Tottenham Hotspur 2 - 2 Everton
The victory would have been massive... and Everton came so close to achieving it. Unfortunately, with just three minutes of the 90 to go, everything came together for Tottenham and the Blues' valiant defence of a 2-1 lead handed to the by more individual brilliance from Kevin Mirallas slipped crucially to allow Gylfi Sigurdsson to score an agonising equaliser.
Coming into the first of four vital away games against rivals for European qualification, Everton knew that they would have to play out of their skins and earn some unlikely victories against some of the best teams in the country. Going behind as early as 33 seconds could have killed their spirit at the outset of this crucial clash at White Hart Lane but David Moyes's side showed their renowned resilience to turn the game on its head and came very close to throwing the Champions League race wide open.
It really was the worst possible start, though. Moyes's changed side, one featuring John Heitinga deployed as the disruptive pitbull deployed in front of the back four and a surprise start for Ross Barkley, had barely had time to settle before Jan Vertongen swung in wicked cross from the left, one of those almost-impossible-to-defend balls behind the back four, and Emanuel Adebayor acrobatically half-volleyed it through Tim Howard's legs from close range.
Just what Gareth Bale-less Spurs needed and it presented the very real danger that the Blues could get beaten comprehensively if they didn't steady the ship quickly. Though Andre Villas-Boas's side clearly had their tails up, it didn't translate into an anything approaching an onslaught. Indeed, without the creative outlet of Bale and Aaron Lennon and the movement up front of Jermaine Defoe, Spurs lapsed into a surprisingly one-dimensional, route-one approach that, unfortunately, Everton were only too happy to return in kind for much of the first half.
There was precious outlet from defence for the likes of Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka which saw the ball launched forward in the direction of Victor Anichebe who, thankfully, was putting in a beast of a performance leading the forward line without the help of Nikica Jelavic who dropped back to the bench.
It was a superb ground pass by Leon Osman, though, that sent Barkley to the by-line in the 14th minute and when Matt Dawson put the youngster's cross behind, it set up the corner from which Everton would equalise. Leighton Baines swung the kick to the back post, Jagielka met it with and his downward header bounced between Hugo Lloris's legs and into the net. 1-1, early calamity erased, game on.
The restoration of parity did little to change the caginess shown by the two teams, though, and the fact that Kyle Walker's long-range shot that flashed wide Howard's left-hand post following a surging run was the only other moment of note for the rest of the first half spoke for itself.
The second half was an altogether more open affair, particularly as the Blues started on the front foot and, after Seamus Coleman was denied a stonewall free kick just outside the Spurs box, Darron Gibson fizzed a low shot a foot wide.
And Moyes, seeing that Tottenham were largely being contained, made an attacking change with 51 minutes gone by removing Barkley in favour of Jelavic. Though it was a surprise to see him start, the 19 year-old had earned his chance to impress but he was largely ineffective and struggled to make an impact on either flank.
The change was the right one and although it had no direct impact, Everton went ahead a minute later through the explosive Mirallas. The Belgian had been almost invisible for 52 minutes before he picked the ball up on the right flank and just surged towards the opposition area on the same kind of jinking run that ripped Stoke apart last weekend. With two defenders left reeling in his wake, he picked spot and swept the ball into the far corner to make it 2-1.
Tottenham responded immediately and were it not for a superb, reflex stop by Howard, Dembele would have had the home side level a minute later. The Belgian international found space 20 yards out and when his low shot deflected off Heitinga, Howard turned the ball onto the crossbar with his right hand.
In the main, though, Villas-Boas' men found the thick Blue line of Everton's amassed defensive ranks hard to penetrate. Heitinga in particular was particularly effective at hunting the ball down and disrupting the opposition's attempted flow, Baines and Osman was keeping Walker quiet down the right flank and Clint Dempsey was getting almost no change out of Jagielka and Distin.
Walker's piledriver from 30 yards that Howard parried away too safety just past the hour mark was as much trouble as Tottenham caused for half an hour after the Blues took the lead — a lead that might have been doubled had Anichebe not gone for glory and lashed his shot wide rather than laying a square ball off to Jelavic who was open in front of goal — but, predictably, their pressure escalated as the game moved into the final 10 minutes.
Nevertheless, despite sloppy fouls by Gibson and Mirallas in dangerous areas that provided set-piece chances for Spurs, subsequently wasted, Everton looked comfortable in defence of their advantage until Walker left for Baines for dead and advanced with time and space to pick a square cross to Adebayor 10 yards out. Time slowed down as the striker's side-foot effort beat Howard, cannoned off the face of the post but fell straight to Sigurdsson and, sadly, the Icelandic midfielder couldn't miss despite Coleman's desperate attempted block.
A veritable kick to the groin for an Everton side who had defended so well but who are having to count the cost of not being able to see a game out, although it was always going to be a tall order given the effort expended in protecting the lead against what were still strong opponents. Fatigue clearly played its part as the Blues were caught uncharacteristically short on numbers in the area for Sigurdsson's goal but Spurs' equaliser took the tally of points Moyes's side have lost from winning positions this season to 21.
And yet, were it not for Lloris, Anichebe might have snatched all three points for Everton shortly after the restart. A constant menace to Tottenham's back line all afternoon, the striker out-paced and out-muscled Dawson as he sped onto a through-ball in the 89th minute but the goalkeeper came off his line to close down the angle and prevent the goal with his legs. That would have set the seal on a terrific outing for Everton but it was not to be.
