For long periods of this game, it looked as though the team selection, influenced as it was by injuries to Seamus Coleman, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin was exposing the lack of depth in quality in Marco Silva’s squad.
It was somewhat ironic, then, that Theo Walcott and Cenk Tosun, two players who had done little in the preceding hour to advance their respective cases for retention by Everton next season, scored the two goals that could and probably should have resulted in the Blues’ first win away at a top-six side in six years.
As if to compound that irony, it was a clumsy foul by one of the players the club and fans are desperate to keep, André Gomes, that handed Christian Eriksen the kind of dead-ball opportunity that he relishes and thereby deprived the visitors of three points.
Nevertheless, it was an intriguing game from Everton’s perspective, one that perpetuated concerns over some of the team’s weaknesses while also reinforcing the feeling that there is a growing resilience and spirit in the ranks that will stand them in great stead next season.
Silva had lined up his defence with a central defensive setup that felt like a sop to Yerry Mina given his injury problems this year and, perhaps, his hefty price tag. The change shunted Kurt Zouma to the right side where he performed ably enough but at times it was visibly at the cost of his normal pairing with Michael Keane that has been the rock on which a run of eight clean sheets in 10 games had been founded.
Prior to today, Everton had gone 11 games without conceding a first-half goal but it took less than two minutes for that run to end and in the context of the uncertainty over Zouma’s future, Mina’s role in it was somewhat disconcerting. The had been unable to prevent the ball going behind for a corner but he made a mess of the ensuing set-piece. Mina missed his connection with a header allowing the ball to drop to the feet of Eric Dier who lashed it home to notch his first goal of the season.
Given Tottenham’s strength and the manner in which they would proceed to overrun Everton in midfield at times in the first half, gifting them a fourth-minute goal felt as though it had ensured another torrid afternoon against Mauricio Pochettino’s men. Spurs trounced Everton under Sam Allardyce 4-0 at Wembley last season and came away with a 6-2 victory from Goodison Park earlier this season and as Keane gave the ball away in a dangerous area and Lucas Moura looked to capitalise, the feelings of deja vu began to set in.
Thankfully, the Brazilian blazed his effort narrowly over from 20 yards and though Everton generally lacked options moving the ball through midfield, they did manage to fashion a couple of openings of their own in the first 20 minutes
Everton took a while to get their act together in response. Overrun in midfield at times when they didn't have the ball, undermined by poor distribution by Jordan Pickford and struggling for options and movement when in possession themselves, they still had a good chance to level after 10 minutes when Gylfi Sigurdsson picked out Keane with a free-kick but the centre-half could only steer his header straight at Hugo Lloris. Then, after Bernard had cut a cross from the byline behind Tosun, the ball ran to Walcott where the former Gunner was able to get an effort on goal despite his legs giving way underneath him.
Silva’s men began to grow into the contest as the half wore on, however, and when Bernard fired a shot through the legs of Kyle Walker-Peters on the half-hour mark, Lloris had to get down smartly to save at his right-hand post to keep it out.
Sigurdsson then tested the French ‘keeper with a dipping effort from the edge of the area and Keane despatched the downward header the wrong side of the post before Bernard picked Walcott out with an accurate cross but the winger took too long to pull the trigger and was dispossessed.
For 25 minutes after half-time, the match lapsed into more pedestrian end-of-season fare although it was Everton who should have scored with their best chance to that point when Tosun knocked the ball through into space in the Spurs box but Bernard, on the stretch, could only stab it wide.
Still, it was encouraging from Everton and they would get the goal that their increasing penetration deserved after Silva made a double change that somewhat surprisingly saw Gomes introduced for Idrissa Gueye and Ademola Lookman for Bernard.
It was Lookman who drove purposefully into space towards the Tottenham area and laid the ball off to Sigurdsson who in turn found Walcott. The winger took a touch and then fired a shot inside the far post to level the game and send the vocal Evertonians in the corner into rapture.
It would get better for the travelling Blues three minutes later just as word came through that Manchester City had increased both their lead at Brighton (to 3-1) and their grip on the Premier League trophy. Sigurdsson swung in a corner that was met by a towering header from Keane. Lloris parried his effort on the line, Lookman couldn’t quite get enough on the ball to convert from close range but Tosun was on hand to force it over the line and put Everton 2-1 up with 18 minutes left.
Unfortunately, Spurs would score on their first attack following the restart. The home side worked the ball through a large hole in the Blues’ back line that put Erik Lamela into a dangerous position but he was bundled over by Gomes a couple of yards outside the box, setting Eriksen up to rap home the equaliser. The Dane hammered the resulting free kick inches over the wall and into the far corner of the goal before the unsighted Pickford had a chance to properly react.
