Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park, Everton with a chance to go 2nd in the Premier League as they pass the quarter season point under Roberto Martinez. In the only change to Everton's starting XI, Ross Barkley drops to the bench with Leon Osman preferred in midfield after scoring as a substitute in the win over Aston Villa. Tottenham name the same team that beat Hull in their last league game, with Everton fan Lewis Holtby in the playmaker role.
Everton began playing good possession football until Osman's first contribution, a pass into touch. It was Tottenham who had the first shot on goal, forcing Howard across to paw it around the post, Lukaku heading the corner out but not relieving the Spurs pressure. Haoward went in the ref's book early on for daring to demand a fre-kick instead of a throw-in. Poor passing from the back again gave the ball away needlessly as Spurs pressed the Blues back and went all out for the first goal, Vertongen feeding Lennon and Soldado failing to get his header on target.
The first decent move out of the back by Everton collapsed with Mirallas called for offside. Baines fouled Townsend, to give Spurs a chance wide right that Lukakau again headed away. But Everton were totally pinned back, and giving crucial balls away shockingly at times, Osman, Mirallas, Pienaar,.. two defenders going for the same air ball, a deflected shot from Holtby could have gone anywhere, another Spurs corner, Dawson fouling.
Everton got forward but Mirallas's cross was intercepted and some ferocious tackling in the middle and McArthy then got the second yellow card of the game for a pathetic grab to give away a very dangerous free-kick that Walker smacked straight at Howard. Holtby's corner was again blocked by Lukaku as Everton were being overwhelmed, with the assistance of numerous unfavourable calls by referee Kevin Friend.
Typifying Everton's lack of control, they resorted to hoffing the ball forward, Howard's goal kick bounciong over two players and into touch. Friend waved away a penalty call on Coleman, which looked a little dubious. Spurs attacked again and won yet another corner that Howard punched off an attacker's head, then had to save Holtby's low shot.
The ball simply was not running for the Blues at all, while almost everything was falling nicely for a rampant Spurs until Osman found some space off a Barry pass but his long-distance shot was always going over, but at least Everton were playing in the Spurs half. Everton appeared to have weathered a tremendous half-hour of continuous pressure, compounded by some shockingly bad passing and equally pathetic ball control.
The first Everion corner came on 32 mins, Baines floating it dreadfully to Lloris at the far post, after it had curled out of play. Hopelessly poor quality from the home side. When the Blues did get a little bit of possession in midfield, it would end with a poor give away far too often. Baines and Pienaar finally combined but Pienaar's curled ball in was too soft, a gift for Lloris. Osman won a free kick that should have been dangerous but came to nothing.
A Sandro handball gave Mirallas a set-piece chance that he screwed off the wall for a corner. Baines this time delivered it a little deeper with no end result, The game was summed up by a horrible Howard miskick as Everton's play across the back looked so frighteningly awful. Solado lashed a shot over from the fracas and incredibly Everton went in at the break with a clean sheet that must somewhere ay something about the effectiveness of their defensive structure.
Would Martinez make a statement with changes at the break? No.
The second half started with a slew of torrid giveaways as the theme of the first-half continued until the ball broke to Lukaku who fed Mirallas but he was tackled superbly before he could shoot and got booked for demanding a corner.
Everton continued to resist the onslaught until they finally got forward with more promise on around 55 minutes. Distin did very well to halt Paulinho as he pulled the trigger, but recovered from the knock he took on his knee.
Another absolutely shocking Howard kick was very lucky to go through Holtby as Everton continued to live dangerously. When they did get forward, Coleman's cross went over a lonely Lukaku. McCarthy looked to make amends for his poor first-half showing.
Martinez finally acted, Deulofeu replacing Mirallas and Barkley replacing Osman after the hour mark. And immediately Everton looked brighter, held the ball better, and Barkley taking a shot at goal that was a foot or so over the angle. Coleman stumbled under pressure from Vertongen behind him but them recovered to get off a lame shot, with Goodison baying for a penalty Friend was never going to give. he finally booked a Spurs player, Paulinho, as Lennon was replaced by Sigurdson.
Deulofeu's first corner was very poor, straight at a defender who played his second short and a little too casually but did eventually get in a geed cross. Everton were finally pressing, McCarthy playing in a brilliant low cross that Lukaku didn't put enough of a glance onto as it flew across Lloris's goal. Much much better intent from the Blues.
More good pressure broke down when Pienaar was hounded by three players and Spurs surged forward but could not penetrate Everton's defence Howard saving well from a Sigurdosn drive. Lukaku should have set Everton away but his pass was very poor. But some great play by Coleman in the middle to keep the ball and then McCarthy played a good ball for Lukaku to chace but Lloriis slide out well to save the ball and caught his head horribly on Lukaku's knee and the stretcher was called, no doubt with concussion, Freidel ready to replace him.... but Lloris insistent after many minutes of treatment and insistence from Spurs medical staff that he could, should and indeed would stay on! Bizzare. Lukaka given the yellow card for a total accident.
