MATCH CENTRE

Everton In Goodison Spurs Draw

If Sunday is the designated day of rest, Everton missed the memo.

Rafa Benitez’s players worked like stink for 90-plus minutes, here, running and chasing and tackling as if their very existence depended on it.

Their football was fast and aggressive and laced with intent. Everton created all the chances – save for Giovani Lo Celso hitting a post late on.

Jordan Pickford, in goal for the hosts, was a virtual spectator, as he kept his 50th clean sheet for the Club.

And he saw his team – for whom Fabian Delph was excellent for an hour in midfield – have 12 shots without being able to convert one point into three.

There was controversy in the second half when Everton were awarded a penalty following a Hugo Lloris challenge on Richarlison only for the VAR, Jonathan Moss, to intervene.

Mason Holgate was sent off in stoppage time, the Everton substitute seeing red for a challenge on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

Everton will feel very unlucky on a few counts. But this was a convincing performance following a difficult run, a display full of conviction that can be employed to regenerate momentum when the Premier League campaign resumes in a fortnight.

Everton spelled out their intention within 15 seconds of the start when Harry Kane crumpled to the turf after Michael Keane rattled the striker as he tried to collect a forward pass.

A free-kick was awarded but the message was clear – and underlined during a high-voltage opening from the hosts – Everton were going to play with the energy and aggression manager Benitez felt they missed in the first 45 minutes at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday.

Lucas Digne forcefully relieving Kane of possession midway through the opening half turned up the volume inside Goodison – soon after an Allan tackle on Lucas Moura prompted a similar reaction. It was that sort of afternoon. Harum-scarum but not light on decent football for all that ferocity.

No, Everton repeatedly forced Tottenham to cough up possession and with ball at feet played some excellent stuff.

Delph and Allan were excellent in midfield, the duo epitomising Everton’s clever and industrious work off the ball and ambition and clear-mindedness on it.

The Brazilian Allan outfoxed Oliver Skipp with a neat shimmy and followed with a punched pass to Anthony Gordon on the right.

Allan reclaimed possession via Andros Townsend and eschewed the shooting option in favour of a pass to Demarai Gray, whose effort was blocked by Emerson Royal.

Townsend occupied a central midfield role as Everton – ultimately futilely – gained a foothold at Wolves.

And he continued in a similar position, here, playing advanced of Delph in a three-man engine room.

Tottenham staffed their defence with increased numbers – new manager Antonio Conte deploying his trademark back three.

Consequently, Everton routinely had a numerical advantage in the centre of the pitch.

Sergio Reguilon, whose distribution veered wildly between excellent and lax in the extreme, horribly misjudged one ball infield. He couldn’t have picked out Gray more accurately if he’d tried.

The Everton forward advanced but was eventually crowed out by Emerson Royal, an earlier culprit in possession when the Brazilian presented the ball to Ben Godfrey for an advance and shot that Hugo Lloris held down to his right.

Reguilon was the first Tottenham player in the book, cautioned for illegally halting a Townsend charge.

The Spaniard was joined in the naughty corner by Delph, the Everton player very unlucky to receive punishment for a challenge from behind on the fast-escaping Lucas Moura.

That episode qualified as a minor setback for Delph, who started well and got better.

Gray’s intention wasn’t immediately obvious when he rolled a free-kick from a promising position on the left back to Delph.

The picture became clear, however, as Delph exploited the changed angle to clip a ball to the far post, where Keane arrived to head into the side netting.

More errant distribution from Reguilon opened up the pitch for the hosts but after the ball was funnelled, sharpish, through Delph and Allan, Gray was unable to force a shot in the penalty area.

There were no takers for an inviting ball volleyed across the face of goal by Digne – Tottenham swiftly countering and Godfrey and Keane forming a robust wall to block Moura’s goalbound strike after the forward evaded a series of challenges to weave into the box.

When Reguilon did get his delivery on the money midway through the opening half, fellow wing-back Royal made a hash of his attempt at the far post, the Brazilian unsighted until the ball arrived due to the diligent Gray tracking back into his own box.

There was a single minute added at the end of the opening half and in that 60 seconds Kane had room to stretch his legs for the first time.

The England forward shifted the ball out of his feet on Everton’s left and sent in a deep cross that Reguilon met on the stretch, diverting high and wide of the target.

Gordon was over with an 18-yard volley following Gray’s turn of pace and cross from the left five minutes after the restart.

Gray was the man trying to make things happen again one minute later, Ben Davies sliding across to prevent Richarlison escaping through the middle.

The break had done nothing to dampen the intensity and both teams were threatening on the counter.

Godfrey headed a rising Reguilon drive away from danger and if Gray was six inches taller he’d have connected with a whipped Townsend cross in front of goal.

Goodison roared its disapproval when Allan was belatedly penalised for a challenge on Royal – and this breathless encounter gathered pace.

Until Chris Kavanagh, the referee, hit the pause button shortly after the hour mark. Reguilon inadvertently deflected Allan’s ball from deep into the path of Richarlison. He tried to round Hugo Lloris and when the Everton player hit the deck Kavanagh to the pointed to the spot.

The VAR advised Kavanagh to have a second look, however, and after what felt like an age the decision was overturned.

This ground went from narky to full-on anger, an emotion channelled into generating a tremendously partisan atmosphere.

