Everton's Premier League bogey team... Spurs have only lost once in 12 visits.
Once again, decimated by injuries, it was a typical 4-4-1-1 line-up with Jo up front, Saha and Yakubu on the bench. Everton attacked with fervour when they had the ball but as soon it was propelled forward to Jo, you knew nothing would come of it, whereas, each time Spurs surged forward, nerves were a-jangling. Yobo was clutching his thigh after their first attack and did not look happy at all. Seamus Coleman came on for him inside 15 mins.
The pity was Everton were playing some great attacking football to get the ball up to Jo but the big galoot was in technical terms utterly fucking hopeless in every regard.
Rodwell was livid with ref Mariner after he was yellow-carded for a good sliding tackle on Kranjcar when he got the ball but it came off the Spurs player's leg as Rodwell followed through with his trailing leg. Hardly worth a card though...
Coleman was doing reasonably well, and won Everton's first corner on 23 mins with an excellent low cross, and although has zero pose as a footballer, he became increasingly effective in doing what needed to be done as the game developed.
Dawson was the next in the book for a clumsy foul on Cahill but Bily's free-kick was atrocious. Dawson then blatantly elbowed Fellaini in the neck, surely a yellow card offence?!? but he had just been booked....Baines took this one and curled it but Gomes had it well in hand. Rodwell went in somewhat recklessly on Lennon ad got away with it as well.
Defoe looked set to score off a great ball in from Krancjar but incredibly screwed it wide. It was an action-packed game with Hibbert making an absolutely superb last-ditch tackle in front of Howard to deny Defoe.
Handbags were flung in earnest when Fellaini and Assou-Ekotto clashed then Cahill went in on the Spurs player and got caught as studs were raked rather unpleasantly down the side of Cahill's head. Assou-Ekotto was booked, and Fellaini also for his overly aggressive reaction. Fellaini and Crouch then elbowed each other, Crouch play-acting more and winning a serious lecture for the Belgian. Feisty stuff, perfect to get the Goodison crowd up and at 'em.. Pienaar set Jo through but of course he was declared offside (perhaps dubiously).
With half-time looming, Spurs had come very close but Everton's spirit and determination, coupled with some excellent attacking football that had unfortunately gone nowhere (did I mention Jo was utterly fucking useless?) had made a great game of it. Just such a pity there wasn't a stronger more determined more savvy striker playing instead of the hugely disappointing Brazilian.
There were plenty of desperate moments in the beleaguered Everton defence but a clean sheet by half-time was just the job, with Hibbert excelling again as a diminutive stand-in centre-half.
Plenty of action before the whistle as Pienaar was hauled down by Assou-Ekotto, Baines delivering in a good free-kick that was blocked out to Coleman who fired it back in for screams of handball, but the poor referee had had enough and blew for half-time rather than giving Everton the penalty.
Harry decided on prudence, hauling off Assou-Ekotto for the second half and putting on Garteh Bale but Lennon powered in a superb ball that finally beat the Everton defence with consummate ease inside two minutes, Defoe stepping in front of Howard to sidefoot casually into the roof of the net. After a great first half, Everton were suddenly back to chasing the game... and for a few minutes it really showed as heads dropped.
Everton struggled to get the ball, Bily finally opening up but his shot from distance was poor and Everton were soon under pressure again, Rodwell shamefully failing to clear a bouncing ball. Howard then had to be at full stretch to fingertip a bouncing half-shot form Crouch just inches past the post.
Baines was next in the book for a poor tackle from behind. Everton gave away a corner and from it, Dawson escaped from Neill to score dramatically with a fierce diving header.
Two goals down despite some spirited paly... Time for Everton to start attacking in earnest? Yes, right on cue, just after the hour mark, Moyes finally brought on Yakubu and Saha in place of Rodwell and Jo, switching perhaps to 4-4-2 or 4-3-3, depending on where Cahill plays...
The spice and fire of the first half was pretty much gone however, and the impetuous Everton had before half-time seemed to have faded. Huddlestone got carded for a tackle from behind that potentially reinjured Pienaar.
Coleman did well to get another good cross in but Palacios beat Yakubu to deny an almost certain Everton goal. But wastefulness was epitomized by a lousy free-kick from Baines that missed everyone.
Lennon needed stopping on a forward run and Cahill's name also went in Mariner's notebook, the resulting free-kick curling fractionally over the angle. Pienaar lofted the ball forward nicely to Yakubu but his shot was seriously poor, as Bale then was the eighth yellow for a rash challenge on Coleman. .