Everton tried to take advantage but Lukaku hobbled off, his knee suffering from that clash with Lloris's head. On came Jelavic. and played a part in the move that won a corner from the left that was designed to test Lloris. Deulofeu made a fantastic run through 5 defenders but could not lift his shot over the advancing Lloris, who was now finally coming under some tremendous EVERTON pressure.
Everton went ahead on the corner count, but still could not chisel out a clear-cut opportunity as it was time for the Spurs defence to rock back on its heels, Barkley going on a brilliant run to the byeline but his cutback was intercepted as NINE minutes of added time came up on the board.
Distin went in kicking like crazy on Soldado, very unusual, but only a talking to from Friend, Sigurdson swinging in a superb ball that somehow evaded everyone. Everton looked to break but chances for Deulofeu and Pienaar to advance were thwarted as a frenetic period of added time unfolded, Spurs pressing back, Townsend firing in for Howard to save well.
Barkley was putting in a huge contribution, trying at every opportunity to drive the blues forward. Deulofeu showed some brilliance in defence, intercepting superbly. But his teammates continued to let the side down with poor ball control, and the game finally ended surprisingly goalless, Everton probably the luckier side not to have gone behind in that embarrassingly woeful first half.
At the midway point of the first half of Sunday' intriguing clash with Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park, Everton will be a quarter of the way through their first Premier League season under Roberto Martinez.
They come into the weekend programme of fixtures on a run of five wins from their last six matches – the odd game out there being their only League defeat of the campaign so far – and they trail Andre Villas-Boas's dilligently, but expensively, assembled outfit by a single point. Even allowing for the platform he inherited from which to launch his tenure as Blues boss, as transitions go Roberto Martinez has overseen a remarkably smooth one since taking over from David Moyes over the summer.
Thanks to his targeted acquisitions he made on transfer deadline-day – all three of James McCarthy, Gareth Barry and Romelu Lukaku have proved to be astute signings – Everton have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with so far, as all but Manchester City have found to a varying degree of cost in the nine games up to this point.
Now, as Martinez has rightly pointed out in the lead-up to this match, the Blues must make a statement of intent as they look to build on their impressive start to life under the new regime with victory over a rival team for the Champions League places this season.
The task is aided by a relatively clean bill of health, at least to the current first-choice XI. Darron Gibson has, of course, been ruled out of the season and Arouna Kone may be battling a succession of injuries that has prevented him from getting his Everton career up and running, but the likely consensus is that the side that started in that important 2-0 win at Aston Villa last weekend is the strongest permutation from Martinez's squad.
Leon Osman will feel that his heroics at Villa Park would severely test that belief, but the case could be made that his advancing years mean that his impact could be increasingly restricted to partial matches. That need not be a bad thing, as his crucial assist and icing-on-the-cake goal last time out proved; coming off the bench, the 32-year-old offered the perfect blend of experience and guile to finally turn the game in the Blues' favour.
The decision over whether to restore him to the starting line-up at the expense of the man he replaced last Saturday, Ross Barkley, is perhaps the only real question that the manager will be pondering as he plots Spurs' downfall. Barkley has started all nine League games thus far and has repaid Martinez's faith with a series of precocious displays that have exhibited his prodigious talents, given him a stage on which to make and learn from his mistakes, while also revealing the areas where he still needs the most improvement – most noticeably, his decision-making.
The 19-year-old's unpredictability, his burgeoning understanding with Lukaku, and sheer desire to drive the team forward from midfield will probably tip the boss' mind in his favour, with Martinez comfortable in the knowledge that he has Osman up his sleeve should he be needed in the second half.
Tottenham, for their part, will come to Merseyside in confident enough mood after recording four successive victories in all competitions, though, given the weaponry provided by the likes of Barkley and Kevin Mirallas on the break, Everton will be mindful of the manner in which West Ham ripped them apart in the space of 13 second-half minutes at White Hart Lane four weeks ago. Then there is Lukaku, who has scored five goals in as many League games for the Blues and his goal at the Etihad Stadium has already demonstrated his desire to rise to the big occasion.
David Silva and Sergio Aguero posed the individual threats that underpinned the Blues' defeat to Manchester City but while keeping the likes of Andros Townsend quiet and avoiding offering Roberto Soldado a gift from the penalty spot will be important, the key to beating Spurs would appear to be more about preventing them establishing any kind of attacking rhythm as a unit.
Villas-Boas has tremendous depth at his disposal but he can only field eleven men at a time and if Everton can dictate the game on their own terms – which would include impressing their will on the opposition through dominance of possession and passing – while remaining hyper-vigilant at the back they will have the platform from which to win, though it will likely require an elevated performance from Mirallas and sufficient service to Lukaku.
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* Everton deducted 6 points for PSR breachView full table