It's fair to say that most Evertonians would have taken a draw before kick off but having done so well to turn the game on its head and come so close to seeing out what would have been the Blues' first double of the season, once again a late equaliser by the opposition feels like it delivered defeat.
Given how little Spurs troubled Howard over the 90 minutes, it was maddening that Everton's defence buckled on one of the rare occasions when they did manage to penetrate our area but while it's tempting to criticise the team for failing to hold onto that precious lead, it should be acknowledged this was always going to be a difficult game to win.
As has been noted on many occasions this season, it is the points dropped against the likes of Norwich, Newcastle and Fulham that have really kept the Blues from fulfilling their dream this season. It's a dream that is still not yet out of the question despite the favourable results for Chelsea and Arsenal this weekend but the order remains a very tall one. Nothing to be done, though, but give it our best shot in the games to come.
Man of the Match: Victor Anichebe
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229 Posted 09/04/2013 at 00:33:25
Yet another "if only".
230 Posted 09/04/2013 at 00:37:42
One great mystery, why is Gibson, with the apparent great shot, so ready to pass wide when a shooting opportunity comes up? He can, but doesn't score often enough. He seems to lack belief.
231 Posted 09/04/2013 at 00:53:04
As for that one, nearly men, one and all. As always.
232 Posted 09/04/2013 at 00:46:01
In contrast, it seems to me that Jelavic's game is far more limited. We know he can be a great goal poacher but in the modern game you need to have a few strings to your bow. He doesn't seem to hold the ball up well or have any physical presence. His range/vision for passing is also limited. Maybe one of the reasons that Moyes plays Fella up front is to compensate for Jela's deficiencies?
Barkley's contribution was a little disappointing but it was probably unfair and a little strange to start him in what was always going to be a difficult game. He obviously has skill but he is also a liability. His decision making lets him down and he often gives the ball away cheaply. For a "hard working" team like ours giving up possession easily is a cardinal sin. I think he needs some more "last 15 min" appearances and should go out on loan again for the start of next season.
234 Posted 09/04/2013 at 01:06:46
Why is a draw away at Spurs good enough, at this point Spurs is probably the only team except Liverpool that we have the chance to win against.
We all saw how we fell back after going 2-1 up, but Moyes did nothing to try and secure the lead either by making a defensive or attacking sub.
Moyes could have chosen to put Duffy in central defence if his intent was to hang onto the lead, but he chose not to.
The Naismith sub was a poor one, already it is clear that Naismith is not even a squad player good enough for this club.
I miss that ultimate hunger for winning with Moyes, the part were you do something "drastic" to get another goal, or go ultra defensive while hanging onto the ball and keeping it in the team by passing it around.
Pro`s refer to "going that extra mile to win", but Moyes just lacks that bit in my view.
To be fair the squad is a bit small, and we were missing Fellaini and Pienaar, but as long as I can remember I have never seen Moyes go for the "juggular".
THis was a golden shot to get 3 points, but Moyes would have taken a draw before the game so in the end he is still pleased.
I think it is becoming clear that Moyes does not have it in him to be a "top 4" manager.
I for one want more than just almost getting into europe each season, after a while of doing the same over and over it gets boring.
I would rather Moyes had done anything possible to win, then just fall back hoping to hold onto a one goal lead, because at this point in the season it is all or nothing in my view.
After losing two points I can say for certain that we will not stand a chance at getting 4th, as we will have to win against Chelsea and Liverpool away and that is to much to ask of Moyes who has a very weak record against them.
I feel bad for not getting 4th this season since we started so well, but that is sort of typical in that Everton gets my hopes up only to fail when it counts.
Inside I still have a tiny hope of a miracle and as long as there is hope there is a reason to hang on.
237 Posted 09/04/2013 at 01:44:27
244 Posted 09/04/2013 at 06:11:18
246 Posted 09/04/2013 at 06:19:47
Biggest plus was the amount of good chances we created given how much possession we had. Biggest negative was the decision making once we created the chance - number of times I was screaming for them to pass to an unmarked player and they went for glory.
Good match report and agree with vic as .MOM - credit to Moyes for seeing something in him and sticking with it when I would have got shut years ago. He looks a player now.
247 Posted 09/04/2013 at 07:05:13
248 Posted 09/04/2013 at 07:51:31
If Moyes had taken either striker off he'd have been accuse of "settling" and not "going for the jugular", or "having no bottle."
If he'd have taken either striker off then neither of them would have been on the pitch to put away two golden opportunitues to win the game very late on.
Was it Moyes's fault Vic didn't score at the death?
Seems to me David Moyes is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't these days.
The condemnation of him is starting to border on the ridiculous.
We were very unlucky not to win away at a side which is hailed almost universally as a very good footballing one, and one which has money to burn, one which is tipped for Champions league football.
Some people just don't seem to accept that the opposition has a say in our results as well.
Just getting a little pissed off about "some" people blaming Moyes for everything including the fucking weather!
256 Posted 09/04/2013 at 08:51:44
In truth, if both teams were able to find a pass one in a while it could have been a corker, but it was a shambles from both teams having a stroll in the Sunday sun.
Our tough fixtures must be seen as an opportunity, as CL football is still there for the taking. QPR next - another must win...
262 Posted 09/04/2013 at 09:24:40
282 Posted 09/04/2013 at 10:40:22
We must win the home games and Sunderland away.
593 Posted 10/04/2013 at 06:40:04
796 Posted 11/04/2013 at 11:50:33
With Pienaar out what was wrong with using Oviedo?
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