, putting the ball just past Howard's reach. It was an outstanding strike and a huge moment for the Spaniard. The first half ended 2-1.
In the second half Spurs seemed content to sit back a bit and concede possession to Everton more often, but both teams had their opportunities to score. Federico Fazio had a golden opportunity in the 58th minute off of a cross from Eriksen, but he wasn't able to connect on the ball. Three minutes later Ryan Mason hit a blistering 25 yard attempt that went just over the bar.
Everton subbed in Leon Osman and Aidan McGeady for Samuel Eto'o and Kevin Mirallas in an attempt to get players open higher up the pitch, and while they had a few moments where they looked like scoring – Hugo Lloris had his best save of the match on Seamus Coleman after he latched onto a nice through ball from Ross Barkley – they couldn't quite get through Spurs' defense.
Things got a bit nutty late in the match with Everton chasing an equalizer. in the 90th minute, Federico Fazio appeared to handle the ball on an Everton cross, but the penalty (and red card!) wasn't given. Three minutes later Harry Kane was bowled over in the box, again with no penalty given. The match ended 2-1.
The win puts a Tottenham club that was not far from CRISIS in seventh place with 20 points, but only two points from fourth. A lot of monkeys were taken off of backs in this match: Soldado's scoring ability, Spurs' penchant for screwing things up after Europa League matches, the at times shady defense. Going into a terrifying match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, this was a huge boost of confidence to a Spurs side that desperately needed one.
- This was a great match from Spurs. They finally – finally! – put together a solid 90 minutes of good play in a league match at home and deserved the win. Good pressing, good passing, excellent tactics from Pochettino. A great win.
- Spurs' defensive line was outstanding tonight. Jan Vertonghen, who is surely a MOTM candidate, and Fazio had Eto'o and Lukaku in their pockets the entire game, and Ben Davies kept Kevin Mirallas in check. Even Vlad played well again until he went off late with a back injury. Just a solid, solid match against a good Everton attack.
- Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason started in midfield, which was both terrifying and exciting pre-match. Bentaleb had a whale of a game, and while Ryan Mason was off the boil it's a pairing that seemed to really work. I'd like to see more of this midfield combo.
- I'm not sure who slipped Paulinho the Don't-Suck Pills™ but he had a nice stretch late in the match. He was high-energy, was looking for his teammates, and changed the match, as Spurs were looking lethargic prior to his coming on. This was very nearly 2013 Confederations Cup-level Paulinho and I'm flabbergasted and pleased.
- So, so, so pleased for Roberto Soldado. You could just see the excitement and relief on his and his teammates' faces when he put that goal in. It's been a long time coming, and the goal was the capstone to what was an excellent match for Bobby Soldier. Long may it continue.