Toffees survive late Spurs assault
Everton 1 Tottenham 1
Published 14/08/2016 | 02:30
It had seemed Ronald Koeman was fibbing. It had seemed too that Mauricio Pochettino was misplaced about Tottenham's needs. In the end, though, this was an outcome that perhaps revealed some truths.
Koeman was not exaggerating when he insisted Everton's fitness levels were only at 70 per cent. And it was only when Pochettino abandoned the idea of using two holding midfielders that Tottenham emerged and revealed themselves as a club with title aspirations.
Erik Lamela's equaliser was not merited at the point of its delivery but thereafter Spurs' domination was almost as absolute as Everton's previously. The home team's energy levels reduced almost to a point of submission.
The result, ultimately, was a fair one. And the managers agreed about that.
While Koeman spoke about a dynamic and organised first half and a "different" second one, Pochettino was satisfied with the result considering Everton's initial control.
There was a focus on the "strong words" issued by Pochettino at half time to his players but the most significant moment came in the 55th minute.
Until then there was not enough variation from Spurs in midfield. Pochettino had deployed two sitters rather than one who stays and another who goes.
While Victor Wanyama remained, Eric Dier was removed with striker Vincent Janssen replacing. Swiftly Spurs had their equaliser when Kyle Walker's cross was met by a Lamela header.
Only then, Pochettino said, did Tottenham play like the team of last season.
"We were very close to winning the game," he insisted. And he was right.
That, however, would have been unfair on Everton whose spirit and speed before Lamela's goal was impressive.
In Lukaku's absence, Everton knew they would need to fight harder. They did. Gueye shuffled across the midfield, squeezing Dele Alli out of the game; Ross Barkley and McCarthy looked a stone lighter and fitter.
Barkley's opener was one of those free-kicks that was probably meant as a cross, its curl making the presence of Tottenham's defenders redundant.
Victory could have ended up being Tottenham's such was Everton's drop in energy and they had Stekelenburg to thank for it ending as a draw. Two of his saves, first from Janssen and then from Lamela, explained the result.