Ronald Koeman was the last manager to mastermind an away victory at White Hart Lane, with Southampton towards the end of last season, but there was to be no repeat on his return as manager of Everton.
Two goals from Harry Kane took him two clear of Romelu Lukaku in this Premier League campaign before Lukaku threatened a revival by capitalising on an error by Jan Vertonghen to score an 80th minute goal which was his 61st in the Premier League for Everton, breaking Duncan Ferguson’s record. Alas, it was not enough to resurrect hopes of a win in this intensity encounter just after high noon. There was even time for first Dele Alli and then Enner Valencia to exchange goals in added time but the result remained the same.
After the titanic struggle by Tony Bellew to overcome David Haye at The O2 Arena, this was another giant heavyweight clash. Two teams who had accrued the highest number of points in the Premier League in 2017 and two strikers in Lukaku and Kane who topped the goalscoring charts, too. The key, Koeman had suggested, would be “to press, make it difficult and don’t give too much space between the lines” because of Tottenham’s “high individual quality” with players such as Christian Eriksen, Alli and, of course, Kane.
With just one goal conceded in 2017 coming into the game, the Spurs defence has been one of their key assets, too, and when Lukaku attacked down the left and bore in on the Spurs penalty area a perfectly-timed challenge by Vertonghen, Lukaku’s Belgian international teammate, emphasised the cool quality underpinning those impressive stats.
Kyle Walker, another pivotal player in the Tottenham defence, has a fondness for getting forward, too, and one such foray in the sixth minute along the right flank and into the Everton penalty required a cool head and a quality challenge by Leighton Baines to avert the danger at the expense of a corner.
The battle in midfield was tight, cagey and compelling. Ross Barkley had described Mousa Dembele in the build-up as the most formidable opponent he has faced and it was easy to see why. The Blues managed to induce some anxiety in the home side when Tom Davies and Idrissa Gana Gueye paced in on Hugo Lloris’s goal, forcing Eric Dier into a desperate slide tackle and Vertonghen into a no-nonsense clearance. But Spurs were stealing the momentum and soon they were ascendant.
Almost inevitably, it was Kane who broke the deadlock for Tottenham, streaking clear of Gana and securing too much space in a dangerous area 25 yards from the Everton goal, from where he unleashed a powerful shot just inside the right hand post and outside the outstretched right hand of the diving Joel Robles. His 18th goal of the season and a hammer blow in the 20th minute for Everton.
Within a couple of minutes it could have got worse for the Toffees. Some twisting and turning in the penalty area by Kane and a clever one-two with Eriksen opened up another gilt-edged opportunity and Robles had to save from the England striker from point-blank range as Ashley Williams was left chasing a ghost.
Robles had to save again from Kane at his near post when Walker attacked with stealth and menace once more to get his cross in from the right byline.
Tottenham were in full flow now, their movement quick and incisive and their penetration opening up large gaps in the Blues’ defence. Walker picked a perfect pass in behind to Eriksen who was clear when he dragged his right-footed shot wide. The Dane's free kick just eluded in quick succession the heads of Walker and Kane before Victor Wanyama had a deflected shot come back off the post and Kane, following up, fired wide. It was frenetic and fearsome fayre, Tottenham close to their best.
And yet the difference was merely Kane’s goal, which was almost cancelled out when Gareth Barry played a cheeky chip through to Lukaku who narrowly failed to control the ball and leave himself with a clear shot on goal from close range. Given how well Spurs had played, Everton could feel relieved to be only a goal down when referee Michael Oliver blew the whistle for half-time. Tottenham’s superiority for a lengthy period had been clear.
They began the second half more threateningly, too. Ben Davies whipped in a cross from the left which Alli headed down and on target, but Robles saved. Then Vertonghen made a powerful run through midfield, skipped around Williams when he approached the penalty area and drilled a powerful strike towards the near post which Robles punched away for a corner.
But when it came right down to it, Everton were complicit in their own downfall. Robles rolled the ball to Morgan Schneiderlin who had his back to the incoming Alli. When he turned and tried to pass short to Williams, Alli stormed in and stole the ball away, flicking it across to Kane on the edge of the area who was in no mood to spurn such a gift. The Tottenham striker almost nonchalantly fired his shot low and to Robles’ left to secure his 19th goal of the season and seemingly put the game beyond the Blues.
Kevin Mirallas was introduced for Davies and James McCarthy for Barry, the double substitution taking place in the 64th minute. Barkley played a one-two with Mirallas on the edge of the area to fashion an opening but his shot was saved easily by Lloris. Robles made a much better save from Kane after Walker played Davies’s cross back across goal but Walker had been in an offside position and the assistant referee’s flag went up before Eriksen found the bottom corner of the net on the rebound.
Everton refused to submit. Coleman charged forward along the right flank and towards the penalty area where Dembele brought him down, right on the edge. The free kick came to nothing but shortly thereafter Lukaku pounced on Vertonghen’s slip and accelerated into the penalty area before despatching his shot beyond Lloris, his 18th Premier League goal of the season.
Enner Valencia came on for Gana and Robles saved from Kane again, but Everton were not done. A corner kick was ripped in by Mirallas and Lloris advanced off his line to punch clear.
In added time Alli darted free in the box to flick home sub Harry Winks' free kick and it looked like that was that - but Valencia, just off the bench himself, swept home Barkley's free-kick to give brief but ultimately misplaced hope to the travelling Toffees.