For Everton, both Yakubu and Saha looked well behind the game. Thankfully, as Everton were stretched, Crouched waltzed into space and could only screw the ball wide of Howard's far post. But more excellent work from Coleman down the right fed King Louus Saha who instinctively whacked the ball into the roof of the Spurs net with 12 minutes to go. GAME ON!
Everton came close to the equalizer when Pienaar delivered a superb cross and Saha executed an almost perfect overhead kick with his back to the goal that just curled past the post with Gomes stretching desperately. The equalizer came, though, on the next attack, as Coleman picked up the ball wide and powered over a cross that was glanced out to Baines on the far side. He didn't connect well but the ball bounced off he turf toward Cahill, lurking where only he should be, and his quick stooping header bounced up into the roof of the net; 2-2... Goodison went mad crazy wild.
Everton were given 4 minutes of stoppage time to get the winner, but Bily, who had been frankly poor all game, was again the weak point. The script, however, was read wrong when Mariner gave a penalty against Hibbert who clattered into Palacios fractionally after the Spurs player had headed the ball away from Howard and the goal. After a long pause for Palacios to go off on the stretcher, Alan Hutton game on in his place and Defoe finally stepped up... but Howard was superb, blocking the low penalty kick away with his feet.
Enough time left for another free kick to Everton at the other end but Fellaini was declared offside. 8 mins of added time ultimately, with the injury to Palacios, but it was not enough for Everton to get the winner. Still, a great game of football, a really gutsy game from a seriously depleted Everton side that went behind to two superbly executed Spurs goals (in massive contrast to the flukely crap Liverpool managed last weekend).
Plenty of heroes out there tonight, especially Coleman, who was a breath of fresh air in terms of his unstoppable self-belief, and Hibbert who, despite the penalty, had done well to hold the makeshift defence against all but the best Spurs could muster.
Everton hadn't won on home soil since mid-September before today's barnstormer kicked off at Goodison and though they're still waiting after a pulsating draw, the manner in which they salvaged a point and then saw Tim Howard preserve it with an injury-time penalty save no doubt left many fans leaving the ground feeling like they'd witnessed a victory of sorts.
Certainly it was a partial triumph over the twin adversity of a crippling defensive injury crisis and some horrendous refereeing in the early going, and it was certainly a victory for the Blues' never-say-die attitude which returned in the nick of time to deny Tottenham what had looked to be three points in the bag.
David Moyes was shorn of the injured duo of Sylvain Distin and Dan Gosling and also without the suspended John Heitinga so he had precious few options in defence. Joseph Yobo had been withdrawn from last weekend's Merseyside derby with a hamstring strain and didn't travel to Athens in midweek because of it.
However, as he did against AEK, Moyes gambled on the fitness of an injured player and paired Yobo with Tony HIbbert, with Lucas Neill returning at right back. The gamble backfired, however, even more quickly than it had in Athens. As early as the second minute the Nigerian he pulled up in a race to the byline with Aaron Lennon and couldn't prevent a corner.
He was a passenger for the next 13 minutes and was finally withdrawn in favour of Seamus Coleman who slotted in at full-back and Neill moved inside to centre-half. In the interim, Yobo was at least protected somewhat by the fact that the Blues were enjoying a spell of pressure at the other end.
Jô had almost prompted an own goal by Verdan Corluka in the first minute and when Steven Pienaar released Jack Rodwell into the right-hand channel, the young midfielder hit a fairly tame shot that Gomes saved. Fellaini then wasted a promising attack by dragging a poor shot wide from 25 yards and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov was an inch away from a perfect through-ball for Jô but the Brazilian just couldn't get the touch required to bring it under control to take it past Gomes.
Tottenham's attacking threat was an ever-present danger but when Peter Crouch found himself in space with just Tim Howard to beat from 10 yards, he blazed over the bar after eight minutes. Then, Jermaine Defoe was released through the centre of the Everton defence but Howard blocked his shot and Tony Hibbert made the taclke to prevent the striker from latching onto the rebound.
The new central defensive pairing had barely become acquainted when Defoe spun Hibbert and gave Howard the easy task of gathering his soft effort after 18 minutes and Jack Rodwell was booked for a hefty, borderline fair challenge on Niko Kranjkar.
