Tuesday 20 February 2018

Villas-Boas upbeat despite Spurs' failure to break down Everton resistance

Everton 0 Tottenham Hotspur 0

Si Hughes

LAST weekend, Andre Villas-Boas spoke of the "difficult" atmosphere at White Hart Lane where there was "almost no support" for his team.

In theory that experience should have been ideal preparation for a trip to Goodison Park, where Everton had not lost in the league all year; an even more unforgiving place.

That did not happen here. In fact, not much happened at all.

Although Tottenham's dominance of possession in the first half was a feature and nine minutes of injury-time were added at the end following a head injury to goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, from which he recovered, it was deserving that this game finished goalless.

Tottenham did not get enough players into the box and never looked like breaking through.

Everton were nowhere near as fluid as they have been, and the general atmosphere was subdued, often frustrated – especially by referee Kevin Friend, who issued four bookings to Everton players when only one was probably merited.

It prompted Everton manager Roberto Martinez to describe Friend's performance as "picky".

Martinez was also bemused by Friend's decision not to award his team a second-half penalty when Seamus Coleman was tripped by Jan Vertonghen inside the box. The same pair tangled in the first half, only this time Coleman was the aggressor.

Villas-Boas was right to admit that Vertonghen's fall was not worthy of a foul.

"When they tell you the decisions level themselves out over the course of the season, it clearly doesn't happen," Martinez complained. "We had a similar situation last week at Villa and another one at the Etihad when we were punished."

Of the two managers, Villas-Boas was the happier. At the end, nearly all of his players saluted the travelling supporters in the corner of the Bullens Road.

It was strangely triumphant. Villas-Boas mentioned twice the fact Tottenham surrendered three points here last season by conceding two last-minute goals. Perhaps they had achieved what they had set out to do.

"I'm not disappointed with the result," he stressed. "The only moments where Everton had a good go at us was the last 25 minutes of the second half.

"We had a very, very good game and probably could have been a little bit more clinical in the first half. Maybe this result could have finished a little differently. I'm extremely happy with how the team behaved."

This outcome means Tottenham have kept seven clean sheets in 10 league games so far. Yet they have scored just nine in the same time.

Inside the top 10, only Hull have registered fewer. Villas-Boas argued that points count most. Manchester City, for example, have scored 19 more than the north Londoners, but they are one place behind them.

"It is not very dramatic. We are on 28 goals (overall) across 16 official games," Villas-Boas emphasised.

"It is the second highest goalscoring tally of the club (historically). So I do not have to worry. It is results that put a team in fourth place competing for the Champions League spots."

Though Villas-Boas gave the impression that he felt like it was a point gained, the opening 45 minutes were played almost exclusively inside Everton's half. When a team control the midfield away from home like this for such a long period and do not win, it might be considered as two points dropped.

In energy, physical and technical terms, Sandro, Paulinho and Lewis Holtby were way in advance of Everton's middle three. Everton just did not see the ball. Tellingly, though, neither did Roberto Soldado. For all their swift, neat football, Tottenham did not service the lone striker.

Tottenham pressed and passed, yet their clearest shooting opportunities only came from outside the box. It was all pretty and no punch.

In the second half, as Tottenham's passing deteriorated, Everton improved. Kevin Mirallas attempted to strike but the imperious Vlad Chiriches came from nowhere to tackle.

Steven Pienaar drove a shot into Michael Dawson's chest and then Romelu Lukaku flattened Lloris as he chased after a ball into the channel. Lukaku was booked.

Tottenham looked to substitute Lloris with Brad Friedel, but Lloris did not want to go off. Confusion reigned.

Eventually, because of his "focus and drive," as Villas-Boas described it, Lloris chose to remain. And despite a few half-chances before the final whistle, so did the scoreline.

Anything else would have been inappropriate. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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