Tom Davies, on for Delph, had two attempts, one deflected wide, the other held by Lloris ,and Gray miscued in the box following a Gordon cutback.

The linesman’s flag would potentially have raised had Son Heung-min converted on the breakaway but the Korean uncharacteristically dragged wide.

Gordon slammed an attempt into a defensive body and still it was Everton making the running.

There were eight minutes remaining when Digne swapped passes with Davies, then squared for Gray, who tried to catch Lloris off guard with a deft first-time effort that flashed past the far post.

A reminder with three minutes remaining that Spurs own some rare talent in their attacking ranks.

Everton did well to neuter the visitors’ primary threats during he 90 minutes and it was a substitute who came very close to pilfering all three points.

Skipp strode through the middle and passed to Lo Celso, who unfurled a curling left footer that walloped the meat of Jordan Pickford’s right post.

Holgate, who had replaced Allan on 82 minutes, was dismissed after catching Hojbjerg on the follow through as he cleared a ball.

That wasn’t the story of the afternoon, though. That was supplied by Everton’s hard-grafting performance to blunt a run of defeats and, perhaps, return this season to the positive course it was plotting when we last broke for international football.


Fab Hour

Fabian Delph waited a long while for this, a first start for the Everton midfielder since a game at Burnley on 5 December last year.

And after 337 days, the 31-year-old reminded us of the authority and knowhow he can bring to a Premier League midfield.

He unfailingly kept one eye peering over his shoulder monitoring Harry Kane and it was the Tottenham striker on the receiving end of Delph’s first snappy challenge.

Kane was startled to have the ball forcefully stolen away before taking a second touch in Everton’s half on six minutes. All afternoon, Delph drove Tottenham’s attack-minded players crackers, putting a foot in from an improbable angle or forcing about-turns from the man in possession.

Moments after robbing Kane, Delph flipped a long pass over the top of Emerson Royal for Demarai Gray and there was more craft following a short free-kick when the Englishman hung a ball to the far post for Michael Keane to head narrowly off target.

Delph was disciplined, staunchly refusing to budge from in front of his back four in a formation tweaked to add a third body to Everton’s engine room.

He was well-positioned to intercept an errant Sergio Reguilon pass and feed Allan to send Everton on the attack. The pass forward for his fellow midfielder was typical of the manner in which Delph kept the ball moving, mostly playing two-touch football.

As the deepest-lying midfielder, Delph repeatedly provided a sound passing option for those behind him. His distribution from his own half was quick and progressive, one ball with the right foot was swept along the floor for Seamus Coleman high on the right, another delivered with the opposite boot landed on the toes of Gray, whose jinking run into the box ended with a stumble over Oliver Skipp.

Delph would have felt very hard done by when booked for a sliding challenge on Lucas Moura. Replays indicated the Everton player’s toe made clean contact with the ball to stop the Brazilian’s run through the heart of the field.

This was a fine exhibition of the so-called quarterback role from Delph and it continued for 15 minutes after half time.

One pass went five yards into the path of Digne, flying forwards down the left, another stretched over 40 yards for Gray running forwards on the same flank.

Rafa Benitez warned pre-match that Delph wouldn’t have his Premier League legs just yet after so long on the sidelines – before Wolves his most recent outing was as a substitute against Leeds United on 21 August.

It was no surprise, then, when the Yorkshireman made way for Tom Davies on the hour.

He took his leave to a terrific ovation. It was deserved and would, surely, have been music to Delph’s ears.

 
Up-And-At-‘Em Everton Swarm Over Spurs

For all the talk of Everton needing a strong reaction following a disappointing trio of results, what Rafael Benitez’s team really required for this tricky fixture was a proactive performance.

A can-do outlook from the beginning against a side plugged into the mains by their animated new manager.

Everton were desperately keen to avoid a repeat of Wolves on Monday when a slow start left Benitez’s team with too much to do after belatedly coming alive.

This was a day to drive Spurs barmy with the fundamentals of closing and chasing and challenging, all the ‘dirty’ attributes guaranteed to get Goodison onside.

The energy generated when players and supporters unite in this stadium remains one of the most potent forces in English football.

Manager Benitez is still having to make-do without a clutch of his more influential figures but this was always going to be a game for the collective over and above individual contributions.

It was on every one of these players to unsettle Tottenham from the first whistle and couple that aggression with composure and quality on the ball to hurt the away team.

All told, this was a test of character for Everton. The need to arrest a poor run was obvious and they could have chosen a much easier game for the job than one against a side now led by Antonio Conte.

Tottenham boast one of the Premier League’s finest attacking units and the task of subduing Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Co is among the toughest of any season.

No, Kane hasn’t been at his sharpest of late but it would be fanciful to expect the brilliant striker to remain off the boil for long. History tells us he will be on a roll soon enough and Kane and his mates needed keeping on a leash here.

Equally, it was important for Everton to remember Italian Conte was hired by Spurs for a reason. The London club’s form this term has been hit and miss – and with their desire and concentration and effort, Everton made this a very uncomfortable afternoon for their visitors.

Benitez’s team didn’t get full reward for going on the front foot – for being proactive, not reactive – but this was a step in the right direction, a springboard, Everton will hope, for a return to form following the forthcoming international break.

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