After a challenging couple of weeks, Tottenham Hotspur had an opportunity to settle things with a match against midtable Everton. Everton had at points been flirting with the relegation zone early this season, before recovering somewhat to sit midtable, mostly on the back of a quite solid defence (though clean sheets had mostly eluded them).
Antonio Conte opted to rotate in a manner that has now become somewhat typical for Spurs, with both wingbacks and the left centre back being switched out from the midweek Champions League tie: Ben Davies, Ivan Perisic, and Matt Doherty earning starts.
Tottenham had all the running of the game early on, with Everton opting to sit extremely deep with a back 5 formation. An early chance saw Kane make a near-post run, but his flicked header was blocked. Richarlison had his own opportunity against his old club soon after, with an excellent cross from Perisic finding him free at the far post; however, his jump was poorly timed, and the header ballooned over the bar.
With Everton committing no numbers forward whatsoever a lot of the play was focussed on the two Tottenham wide centre backs, often passing back and forth with their wingbacks and Eric Dier. When Spurs did get forward, it was often in the wide areas, with a flurry of half-chances coming from crosses into the box and set pieces. The attack struggled to create many clear-cut opportunities, though one nice drive from Son into the 18-yard box saw a mild penalty shout, before he struck a free kick into Everton’s wall.
It didn’t all go Spurs’ way, however, as Everton looked to execute counters of their own. A clearance down Everton’s right found Demarai Gray one-on-one with Rodrigo Bentancur, who he did for both pace and strength. Gray burst into the box, only to see his strike sail over the crossbar, before Bentancur later picked up an undeserved yellow card for a tackle where he clearly won the ball.
There was one more huge chance for Everton after an horrific miscommunication between Cristian Romero and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Hojbjerg looked as if he had a bouncing ball under control as Romero rushed out towards it; Hojbjerg saw Romero coming and left the ball for him before Romero also pulled out last minute. The result was Amadou Onana streaking away into the Spurs 18-yard box, only to once more lift his shot high with a goal begging.
Tottenham pushed forward once more and resumed their pressure on the Everton defence, with one more late chance to come: some quick play forward from Spurs saw Harry Kane curl a ball in towards Richarlison on the penalty spot, who got in front of his man but could only push it over the crossbar. A combative half of football came to an end with nothing on the scoresheet.
There was a scare for Spurs early in the second half, with Richarlison coming off with what looked like a calf injury. Rather than retaining the 3-4-3 shape with a switch for Lucas Moura, Conte opted to bring in Yves Bissouma and shift instead to the 3-5-2. The shift nearly saw immediate benefits, with a Ben Davies cross finding Harry Kane open in the box, whose first-time volley was beautifully struck but straight at Jordan Pickford. Son couldn’t keep the rebound down, and the opportunity came to nothing.
Everton soon earned themselves another yellow, with Idrissa Gana Gueye diving in late and high on Hojbjerg to become one in a growing tally of Everton players in the referee’s book. Son had another chance as Perisic broke forward down the left and crossed the ball, but Son’s header was scuffed and Pickford recovered possession.
Spurs finally made their breakthrough following a Jordan Pickford howler. He spilled a Matt Doherty shot on goal, before swiping Harry Kane down as the Spurs striker touched the ball past his England teammate. The referee was quick to point to the spot, and Kane exorcised the demons of his midweek miss as he dispatched the penalty coolly.
Everton soon made a double change to try get themselves back into the match, but it was business as usual as Tottenham continued to see the majority of the play. Kane had a decent chance as he turned nicely at the top of the box, but his shot couldn’t find its way past Pickford.
From there, it was mostly just long periods of possession for Spurs, before they made the result safe with a late goal. Kane won a long ball, before playing in Bentancur down the right, making a lung-busting run. His early cross found Hojbjerg in the penalty area, who controlled well and slotted past Pickford to put Spurs up 2-0. Oliver Skipp, Djed Spence, and Lucas Moura saw late cameos, but there was no further change to the scoreline as Tottenham saw out the three points.
- Well, that wasn’t exactly champagne football, was it? A pretty forgettable match, but a good three points.
- Boy, Frank Lampard really channelled his inner Sean Dyche, didn’t he? Everton really did NOTHING with the ball and just looked to sit deep and try deny Spurs any chances. It didn’t work in the end.
- Richarlison’s injury will be a point of fear for all Spurs fans, especially with Kulusevski still out. It’s a point of concern for me as well, with money on him to win Golden Boot at the World Cup.
- The positive to that injury though is we saw possibly Yves Bissouma’s best performance in a Spurs shirt. His positioning was excellent, he covered space well, and he looked to move the ball quickly.
- Speaking of the Spurs midfield, Bentancur and Hojbjerg continued their excellent form with strong performances. There were also positive signs from Matt Doherty as he works his way back to full fitness.
- Next up, Manchester United at Old Trafford.