Tottenham Hotspur’s players fly out to Malaysia this morning but for long stretches of this game at Goodison Park it felt like their end-of-season tour had begun already.
It seems hard to imagine that the Malaysia XI they will face in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, before flying on to Sydney, could be any more accommodating than their hosts and Spurs took full advantage with a deserved victory that lifted them above Liverpool into fifth place, guaranteeing their automatic entry into next season’s Europa League group stage.
Fittingly, their match-winner was Harry Kane who capped his superb breakthrough campaign with his 21st league goal – a joint record for a Spurs player in the Premier League alongside Teddy Sheringham, Jurgen Klinsmann and Gareth Bale.
“It is a fantastic season for Harry,” said manager Mauricio Pochettino.” I’m happy for him and happy for the other youngsters too because it was a [good] season for Nabil Bentaleb, Ryan Mason and Eric Dier.”
All of Spurs’ youngsters played well, Bentaleb shining in an unaccustomed left-back role, while it was Dier, on the other flank, who swung in the fine cross that the unmarked Kane nodded past Tim Howard.
Not for the first time this season, Everton were sluggish and Goodison subdued and Erik Lamela might have scored either side of Kane’s 24th-minute breakthrough, but had an early shot saved at the second attempt by Tim Howard and was then foiled by a brilliant challenge by John Stones.
Stones, like Kane, should have a big role to play for England at the Under-21 European Championships this summer and, on the evidence of his home debut, Everton have another young defender of real promise in 19-year-old Brendan Galloway, deputising energetically for Leighton Baines. “He was above the level of the team,” said Roberto Martinez, who replaced Galloway late on with Sylvain Distin, granting the out-of-contract veteran a brief farewell appearance having frozen him out since January.
Everton’s defeat meant they dropped to 11th place, with 25 points fewer than in Martinez’s debut campaign. This year has brought their worst finish in nine years and a groundswell of supporter discontent. A banner in the Main Stand at the end referred to the 20th anniversary last week of the club’s last trophy win – “Kenwright and Co, it’s time to go – 20 years is plenty” – and the scrutiny on both Martinez and chairman Bill Kenwright will only intensify if they start next season as they ended this one.Reuse content