Nikica Jelavic’s winner on his full Everton debut condemned Tottenham to a third straight league defeat as David Moyes prepares to celebrate ten years in charge at Goodison Park.
Consecutive league defeats at the hands of Arsenal and Manchester United had realistically ended Tottenham’s title ambitions going into today’s game, though it was important for Harry Redknapp’s side to stop their run of disappointing results if they were to stay clear of Arsenal and Chelsea in the race to secure Champions League football next season. Everton meanwhile, despite a disappointing 2nd half display versus Q.P.R. last weekend, are one of the Premier League’s form teams and were looking to regain their momentum ahead of Tuesday night’s Merseyside derby at Anfield and next week’s F.A. Cup quarter final clash versus Sunderland at Goodison.
The game got off to a slow start with both teams seeing plenty of possession without building any serious pressure on the opposition’s goals during the opening quarter of an hour. Everton claimed the games first clear cut chance when Marouane Fellaini read Nikica Jelavic’s knock-down deep inside the Spurs box, though the Belgian found the ball at a tight angle to goal and his shot was saved well by Brad Friedel’s feet. This sparked the Goodison crowd into life and moments later they were celebrating Everton’s opener. Leighton Baines sent the ball to Leon Osman on the Everton left as Osman skipped past Younes Kaboul and into the Spurs box. Osman then deceived the Spurs defence as he found Jelavic unmarked thanks to an excellent cut-back and the Croatian made the most of Osman’s clever work when his precise side-footed effort found the bottom corner of Brad Friedel’s net. Jelavic could have doubled his tally moments later when he forced a save from Friedel following a free-kick from the edge of the box and it was only after Everton’s flurry of goalmouth action when Tottenham finally sparked into life. It was Jermain Defoe who provided the threat, sending two efforts narrowly wide of Tim Howard’s goal in quick succession.
The opening stages of the 2nd half saw Spurs improve dramatically, as they had to, following a poor 1st half display and Everton became encamped in their own half, happy to defend their one goal advantage. It took Harry Redknapp to introduce former Everton striker Louis Saha before Tottenham truly looked like scoring though, with Luka Modric sending an effort over the bar from inside the box before Saha himself had a thundering strike blocked by Sylvain Distin.
For all of Everton’s dogged defending and Tottenham’s incessant pressure the hosts nearly doubled their lead on the counter attack. Seamus Coleman squeezed past a packed group of white shirts near the centre circle to find himself rampaging into the Spurs half. Coleman then sent the ball towards Leon Osman, who had made a run in support and now found himself one-on-one with Friedel, his effort was tame however and was parried to safety by the veteran ‘keeper.
With the atmosphere inside the stadium intensifying Spurs could have found an equaliser late on as the game reached its frantic climax. The visitors threw bodies forward as Everton desperately tried to resist the onrushing Tottenham hordes. Rafael Van der Vaart watched his effort come off the bar before Saha hit the post from close range following a scramble inside the Everton penalty box.
Amidst scenes of euphoria Everton managed to hang on to their lead as the final whistle sealed another impressive win versus top class opposition at Goodison Park. The result will be valuable for David Moyes’s side as the Blues stretched their unbeaten run to nine game ahead of a week that sees a Merseyside derby, an F.A. Cup quarter final and the manager’s tenth anniversary as Everton manager. Tottenham now find themselves a mere four points ahead of their bitter rivals Arsenal, having played a game more than them and Harry Redknapp must now be targetting his side’s next league fixture versus Stoke City as a route to recovery following a dramatic dip in form.
[image credit: telegraph.co.uk]