Both sides were enjoying half-chances by ths stage and though Jô was at times too isolated and at others let down by his touch, he almost surprised Heurelio Gomes with a spin and shot that flashed across the Spurs goal. Then, after he'd won a corner with a terrific cross, Coleman exhibited another flash of his precocious talent to set up a cross-cum-shot for Steven Pienaar. The ball ended at the feet of Jô but he couldn't finish under pressure from Corluka and the chance went begging.
The nastier side of the match started to emerge just before the half hour mark in when Matthew Dawson scythed Tim Cahill down by the byline, an assault that referee Andre Marriner couldn't get away with ignoring and the defender was duly booked. A minute later, though, the same player inexpicably elbowed Maourane Fellaini in the back of the head but escaped further displinary censure. It did yield a direct free kick for Leighton Baines to size up, though, but while his shot was in target, Gomes caught it with an acrobatic leap to his left.
The deadlock was almost broken after 33 minutes when Kranjkar picked the lock of the home defence and released Defoe with just Howard to beat but, thankfully, he hooked his shot wide of the left-hand post.
The handbags came out again a couple of minutes later, though, when Assou-Ekotto appeared to deliberately rake his studs down the side of Cahill's head. Cahill reacted with restraint but when Fellaini joined the set-to and was violently shoved by the narky Spurs defender, the situation was ready to boil over. The referee, of course, saw fit to book both Assou-Ekotto and Fellaini (even though the Belgian had done nothing except join the verbal exchange).
As an act of retribution, Fellaini foolishly elbowed Peter Crouch in an aerial challenge but that sly dig went unseen by the officials — good thing, too, as he would almost certainly have been off.
If the Everton players had taken a 15-minute nap at half-time, it probably wouldn't have surprised many because they simply weren't at the races as the second half began. Tottenham, on the other hand, went immediately on the attack and Defoe found himself in on goal straight from the restart. While a combination of Hibbert and Coleman shut that chance down, Spurs retained the ball and Howard had to punch clear to prevent Crouch from getting a header in on goal. The ball came back to a white shirt, was fed to Lennon on the right wing and when his cross came in, Hibbert had allowed Defoe five yards of space and the striker turned it past Howard with ease.
Everton's response was muted. Diniyar Bilyaltdinov, who had perhaps as poor a game as he's had since arriving in August, fired high and wide from outside the area but Spurs reclaimed the attacking initiative in the 52nd mimute when Crouch easily beat Fellaini in the air and latched into the loose ball when it dropped back at his feet but poked wide under the attentions of Hibbert.
A minute before an hour had elapsed, Everton fell two goals behind and it was arguably yet more poor marking that was to blame. Lennon swung the kick in from the Tottenham right and Dawson showed the determination to shrug off Neill and throw himself headlong and power home a header.
Yakubu and Louis Saha had already been warming up in anticipation of coming on to cancel out Spurs's first goal and both duly entered the fray in place of Rodwell and Jô with a higher mountain to climb after 61 minutes.
And yet still the Blues remained frustratingly short of ideas and impetus going forward. Bilyaletdinov just wasn't in the game no matter which flank he switched to and the usually reliable Pienaar was also off his game so there was no real width and a general lack of invention.
To make matters worse, Cahill felt compelled to halt a quick Spurs attack down the center by purposefully clipping Lennon's heels and picked up the inevitable yellow card that means he will miss next weekend's game at Chelsea through suspension after picking up a fifth yellow card for the season.
The pendulum started to swing Everton's direction, though, thereafter. Yakubu had a chance, perhaps his first real scoring chance in the Premier League since he returned from injury, but he couldn't get a good enough connection and Gomes saved comfortably. Gareth Bale was then booked for a late tackle on Coleman and the Irishman, who seemed determined to do something good every time he got the ball, exacted his revenge in style by skinning his marker and barreling to the byline. One low cross and a first-time connection by Saha and Everton were back in it at 2-1; the Frenchman notched his 11th goal of the season with another predator's goal.
Goodison came alive at the anticipation of the fightback in the offing and rose as one with six minutes left of the regulation 90 as Saha met Pienaar's cross with a fantastic overhead kick that seemed destined to sneak inside Gomes' left-hand post but bounced agonisingly an inch the wrong side of the upright.
The home faithful only had to wait another three minutes for the equaliser to come, though. Coleman had again got forward with purpose down the right and clipped a ball across the Spurs defence and out to Baines on the far side. Baines might have been going for goal with the left-footer he despatched or he may have just been hoping to hammer it into the six yard box but whatever his intentions, Cahill stooped to meet the ball and buried the header past Gomes to send Goodison into rapture.
