Death, taxes, and me incorrectly predicting football results. These are the things you can count on in life, as this weekend’s Premier League match between Tottenham and Everton demonstrated. Though I managed to guess one of the goalscorers’ name correct in my previous blog, my predicted final score and belief in the possibility of a Spurs clean sheet proved inaccurate Saturday morning as the two sides played out a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park. In the end, the result was probably fair on the balance of play, but both managers will be disappointed to have only taken a point from a match they could easily have won.
It was Everton who started the brighter side, playing with an energy and discipline usually associated with their visitors. It was a hardly a surprise that they took the lead on 5 minutes, but the manner in which the goal was conceded will have been frustrating for Spurs. A Ross Barkley free kick from the right side passed through the penalty area untouched, sneaking past keeper Lloris and into the bottom corner. Worse still for the Tottenham captain was that he seemed to injure himself on the play, and would later leave the game in the 35th minute, to be replaced by backup Michel Vorm.
The hosts continued to press after the first goal, with Jagielka and Barkley both getting headers in the box that they failed to convert. Meanwhile, the hosts’ organized defense afforded Spurs few real chances, with forward Harry Kane looking particularly ineffective. In truth, Tottenham did well to escape the half only a goal down, despite the best efforts of defender Danny Rose to help Everton to a 2 goal lead via a horrendous back-pass in stoppage time. Deputy keeper Vorm snuffed out the impressive Deulofeu as he pounced on the misplaced ball, though, and the sides went into the dressing room with the score at 1-0 to Everton.
For much of the first half, Pochettino had cut an angry figure on the Spurs touchline, and he must’ve let the lads have it during the interval. Still, Everton picked up where they left off to start the second half, with only a late Dier tackle denying a chance at the second goal off a well-worked counterattack. By 56 minutes, Poch had seen enough, and made the substitution that would change the game. New boy Vincent Janssen replaced Dier, and immediately saw to his task of harassing the Everton defense. His hold-up play created a chance for Alli within minutes, but the midfielder pulled his shot over.
The breakthrough for the visitors arrived unexpectedly in the 59th minute. Some good work from Alderweireld to keep possession led to Kyle Walker receiving the ball in an advanced position on the right wing. The fullback whipped in a cross that found Lamela, who cut in front of rookie defender Holgate to glance a diving header into the far post. The Argentine’s equalizer turned the game into a much more even affair, with Everton still dangerous but the visitors finally growing into the game.
It was during these later stages of the match that new Everton goalkeeper Stekelenburg proved his worth, coming up with a string of fine saves to keep the scores level. First, the Dutchman reacted superbly in the 80th minute to deny Janssen a goal on the doorstep after his fellow international teammate executed a quick turn and shot following a corner. It was a good save, but it would quickly be bettered. In the 84th minute, Kane played Lamela in down the left, and the winger unleashed a strike inside the area. As Stekelenburg committed to his left with a dive, the ball deflected off one of his defenders, sending it back to his right. Off balance, he still managed to get a right hand up to turn the ball onto the crossbar, effectively saving the game for his team in the process.
The rest of the match proceeded without much goalmouth action, and Everton held on until the full time whistle for the 1-1 draw. After the match, Poch lamented a slow start that likely cost his side 2 points, while his opposite number Koeman praised a workmanlike performance that hinted at a brighter future for Everton than last season’s mediocre finish would suggest. Both managers know that more consistency will be required in their second fixture, as Spurs host high-scoring Liverpool and Everton welcome Stoke City to Goodison.
For Poch, a few issues will dominate his preparations for the Liverpool match. The first is a problem he likely didn’t expect to have, as Lloris’ hamstring injury will almost certainly sideline him against the Merseyside outfit. A second concern would be the less-than-impressive form of players like Kane, Alli, and Dier. All three looked off their usual pace on Saturday, and an incomplete post-Euros preseason has clearly hampered their preparations. Poch has gone as far as insinuating that Kane may not be a guaranteed starter at White Hart Lane next weekend, suggesting Janssen might lead the line instead.
On the brighter side of things, one big positive for Spurs will have been the performances of new signing Wanyama and the ever-energetic Lamela. The former provided steel in midfield and showed the kind of work rate that no doubt drove Poch to move for him in the first place, while the latter was a key part of the attack and got the goal that salvaged a point. Lamela has looked quite good in recent months after a tough start to his Spurs career, and I feel we could be witnessing his breakthrough season this year if he stays fit and continues performing at this level.