At times their fans held their breath as Everton, previously unbeaten at home in 2006, sought to rouse themselves from an end-of-season insipidness to preserve that record. But the quality of Tottenham's football deserved the reward of three points, which Robbie Keane's first-half penalty provided.
"We could have scored more goals, maybe won by two or three, but it is a good result," their manager, Martin Jol, concluded. "If the gap between us and Arsenal is still four points next Saturday morning that would be marvellous. If not, we will have to get a result at Highbury." Jol had needed to change his plans when a groin injury ruled out Mido but the consequential starting place for Jermain Defoe at least provided another focal point for Sven Goran Eriksson's scouting visit.
"I thought Defoe was marvellous," Jol said. "The way he held the ball and linked up with Robbie Keane was great but he has been in the England squad for two years and they know what he is about." The Tottenham coach believes another name for Eriksson's notebook, or more likely his successor's, is Aaron Lennon. The right-sided midfielder was a constant worry to Gary Naysmith, the Everton left-back, and might have created a goal after 19 minutes had Anthony Gardner met his far post cross with a better header.
By then the pattern of play was beginning to foretell Tottenham's 33rd-minute goal. Keane's successful penalty spared the referee, Howard Webb, an argument. Webb blew his whistle as Alan Stubbs hauled down Keane, even though Tottenham had an advantage, which Jenas used to full effect by putting the ball in the net.
Everton, without Mikel Arteta through an ankle injury, struggled to make an impression before the second half, which they at least started with purpose. Tottenham had Ledley King and Gardner to thank for their blocks to deny Tim Cahill and James McFadden shots on target. King, however, is doubtful for tomorrow's match after suffering a late ankle injury.
As Everton came out of their shell, Tottenham found chances to extend their lead and would have done so but for Richard Wright, the Everton goalkeeper, who saved from Jenas after Keane had sent the World Cup hopeful clear and then, bravely, from Defoe after a headed backpass from Naysmith fell short. Keane then squandered a chance set up by Danny Murphy, who gave Tottenham's midfield a better shape after replacing Teemu Tainio at half-time.
Obliged to make one change when an injured Stubbs limped away, Everton attempted to tilt the balance by sending on Duncan Ferguson as a supplementary attacker but the football being played by Tottenham always seemed more deserving.
A superb move ending with a cute reverse pass from Keane was thwarted only when Naysmith made a last-gasp tackle on Defoe, who then saw a curling right-foot shot rebound off the junction of post and bar.
"You have to give Tottenham credit," the Everton manager, David Moyes, said. "They looked possibly the best side we have seen here this season. We never really got going at all."Reuse content