Had Everton been able to hold out a bit longer, they might well have gone on to win because Tottenham had caused them few problems in the second half. And it was the visitors who would go closest to claiming the three points in the closing stages when Lucas Digne’s excellent chipped cross picked out Tosun but the Turk could only plant his header into Lloris’s grateful arms.
So a point at Tottenham to end a season that began and ended in hugely encouraging fashion but which was ultimately undermined in critical fashion by a run of relegation form over the winter months. That, combined with the hope that there will be injection of more genuine quality over the summer, should fill Evertonians with plenty of optimism going into the 2019-20 season.
Question marks remain over the futures of Zouma and Gomes — as popular as the latter is, it’s the potential loss of the former that is arguably the more concerning, particularly given Mina’s suspect start to life in England — but there is clear evidence of a structure, a plan and a process about Silva’s work at Goodison now that points the way to a more stable and competitive future for Everton.
Note: A criticism of Mina conceding a needless corner for Tottenham's first goal has been corrected above after further viewing of the replay.
Everton brought their frustrating 2018-19 season to a close with their first visit to Tottenham's new stadium, where they could not hold on to a brief 2-1 lead in the second half.
Everton started with three centre-backs in Zouma, Mina and Keane, Zouma playing right-back. Schneiderlin retained his place with Gomes only on the bench, returning from a 3-match ban. Coleman, Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin were out injured.
An early corner was not cleared and fell to Eric Dier who smashed it past a stunned Jordan Pickford. The return of zonal marking? Everton huffed and puffed but could not get out of their own half in the first 5 mins, perhaps a little awestruck facing the Champions League Finalists in a magnificent new stadium...
Finally, a free-kick that Keane got to and kindly headed straight into the arms of LLoris with the goal at his mercy. Spurs scampered upfield, despite being offside, but getting a potshot at Pickford, which he saved well from a close angle.
The slipshod Everton defence again allowed Spurs to run through, Alli firing just over the bar. Spurs kept attacking at will, with the Blues unable to get their game in gear, exemplified by Gueye firing the ball out of play behind Digne.
But after 18 minutes, the Blues constructed something approaching an attack, Bernard's ball in from the left reaching Tosun who prodded it at Lloris. The ball was cleared up the other end for a corner that was fired over.
Bernard shipped a lovely ball up for Tosun to chase but he naive shoulder charged Dier who collapsed for the slight pressure, drawing an easy foul from the generous Andre Marriner. Sigurdsson tried to release Tosun on the right but a poor touch saw the ball lost.
A better move saw the two combine but Tosun cut it back to the Icelander rather than shoot himself and the attempt was blocked. Walcott and Tosun made space for Sigurdsson who also choose to slot it back across goal rather than shoot.
A cross was cleared to Bernard who tried to sneak it inside the post but his shot was too weak and Lloris got down to it. Spurs pushed forward again but, after letting in the early goal, Everton's rejigged defence seemed to have a better handle on things, Alli firing wide.
Everton showed more intent toward the break, first Keane again getting his head on a free-kick and then Sigurdsson firing in a very difficult shot that Lloris did well to get his body behind. Bernard did well to roll a nice ball in for Walcott whose extra touch wasted any chance. A nice ball to Tosun hit his standing leg. At the other end, some more sloppiness was not punished.
Walcott was knocked over in a dangerous place, setting up a tasty free-kick that Digne smacked into the top of the wall, the Blues winning a corner in the second phase, that came to nothing
A bright restart for Spurs, Walker-Peters sending a deflected cross teasingly in front of Pickford and out for a corner. A buffoon then ran on the pitch.
Digne forced Sissoko to give up a corner that was worked around to Walcott who again wanted the extra touch so he could shoot at a defender. Sigurdsson floated a free-kick well beyond the far post and out. At the other end, Eriksen's cross-shot was deflected out for a corner that was eventually cleared.
Walker-Peters caught Tosun above the ankle but was not punished. Tosun seemed to have set up Bernard but he could only poke it wide on the stretch. Keane won a double duel with Eriksen to stop him striking. Pickford had to be alert to keep out Llorente's header before there was a double change: Gueye and Bernard off for Gomes and Lookman.
Spurs were now containing Everton at a canter, without seemingly trying all that hard to press for a second goal, as the Everton fans celebrated news of Man City's 3rd goal with the prospect of Spurs winning an upcoming European final in Madrid, much to their mutual delight.
