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Everton v Spurs, 09.12.12

(3 P.M.)

Everton scorers:-
Pienaar, 90
Jelavic, 90 (+2)

Spurs scorer:-
Dempsey, 76

Attendance:- 36,494

Referee:- Mr. Kevin Friend
Assistants:- Mr. C. Breakspear & Mr. J. Flynn
Fourth Official:- Mr. N. Swarbrick

Everton (4-2-3-1):- Howard; Coleman, Jagielka (Capt.), Distin, Baines; Gibson, Osman (sub Vellios, 81); Mirallas (sub Naismith, 46), Fellaini, Pienaar; Jelavic (sub Heitinga, 90)

Subs not used:- Mucha; Oviedo, Hitzlsperger, Barkley

Booked:- Baines (foul on Lennon), Osman (foul on Walker), Jelavic (unsporting behaviour)

Spurs (4-4-2):- Lloris; Walker, Gallas (Capt.), Caulker, Vertonghen; Lennon (sub Huddlestone, 71), Sandro, Dembele (sub Sigurdsson, 77), Dempsey; Defoe (sub Falque, 84), Adebayor

Subs not used:- Friedel; Naughton; Livermore, Townsend

Booked:- Defoe (dissent), Vertonghen (foul on Coleman)

Nightmare on Gwladys Street
(Headline thanks to Kevin Parslow)

If Clint Dempsey’s long range 76th minute goal had not been levelled, then beaten within two minutes at the end of the game, then my headline would have been “American Beauty”. Sadly, former short-term Spur Steven Pienaar came back to bite us in the 90th minute with a powerful and well directed header that beat Hugo Lloris, before Jelavic sealed a late, late win in front of the Gwladys Street stand two minutes into the scheduled four minutes of added time. There was no comeback for Spurs from this situation, and instead of opening up the gap I had hoped for in fourth place, they had to surrender the position to Everton, on goal difference. It hurt so much to lose in such a fashion.

In truth, Spurs had rarely matched Everton, whose work rate, effort, physicality and skill levels did not look anywhere near as jaded as Spurs, who had played only on Thursday night against Panathinaikos. Everton, of course had a free week.

David Moyes’ side lined up in a 4-2-3-1, with Gibson and Osman the more defensive of the midfield, and Mirallas, Fellaini and Pienaar supporting Jelavic. Spurs made three predictable changes from Thursday night’s team, with Lloris returning in goal, Gallas replacing Naughton (with the defence adjusting accordingly), and Dembele in place of Carroll. Spurs once again lined up with Defoe and Adebayor up front, and Dempsey on the left, but often turning up in the middle, in the same way we see from Bale.

Initially, Dempsey’s licence to roam left Vertonghen exposed on the Spurs left flank, and Everton’s right back Seamus Coleman, and right winger Kevin Mirallas exposed Spurs quite badly in this area in the early stages, until AVB cottoned on, and instructed Dempsey to help out a little bit. When Mirallas had to be replaced at half-time, it came as some relief to Spurs, as his replacement Naismith carried nowhere near the same threat, although it has to be said that Everton’s two late goals both originated from their right wing.

Coleman sent Mirallas away with an early ball, which he crossed, and ultimately, Spurs defended the situation well. Another moment of danger from Mirallas led to Lloris saving well at his near post. It took Spurs seven minutes to form a decent move, and following a sequence of passes, Walker’s cross fell to Dembele, who teed himself up for a shot with his left foot, which Howard held at the second attempt.

Spurs were getting caught on the hop by long passes though, and with three attackers goal-side of the defence, Lloris saved the situation with one of his advances to the edge of his area. Spurs seemed to be getting the worse of referee Kevin Friend’s decisions in the early phases of the game, and when Gibson fouled Dempsey, the American took the kick himself, but it was held by Howard. Gibson got away with “words” only.

Jelavic got the better of Gallas and sent a ball over from the left, but missed his team-mates. Another ball from Mirallas was headed for Jelavic, but Spurs managed to clear. Pienaar’s ball to Coleman exposed that Spurs weakness on their left flank, but Coleman put his shot wide. Coleman won a corner taken by Pienaar, and headed over by Fellaini. Defoe got a yellow card when he complained to the referee over a decision, but also failed to move back the requisite ten yards for the free kick. Soon after that Vertonghen saw yellow for a foul on Coleman, as he advanced down the wing.

Fellaini picked out Osman on the left of the Spurs area, but the Everton midfielder’s shot passed wide across the area. Everton were uncompromising when they considered it necessary, and Baines got a yellow card for unfairly halting a Lennon breakaway. Everton fans were in uproar over the referee’s failure to award penalties in quick succession, when firstly Dempsey shouldered the ball, and then another ball hit Gallas on the arm. I didn’t see the Everton players making much fuss though. After more home pressure, Caulker managed to make a well-timed diving clearance to concede a corner just before the break. At this stage, a possible draw was looking very attractive to a Spurs fan.

Sandro was called out for a foul on Osman just outside the box, and Baines’ free kick was blocked, before he got the ball back, and threaded it through to Naismith, who was goal-side but got no flag. Naismith’s touch was instinctive, and wide.

Spurs again managed (at last) a spell of possession, which ended with Defoe feeding the ball to Sandro, whose shot was deflected for a corner. Shortly after, a strong free kick taken by Vertonghen was well saved by Howard, who happily pushed the ball over for a corner. At the other end, Lloris had to punch clear a cross from the right, before Osman fired wide. Osman then got a card for bringing down Walker, who had been sent clear by Aaron Lennon.

Lennon was replaced by Tom Huddlestone, and Dembele moved to the right flank. Another shot by Osman was well saved by Lloris, and when the ball was returned from Everton’s left flank, it passed across the field for a Spurs throw. Huddlestone had started brightly, and he consummated his initial impact with a sharp through ball to Dempsey, who was in a central position, lifting a superb long range effort over Tim Howard for a great goal in front of the away support. Dempsey was hailed as he ran to the fans to celebrate. Later on, he won accolades of “USA, USA”, which he acknowledged, when he put in some great effort to challenge for the ball in Everton’s half.

Dembele was tiring, and was replaced by Sigurdsson. For a while, Spurs were clearly in the ascendancy, as Dempsey and Vertonghen advanced down the left. Vertonghen passed inside to Sigurdsson, whose 22 yard shot clipped the top of Howard’s bar. Now Jermain Defoe was replaced by Falque, and Spurs did string a few moves together in their opponents’ half. It all came to nought though, as that nightmare on Gwladys Street took place before our eyes.

Spurs had been defending well, but their composure slipped as Coleman crossed from that right flank, and Pienaar’s powerful header back across Lloris’s bows beat the keeper. We hardly had time to breathe, before the game had been snatched before our eyes, again from the right. Gibson passed and substitute Vellios got a touch to out the ball through the central defence for Jelavic to claim the hero’s adulation with a close range finish.

The bottom line is that for too much of the game, Spurs had failed to gain meaningful possession and positions. Adebayor was in poor form, and just could not manage to hold the ball up consistently, or find his team-mates. Everton closed us down all too well, and found space where it hurt us all too easily. Unlike many observers, who may or may not have been at the game, I do not think this was a case of AVB trying to close down the game, because I felt we became more creative and expressive with Huddlestone and Falque on the pitch. We just flagged four minutes too early.

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