Chance to go second slips by as Spurs lack cutting edge
Respite from supporter pressure for Spurs but Everton highlight weaknesses
James McCarthy of Everton jumps for a header with Lewis Holtby of Tottenham Hotpsur. Photograph: Chris Brunskill/Getty Images LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03: James McCarthy (L) of Everton jumps for a header with Lewis Holtby of Tottenham Hotpsur during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park on November 03, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Everton 0 Tottenham 0
The “difficult atmosphere” of White Hart Lane was left behind but the scrutiny of Tottenham Hotspur’s title ambitions continues for Andre Villas-Boas. Both Spurs and Everton missed an opportunity to go second in the table, though only the manager who spent more than £110 million in the summer was forced on to the defensive afterwards.
Reservations were not expressed at Goodison Park by Spurs’ travelling support, it should be noted, following a hard-fought but often uninspiring goalless draw.
They applauded the endeavours of Jan Vertonghen and company, Hugo Lloris’s bravery in playing on with a head injury suffered in an accidental collision with Romelu Lukaku and sang Roberto Soldado’s name on a trying afternoon for the striker.
A point against an Everton team who are unbeaten at home in the Premier League in 2013 and have increasing ambition of their own is not a meagre return, but the post-match focus on the lack of a genuine threat from Spurs, a topic that clearly irritated Villas-Boas, was justified.
Spurs dominated the first half but could not capitalise on one of Everton’s most disjointed 45-minute displays of the season with one clear goalscoring chance. While Jermain Defoe and Erik Lamela kicked their heels on the bench, it was the Everton manager, Roberto Martinez, who made the positive substitutions that produced a reaction. Only Hull have scored fewer league goals in the top 10 this season than Villas-Boas’s men and despite his claims to the contrary, Spurs’ lack of incisiveness could prove costly in this most open of title races.
They had enough of the play to have prospered at Goodison. Considering the position at stake for both sides, the initial gulf between the two was surprising. Tottenham controlled proceedings from the opening whistle with Sandro leading the authority from midfield and Vertonghen providing constant menace from left-back.
Everton’s prospects of gaining a foothold were not helped by the ease with which Spurs picked possession off their front four. But for all their dominance the visitors did not provide Soldado with the support or numbers to stretch Tim Howard.
The possession football that Martinez has introduced so successfully at Everton was nowhere to be seen before the interval but with Lukaku finally starting to hold up play, plus Leon Osman’s and Steven Pienaar’s touch improving, the second half brought an immediate response. Mirallas was foiled by a superb Vlad Chiriches challenge having been sent clear by Lukaku, and Pienaar had a clear chance to score.
Lloris was knocked cold by an accidental collision with Lukaku’s knee. The Everton striker was booked as the goalkeeper received lengthy treatment but refused to leave the field, despite the appeals of his team-mates.
In the 89th minute he vindicated the decision with a fine save from Gerard Deulofeu. The headache will belong to Villas-Boas unless a greater cutting edge is found.