Carlo Ancelotti says Everton’s high-intensity performance against Tottenham Hotspur set a blueprint for the remainder of their campaign – and European football remains within his side’s reach.
Everton recovered from falling behind to Harry Kane’s 27th-minute goal to lead 2-1 following Gylfi Sigurdsson's twin strikes either side of half-time.
But Kane scored a second to steal a Premier League point for Spurs and prevent Everton from jumping above the Londoners into seventh position.
Ancelotti admits the concession of two points – following draws in Everton’s past two matches – makes qualifying for Europe a taller order.
Continue in a similar vein on Friday night when they visit Arsenal in seven days, however, and the Everton manager is adamant his team can progress up the table.
"We should have won… it was one of the best games we played at home this season,” said Ancelotti.
“I have to judge the performance of my team, the performance was good in a lot of aspects, defensively, and we pressed forwards, with a lot of intensity.
“In the first 10-15 minutes we didn’t do well with the ball, after that James came in the play and we started to play well and had a lot of opportunities.
“We made two mistakes [for Kane’s goals].
“But we don‘t have to look back, we have to look forward and keep the performance.
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SIGURDSSON ON KEY IMPROVEMENTS IN 'FRUSTRATING' SPURS DRAW
“It is a disappointing result, not a disappointing performance.
“We have more difficulties to reach Europe but have to keep fighting
“If we play like tonight, we still have the possibility.”
Everton were rocked when Kane gathered a cross from Tanguy Ndombele to steer in the opening goal with Tottenham’s first chance.
The hosts, who had the better of the opening half hour, without testing Hugo Lloris, replied within four minutes.
James was fouled in the box by ex-Real Madrid colleague Sergio Reguilon after Sigurdsson dashed down the left to cross.
Sigurdsson scored past goalkeeper Lloris from the spot and added his second when expertly converting a cross supplied by Seamus Coleman 60 seconds after the Irishman replaced Alex Iwobi.
“It was a fantastic finish and cross and combination with Coleman,” said Ancelotti.
“The performances and season of Gylfi were really good until now.”
Sigurdsson was denied the title of match winner when for a second time Kane capitalised on Everton hesitancy, receiving a deep cross from substitute Erik Lamela and drilling beyond goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Joshua King came on and was repelled at close quarters by Lloris, with Richarlison missing on the rebound.
Everton have seven games to improve their league position from eighth, starting next week at Arsenal.
Ancelotti is demanding more of the same, then, and backing his players to recover from the slips that enabled Kane to pounce for his double.
“Unfortunately, in football, it [mistakes] can happen,” said Ancelotti.
“They are usually doing well and we have to accept this.
“They are sad tonight.
“Tomorrow will be another day and they have to keep fighting until the end of the season.
“We have less possibility to reach the European positions but the race is absolutely open until the end.
“We have to keep fighting and get the results in the next games.
“I am confident we can fight until the last game and after we can see.
“We still have possibility [to qualify], I am sure, I am convinced.”
Ancelotti, inevitably, was asked about James following another star turn from the Colombian, who repeatedly unlocked Tottenham with his precise touch and passing.
The forward was close to a goal, too, thwarted by Lloris after an intricate exchange with Sigurdsson.
“When he is fit, he is always influential, he is a player of another level,” commented Ancelotti.
“With the ball, he is fantastic, he always has solutions, always has a pass.
“He is really important for us.”