Then, from nothing, Digne fed Lookman who did really well to feed Sigurdsson and it was Walcott who fired home low and hard, a great shot beyond Lloris and inside the far post.
A brilliant piece of work by Sigurdsson set up a great cross from Digne and, from the ensuing corner, there was a real scramble, Tosun getting the credit for forcing it over the line after Lookman's shot was blocked. Everton had turned the game around in 3 minutes.
Gomes fouled in a dangerous spot and Eriksen fired it beyond a hapless Pickford with consummate ease, 2-2, a fantastic strike. Spurs then made a double-sub.
Sigurdsson beat his man but the cutback did not sit up for anyone. Everton gave up another dangerous free-kick a little further out, the defensive header conceding a corner. At the other end, Digne placed a perfect cross to Tosun whose header was straight at Lloris.
Everton attacked with some zeal, Zouma winning a corner, played short and then easy for Lloris. Everton ran forward but could not find a way through, going into the last 5 minutes of the 2018-19 season, and it finished 2-2.
Everton finish 8th behind Wolves, who this season take the accolade of being the Best of the Rest.
Scorers: Dier (3'), Eriksen (75'); Walcott (69'), Tosun (72').
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Davies, Walker-Peters, Alderweireld, Dier, Sissoko, Alli (46' Wanyama), Eriksen, Lamela, Moura, Llorente. Subs: Gazzaniga, Trippier, (77' Janssen) Aurier, Marsh, (77' Skipp).
Everton: Pickford, Mina, Keane, Zouma, Digne [Y:90'], Gueye (65' Gomes), Schneiderlin [Y:71'], Sigurdsson, Walcott, Bernard (65' Lookman), Tosun. Subs: Stekelenburg, Baines, Jagielka, Davies, Kenny.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Everton bring their mercurial 2018-19 season to a close this Sunday when they make their first visit to Tottenham's new stadium.
The Blues are hoping to end their Premier League campaign on a high by beating Spurs on their own patch for the first time in 11 years and thereby secure eighth spot ahead of Leicester City.
Marco Silva's side come into the final day of the season two points better off than the Foxes so would only need to equal their result against Chelsea while Watford would need a huge swing in goal difference to leapfrog both clubs.
Everton will be without Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin for their game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium after Silva revealed that both players have been ruled out through injury, while Seamus Coleman is rated as doubtful with a knock of his own.
Richarlison has been struggling with the rib injury that necessitated his withdrawal against Manchester United and Burnley while Calvert-Lewin picked up an injury in training.
"Let's see if Coleman can play or not,” Silva said in his pre-match press conference. “He will be a doubt. Let's see tomorrow. It's nothing special, a small problem in his groin.
"Richarlison came out of the last game with a problem with his rib. He will be out of the next game, definitely."
Silva is able to call upon André Gomes for the first time in three matches now that he has served his suspension for a late tackle on Aleksandar Mitrovic in the defeat at Fulham last month but that would mean a difficult decision for the manager. Morgan Schneiderlin has performed impressively in the Portuguese's stead in recent matches but Gomes has been first choice when fit and available.
Should he be selected, there is a chance that it would be Gomes's last appearance for the Toffees as speculation continues to swirl that Tottenham are close to agreeing a deal with Barcelona for the midfielder. Gomes has offered a number of hints on social media that he was prepared to sign for Everton this summer and Silva said that he was unaware of any decision having been made by the player.
“The only feedback I have had until now is from André and what he said to me because our relationship is really honest. He and his agent also said that he hasn't decided anything about his future.“
Coleman's potential absence offers another chance for Jonjoe Kenny to impress on what would be his first start since the defeat at Watford in February while Ademola Lookman and Theo Walcott will be vying for Richarlison's spot wide on the right. Up front, meanwhile there's an opportunity for Cenk Tosun to lead the line.
With Spurs still coming down from the euphoria of their dramatic win over Ajax in the Champions League semi-final, effectively guaranteed a top-four finish, and with their minds perhaps wandering to their big game in Madrid on 1st June, this could be a good moment for Everton to play them.
The Blues are well overdue for a win on the ground of a top-six side and based on their recent form they are fully capable of registering one to see out the season on a positive note.
Kick-off: 3pm, Sunday 12 May, 2019
Referee: Andre Marriner
Last time: Tottenham Hotspur 4 - 0 Everton
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Kenny, Keane, Zouma, Digne, Gueye, Gomes, Sigurdsson, Walcott, Bernard, Tosun