Tottenham Hotspur ended the season with two consecutive wins and in fifth place in the Barclay's Premier League table after a 1-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park. Harry Kane scored his 31st goal of the season in all competitions, and it was the difference between the sides.
Spurs' starting lineup was a weird one as it appeared Mauricio Pochettino was starting three center backs with six midfielders. Pre-match speculation centered around whether Spurs were playing three at the back, but it turned out to be the usual 4-2-3-1 with Nabil Bentaleb playing left back and a Ryan Mason-Mousa Dembele pivot. Danny Rose was ruled out with a dead leg in training yesterday.
The first half started out fairly evenly. Spurs had the majority of possession and played a strict counter-pressing game against the Toffees, pushing hard in midfield and trying to control the match.
Midway through the half, Erik Lamela found himself clear on goal. His shot toward the left corner of the goal was blocked away by Tim Howard, who made a fine save. Just a few minutes later, Kevin Mirallas found himself through on goal, but his shot was smothered by Hugo Lloris. Mirallas had another volleyed attempt that went just high.
Spurs opened the scoring in the 24th minute: deputized right back Eric Dier put in a blistering cross from the right flank that met Harry Kane's head and into the back of the net. It was Harry Kane's 31st goal of the season, and a gorgeous play.
The halftime score could've ended up even better, as Spurs had two legitimate penalty shouts waved off, but it was a dominant first half that ended 1-0.
Everton made one change at halftime, bringing in Muhamed Besic for Ross Barkley. That change, plus maybe Roberto Martinez's halftime talk, lit a bit of a fire under the Toffees, as they came straight at Spurs to start the second half. Everton had a number of chances and half-chances, but none of them came to fruition.
Spurs substituted Mousa Dembele, who appeared to pick up a knock, for Benjamin Stambouli, and appeared to back off the pressure a bit. Most of the remainder of the half was a back and forth midfield battle without many clear chances for either side. Late in the match Sylvain Distin came on as his Everton swan-song, a few players picked up chippy yellow cards, and that's pretty much all that happened in the entire half. The match ended 1-0.
- Spurs' win, combined with Liverpool's 6-1 loss to Stoke, means that Spurs improbably finish the season in fifth place, and also made up the goal differential between the clubs. Essentially, we'd have finished fifth even with a draw. This means, among other things, that Spurs will for sure play in the Europa League and will begin in the group stages, not having to play a play-in match early in the season.
- Another fine match for Erik Lamela today, who has in my mind more than justified his continued place in this Tottenham team for next season. Let's not sell him. He's good.
- How ironic is it that our brightest young center back is also the team's best crosser of the ball? That ball from Eric Dier to Harry Kane was straight fire.
- Nabil Bentaleb was... actually a capable left back today. This scares me, because now I'm afraid that Pochettino will start playing him there, especially if we sell Danny Rose this summer. But kudos to Nabil, who showed that he's perhaps one of the most versatile and talented players we have.
- Kudos also to Ryan Mason who played well again today. I still don't like him in the pivot, but he's done enough to make me want to see him in a different role with Spurs next year.
- Spurs played very well overall, but this Everton side was on the beach. I expected a much more spirited match from the Toffees, but I'll take the win.
- Win aside, I'm SO FRUSTRATED with Pochettino's lineup today. OK fine, so you're not going to play a Bielsa-like three at the back formation. Then play DeAndre Yedlin! Give some time to Harry Winks and Josh Onomah! The fact that all three made the bench but we didn't see any of them in the match today really irritates me.
- We'll have much more season deconstruction on the site later on, but let's just say this: despite being wanting to tear my hair out over Pochettino's decisions this season, I think overall he has been fine, and I'm very excited to see what Spurs can do this summer in the transfer window. It's going to be a very fun summer.