Typical, isn’t it? Just when a prospective England manager emerges who enjoys the support of most of the country, his team go and lose three Premier League games on the trot. The curse of the England manager seems to have struck Harry Redknapp while still in waiting. If David Moyes in interested in taking over from him at White Hart Lane this was a pretty good job application – you would never have guessed Everton were the side with the shoestring budget – but much more of this from Spurs and Redknapp will start to look less of a shoo-in for the national side. Just as Spurs are no longer looking quite so certain to finish above Arsenal or even stay in the top four.
The game was something of a slow burner, with neither goalkeeper being asked to do anything for the first quarter of an hour, although Spurs could have scored first when Jermain Defoe expertly found space and turned John Heitinga, only to shoot wide with just Tim Howard to beat.
That seemed to wake Everton up a little, and for a time Brad Friedel was the busier of the two goalkeepers, saving a shot from Marouane Fellaini before being beaten midway through the first half when Nikica Jelavic scored a goal on his home debut. Quite a lot of the credit for that belonged to Leon Osman, who had earlier dispossessed Emmanuel Adebayor with one of the neatest pieces of skill of the afternoon, before he accepted Leighton Baines’s pass with his back to goal and made light work of turning past Scott Parker and striding into the area. Spurs were hardly allowed any time to respond to the danger, Osman releasing a quick square ball that the former Rangers striker despatched first time past Friedel’s outstretched hand.
Royston Drenthe tested the American next with a low shot that Friedel stopped on the line, before Jelavic had him racing across goal to keep out a shot from a free-kick. All Spurs were able to manage by way of a reply before the interval were a couple of long-range Gareth Bale free kicks that went wide. Although Parker demonstrated from an early stage the ability to pick out the winger with inch- perfect crossfield passes, Bale produced little to surprise the home defence from open play even when he swapped wings with Luka Modric.
Everton ended the half passing the ball around quite comfortably, not really going anywhere but keeping possession and keeping out of Spurs’ reach. Neat passing triangles and assured ball retention have not exactly been staples of the Everton diet in recent seasons and the home crowd responded with warm applause, doubtless a pleasing sound to David Moyes in the week of his 10th anniversary at the club.
Spurs began the second half as if they had been told in no uncertain terms that being outplayed by Everton was not good enough, and Defoe forced a sharp save from Howard within minutes of the restart. Seven minutes later, the Everton goalkeeper produced an even better stop from the same player, really coming to his side’s rescue after Parker’s pass to Defoe had exposed Sylvain Distin’s slowness on the turn. Spurs cranked up the pressure further still just before the hour by sending on Louis Saha for the ineffective Adebayor.
By the time Modric drove narrowly over Howard’s bar on the hour it was beginning to look as though Spurs might be able to do that without Saha’s assistance, although when Younès Kaboul persuaded Bale to let him have a go with a free-kick from the edge of the area his effort flew harmlessly high into the Park End. Howard had to make another save from Defoe even as Rafael van der Vaart was preparing to take the field for the last 20 minutes, though Everton do not lack heart and after Jack Rodwell had brusquely knocked Bale off the ball Osman raced into the area to bring a save from Friedel.
When Defoe finally beat Howard from Benoît Assou-Ekotto’s cross he was correctly adjudged to have been standing a yard offside, although as the game went into its last 10 minutes with a foul on Saha that brought a booking for Heitinga the home side were fighting such ba rearguard action that Moyes sent on Phil Jagielka as an extra defender to help them hold out.
There was predictable fury when the fourth official signalled five extra minutes after a half that contained no goals or serious injuries, added time in which Saha managed to hit a post following a corner. Everton’s luck must have been in. Redknapp’s is out for the time being, yet in the end, after a truly frantic finale, this was anything but a poor Spurs performance. The bad luck was simply a run of games featuring Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton at their feistiest.