Everton made 2 enforced changes from last weeks derby success, with Arteta and Osman’s injury problems enabling Bilyaletdinov and Piennar to come back into the side. Everton started with a familiar 4-5-1 system, with Heitinga playing more withdrawn in an almost man marking assignment on his former Ajax teammate Rafael Van Der Vaart. Spurs opened up with a similar 4-5-1 system, something of a surprise considering Redknapp’s usual preference for two out and out strikers.
Spurs settled better and had Everton on the back foot early on, with their attacking emphasis focused down their strong left side and in particular Gareth Bale. Seamus Coleman was rightly applauded for his marauding offensive runs last week but his brief today was clearly to assist his skipper Neville when Bale took possession of the ball. The Everton duo did a sterling job shutting down this avenue, with Bale registering no successful crosses in the 90 minutes. Tottenham’s most influential player of the first period was undeniably Modric, who took advantage of Heitinga’s constant tracking off Van Der Vaart. At times Modric had acres of space to run into inf front of the Everton defence, although his influence waned in the second period as a combination of tiredness and Piennar’s more prudent positioning. On the left hand side, with Billy cutting in to little effect other than to suck Hutton out of position and enable Baines to romp up the touchline.
Goals at both ends
Somewhat against the run of play, Everton took the lead on 17 minutes. Spurs are a quality outfit going forward but without King at the back they carry a fragility which always threatens to undermine their enterprise in the opponents half. In Kaboul and Gallas they have a soft centre, and it was Kaboul’s clumsy challenge which gave Everton the free kick which Baines brilliantly wrapped into the top corner of Spurs net. It was the 5th of Everton’s 9 goals this term which Baines has been involved in, showing his importance to the Blues cause and the prominence of Everton’s leftside is shown in the below attacking map, with Everton predominantly attacking down the left side in this match.
As noted in previous posts, this left sided attacking avenue is also Everton’s achilles heel. Three minutes after taking the lead, Hutton strode into acres of space down the Blues left to whip in a cross which Howard inexplicably parried to Crouch who gave Van Der Vaart an open net to slot home for the hosts. It was cruel on the Blues having just taken the lead but over the first period spurs enjoyed 60-40% of possession so it would have been hard to begrudge them a share of the spoils at the interval.
4-5-1 becomes 4-4-2 for both sides.
The second half was something of a letdown after the fast paced action of the first. Spurs looked more jaded as the game went on and posed less of an attacking force. In response to this, both managers made changes with Spurs perhaps more to do with replenishing flagging energy levels and Everton’s to take advantage of their greater energy from a free week. Pavlyuchenko was introduced first to partner Crouch, with Van Der Vaart moving to the left wing and Bale, who was well marshalled by Neville crossing over to the right side. Heitinga again appeared to be feeling cramp which has forced him off in recent games and was replaced by Hibbert with Neville moving inside to anchor midfield. Moyes then threw on Beckford for the final stages alongside Saha, but neither managed to force a save from Gomes.
Everton continued their steady improvement with a fourth game unbeaten. This is impressive given that 3 of these games have been away against decent opposition and the other was a derby matchup. The return of Neville to organise the defence has had a massive impact, with only one goal conceded in this sequence…and that being a gift from Howard. In Jagielka, Everton have arguably England’s most in form defender and he was on top form today.The only area which Everton will feel they could have done more from was threatening the Kaboul/Gallas axis, as Yakubu clearly had the beating of Gallas and Cahill with Kaboul. Everton probably didn’t create enough clear cut chances to deserve to win the game, but their industry when Spurs had the ball more than earned them a point.