Two weeks ago, Sir Alex Ferguson was curt in assessing Everton's chances of winning the Premiership. Back then they had even risen, briefly, to second place, but surely the Manchester United manager was correct when he said, simply, "no chance".
In case any doubt lingered over Ferguson's withering statement, this result removed it. This was the Merseysiders' second consecutive defeat, both in the capital, and although Tottenham Hotspur scored five, they could have had eight. It will be a welcome return to the haven of Goodison Park when David Moyes and his men host Portsmouth tomorrow night.
They may have signed the striker James Beattie from Southampton for £6.5m, but on this showing, Moyes needs more reinforcements, and quickly. Everton's strength this season has been their team spirit and organisation, helped by an apparent resistance to injury as Moyes has changed from two training sessions a day to just one. However, over a Christmas schedule as punishing as this year's, given the Toffees' ageing defence, it was inevitable things would creak a little.
Their first-choice goalkeeper Nigel Martyn is 38 and injured, joined on the sidelines by the equally important Alan Stubbs, 33. David Weir, without his regular defensive sidekick,seemed off the pace and was out of position when Robbie Keane's flick found Dean Marney for the opening goal and his first for Spurs.
Despite being telephoned by his manager Martin Jol at midnight on New Year's Eve, just to check that he was not out celebrating his imminent full home debut (he was at home, as it happened), Marney was bright as a button on the right of midfield.
Given his chance by Michael Brown's injury, the 20-year-old showed the full range of his talents. "A complete footballer," Jol called him, which is high praise from a Dutchman. There were good grounds, too, for such new year's compliments, as he nutmegged Alessandro Pistone before finding Keane for Spurs' fourth goal and then went on to score the best goal of a match full of good strikes.
With 10 minutes remaining, Marney received a short pass from Michael Carrick and ran on unchallenged before picking out the top left-hand corner of Richard Wright's net from 25 yards. It sent the Spurs bench into a mass celebration that also showed there is a decent squad spirit at White Hart Lane, helped by their sixth win in seven League games.
Reto Ziegler's first goal for his club preceded Tim Cahill's strike that brought Everton briefly back into contention before their defence opened up again and Pedro Mendes found the top corner, while James McFadden's late strike rounded things off.
At the end, Moyes put this poor display into context, saying: "There are a lot worse things going on in this world at this moment." But the Scot will know that there are problems to sort out as well at Goodison.
Goals: Marney (16) 1-0; Ziegler (27) 2-0; Cahill (40) 2-1; Mendes (59) 3-1; Keane (68) 4-1; Marney (80) 5-1; McFadden (87) 5-2.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Pamarot, Naybet, King, Edman; Marney, Carrick (Redknapp, 87), Mendes, Ziegler (Ricketts, 87); Keane, Kanouté. Substitutes not used: Fulop (gk), Davenport, Gardner.
Everton (4-1-4-1): Wright; Hibbert, Yobo, Weir, Pistone (Naysmith, 71); Carsley; McFadden, Gravesen, Cahill, Kilbane (Campbell, 71); Bent (Osman, 71). Substitutes not used: Turner (gk), Chadwick.
Referee: S Dunn (Gloucestershire).
Man of the match: Marney.
Attendance: 36,102.Reuse content