Saturday 1 October 2016

Ronald Koeman pleased with Everton's spirit after holding off Tottenham surge

Published 13/08/2016 | 19:46

Everton manager Ronald Koeman was content with a draw to start the season.
Everton manager Ronald Koeman was content with a draw to start the season.

Ronald Koeman praised his players' mental application as they held off a late Tottenham charge to secure a 1-1 draw in the Dutchman's first Premier League game in charge of Everton.

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The Merseyside outfit impressed with a lively, organised display in a first half that saw Ross Barkley's fifth-minute free-kick give them the lead and Gerard Deulofeu's attempt to add a second in the closing stages thwarted by Michel Vorm.

But having offered little, Spurs then snatched an equaliser just before the hour mark, via Erik Lamela's header, and the visitors almost won it late on, with two superb saves by Maarten Stekelenburg keeping out a shot from substitute Vincent Janssen and a deflected Lamela strike.

Koeman, who is looking to rejuvenate Everton after leaving Southampton in June to succeed Roberto Martinez, said : "I am happy about the team performance.

"I think the first 45 minutes was really excellent. We had good team organisation, we put a lot of energy in, and we were very dangerous up front.

"We had a big opportunity before half-time to score a second goal, and if we take that then it's a different game. Being one or two goals up is a completely different situation.

"We knew it would be difficult towards the end because they have really good players, scoring players. Of course they had two big opportunities, and they were great saves by Maarten Stekelenburg.

"That was important for us to keep the result, because it is also a mental question."

He added: "We showed what we like to see, and you could see the reaction of the fans, really supporting the team, and that is good. Overall we worked very hard.

"This is the first game and I am happy overall."

Everton were without their top-scorer from last season Romelu Lukaku, who injured his heel a week earlier in a friendly and has been linked with a big-money move away from the club.

Koeman emphasised post-match that Lukaku had missed out due to injury and indicated a return to the team was on the cards for next Saturday's trip to West Brom.

"If he is fit then he will start. That was not an issue today, he was not fit enough," Koeman said.

"Next week? Yes, normally he would be fit for that."

Koeman had said in the build-up to the contest that his players in general were only at "70 per cent" of the fitness he wanted.

Asked about that after the match, Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino - who confirmed Spurs' goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris had come off in the first half due to a hamstring injury that would be properly assessed in the coming days - said: "I never hear the manager before the game.

"Because you never know - certain managers play poker. Sometimes they tell the truth and sometimes not.

"How you assess or measure the percentage of how your team is - for me it is very difficult.

"I think the team was ready, and we showed a lack of energy.

"I never make an excuse beforehand. And after the game, when you have played badly, you have played badly, and you need to be honest - I try to be honest."

Pochettino's press conference before the match had seen him reveal he had wanted to "kill" his players over the final day of last season, when they lost 5-1 at Newcastle and dropped to a third-place finish in the table.

And when asked if he had had strong words with the team at half-time in this game, Pochettino said: "Yes, but this is what happens with all the managers when we are not happy. It is normal.

"You are tough, but in the end you try not to be too critical. It was my responsibility too, and I tried to change things so we could create chances, score and win the game.

"We came very close to winning the game in the end. In the last 15 or 20 minutes we had control."

Press Association

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