David Moyes sprung a major surprise with the inclusion of Jermaine Beckford and the deployment of 2 out and out strikers from the first whistle for the first time this season. The Blues lined up with an orthodox 4-4-2 with Heitinga in for Jagielka in his more accustomed centre half role while Spurs setup 4-4-1-1 with Crouch leading the line supported by Van Der Vaart. Jenas was preferred to Palacios in midfield meaning a very attacking line-up with no holding player in the centre of the park for Spurs.
Everton started the game in fine fettle and took an early lead when Louis Saha’s clever one two with Baines resulted in the Frenchman striking a tidy right footed drive beyond Gomes outstretched right hand. It was a classic Everton left side manoeuvre with Pienaar’s intelligent run from outside to in taking a defender with him and creating the space for Saha, shown in the below screenshots. It was Baines 7th assist of the season which is some achievement for a full back. Saha has had a truly heinous 12 months in front of goal since he signed his new deal but tonight he put in a fantastic shift, not just in terms of output in front of the opposition goal but also as a first line of defence. His and Beckford’s brief was clearly to press Tottenham’s defenders when they where in possession and cut out the supply to the midfield dangermen Bale, Modric & Van Der Vaart. He performed with some aplomb, making 7 successful tackles, more than Distin and Heitinga combined.
Saha Goal Screenshot
Pienaar runs from inside to out, taking the defensive anchor Jenas with him
The space created by Pienaar’s run gives Saha a clear area to receive the ball and strike on goal
Spurs Back in Business
Alain Hutton was heavily involved in proceedings from the moment Saha struck the games opening goal. Firstly he appeared to impede Steven Pienaar in the Spurs 18 yard area but the incredibly lenient Probert waved play on. Soon after, Hutton steamed down the right hand side and in a goal reminiscent of the one Spurs scored against us at the Lane in October, Crouch knocked down for Van Der Vaart to slot from close range following a slip by the returning Johnny Heitinga. As the game headed for half time Spurs where looking much more dangerous and should have taken the lead when Bale crossed for Crouch to tuck into Howard’s net. The former Liverpool man showed extreme naivety by not looking across the line and timed his run badly which resulted in the goal being ruled out for offside.
Key Chalkboards from left to right, Saha & Fellaini pressing with tackles won in blue (left and centre) & Everton shots on goal in red (far right)
Everton came out with renewed belief of winning the game and where creating a host of opportunities. Our usual strategy is 4-5-1 without the ball and 4-4-2 with the ball, but today the strategy was 4-4-2 throughout with an emphasis on pressing high up the pitch. With Van Der Vaart dropping into the inside left slot with great regularity Spurs often had a man advantage in midfield resulting in them completing 346 successful passes compared to their host’s 285. Everton faired much better off the ball though, winning a remarkable 21 out of 23 tackles on the ground. In fairness to Spurs they faired better in the air, succeeding in 20 out of the 32 aerial challenges.
The chalkboard analysis above shows we created 21 chances tonight, with 7 clear shots on target, more than any other game this season and proof for those who believe two strikers is the way forward. Saha was on fire, and fed Coleman superbly down the right however the Irishman perhaps had too much time to think about the opportunity before stroking an effort tamely into Gomes hands. There was to be no second chance for Spurs though as Saha fired in an effort which Gomes saved but only as far as the rampant Coleman who dived to head past the Spurs keeper. It was just reward for Coleman whose all action game was great to watch in the second half.
Spurs where looking increasingly tired as Everton, who where led well by the driven Fellaini continued to take the game to the visitors. Redknapp made several changes to try and galvanise his side but to no avail As the game reached its conclusion it was Everton who looked the most likely to add to their advantage and should have done so when Yakubu went clear only to make a hash of a one on one with Gomes.
A great day for all concerned with Everton. The Stoke game was a real low but strength in adversity was shown by the team tonight and our commitment and end product was there in abundance throughout. This isn’t the first time we have had a result against a top side this campaign, with only 1 defeat from 7 outings against sides in the top 6. Now we need to do what we haven’t done after these previous good results against good teams and get a result against a team below us in the table. Liverpool away therefore will be a real test of our ability to do so and show some consistency. COYB!