With injury-related stoppages to the likes of Jô and Pienaar, it was no surprise when the fourth official signalled four minutes of injury time and more than two of those had elapsed when subsitute Wilson Palacios dashed onto a through-ball that had dissected the Everton defence looking to score the winner. Hibbert came across but when Palacios got his head to the ball first, the defender's momentum had nothing to meet except the attacker's body and Palacios went sprawling from the impact. Referee Marriner had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Goodison's collective heart sank at the prospect of a stirring recovery counting for nought.
Palacios was eventually stretchered off after three minutes' attention from the physio and after the drama was over, Defoe stepped up to take the spot kick. His attempt was driven straight down the middle of the goal and Howard, alive to the possibility saved superbly with his legs, the rebound falling to Fellaini and he hacked clear. Relief all round and a bitterly painful loss was averted by Howard's heriocs.
This was always going to be a tough game. Tottenham really have their act together now under Harry Redknapp and with an attack as potent as theirs has been in recent weeks going up against a decimated defence, it was perhaps inevitable that they would score goals. That both of them came from defensive lapses from two players who are not centre-halves by trade was equally unsurprising.
Importantly, though, Everton found their attacking mojo at the just the right time and, again, not surprisingly, it was after the introduction of two dangerous strikers that they finally started to pose a genuine threat. Jô had not played especially badly but his first touch was often either poor or non-existent and he suffered from being isolated as the lone striker.
Yakubu was a danger running at the Spurs defence with the ball and Saha is simply a class act in front of goal, fully deserving of the goal that sparked the late rally.
Special praise must go once again to Coleman, though, for arguably the most complete performance from a right back seen at Goodison in many a year. Tenacious in the tackle, quick to close opponents down, and with a seemingly insatiable appetite for bombing down the right flank, the 21 year-old will have many people wondering why Moyes didn't give the lad his Premier League bow sooner. Granted, not everything he did came off but more than once he'd come across to snuff out attacks in the cente-back positon and his assist for Saha's goal was crucial.
So, more for Moyes to build on as he plots his side's escape from the quicksand at the bottom of the table but injuries and suspensions will likely be as big a factor at Stamford Bridge as they were today so Chelsea will be an even sterner test next weekend. One day at a time, though, and at least the spirit is there.
David Moyes's half-time rant at the KC Stadium may eventually turn out to be the turning point of this season in terms of the team's attitude, but it's going to take a transformation in the Blues' luck on the injury front if their challenge for the European places is going to get back on track.
Three more players bit the dust in Athens on Wednesday — that is if you count the already injured Sylvain Distin as a casualty of the Olympic Stadium quagmire — and that coupled with John Heitinga's suspension leaves David Moyes with another selection crisis in central defence.
Distin aggravated the hamstring injury he originally sustained in the derby after just 17 minutes of the win over AEK Athens and it's not the kind of injury that heals quickly so both he and Joseph Yobo are rated as serious doubts for this Sunday's visit of Tottenham.
Tony Hibbert, who deputised superbly in Athens, is already primed to play in central defence and Lucas Neill, who was ineligible in midweek, is likely to partner him even though Shane Duffy handled himself with great maturity as Distin's replacement. The right-back slot is likely to go to Seamus Coleman who has yet to make his Premier League bow.
Jo's injury is not thought to have been as serious as his trip on the golf cart suggested but Louis Saha will probably return to lead the line after recovering sufficiently from a calf strain.
Lucas Neill: LIkely to partner Tony Hibbert in central defence
Tottenham, meanwhile, who are without medium- to long-term injury victims Carlo Cudicini, Giovani, Ledley King, Luka Modric and Jonathan Woodgate, have no new injury or suspension worries.
Harry Redknapp's side seem to finally have got their act together and currently occupy that coveted fourth Champions League slot. They grabbed all the headlines a couple of weeks back with a 9-1 win over Wigan Athletic and there's no question that Moyes will not be relishing going up the ex-Liverpool giraffe and the in-form Jermaine Defoe with a makeshift defence.
The Blues haven't won at home for two and a half months and it will be a tall order given the key absentees but if they can get things ticking in attack and get some goals — you have to go back to that 3-0 win over Blackburn on 20th September for the last time they scored more than once on home turf — on the board they will at least give them some leeway.
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|Assou-Ekotto :37' (46' Bale :74')|
|Palacios (94' Hutton)|
|Kranjcar (88 Jenas)|
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