Harry Redknapp suffered his first home defeat as Tottenham manager yesterday but this was no smash-and-grab by an injury-hit Everton side who were sharper all over the pitch and are now breathing down the necks of the top six.
By all accounts, Redknapp's opposite number, David Moyes, read the riot act to his players after their lacklustre outing at Wigan last Monday and they could not have given him a better response in his 300th game in charge, marred only by Ayegbeni Yakubu's ruptured Achilles injury, which will keep him out for the rest of the season.
The fact the visitors had several contenders for man of the match said everything about how committed Everton were. Steven Pienaar ran himself ragged down the left, his only lack of judgement coming when he accidentally emerged for the second half wearing Leon Osman's shirt. And in Phil Jagielka the Toffees had a hero at the back when Spurs chased the game.
Redknapp will not need reminding that you can have all the motivational skills in the world but if you can't pass the ball accurately and penetratively, you are not going to win many games. Right from the first whistle, Everton's five-man midfield cut off the Spurs supply line.
When Yakubu, the lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation, fell awkwardly in an aerial battle with Ledley King and was replaced by Louis Saha, it seemed the breaks would go with Spurs. But all the neat football continued to come from the visitors and they took the lead five minutes after half-time.
Spurs fell asleep at a free-kick and Pienaar's shot deflected off Vedran Corluka. Tottenham, flat in the first half, tried to respond but could not find any rhythm. Even when Saha, who should have doubled Everton's lead instead of planting a free header straight at Heurelho Gomes, damaged a hamstring and was himself substituted after playing for an hour, the visitors did not panic. The nearest they came to conceding was when the referee Steve Bennett added on six nerve-jangling minutes at the end but stern defending, masterminded by Jagielka, kept Spurs out.
"We put right today everything we did wrong against Wigan," Moyes said. "I'm really fortunate to have been given 300 games because not many managers get that opportunity. I'm looking forward to getting another 300 because I've always believed the good times are still to come and I want to be part of it."
Losing Yakubu, however, certainly tarnished Moyes' third straight win at White Hart Lane. "It's a huge blow for us and for him in terms of his goalscoring record. For us to replace that is not easy. With Saha pulling up and James Vaughan having had a knee operation, it gives us a real problem in that area. We'll have to look at loans because we do not have big cash reserves."
The one bonus for Spurs was that Gomes, despite one or two wobbly moments, looks to have improved under the influence of goalkeeping coach Tony Parks. "They are a difficult team to play against and shut the spaces down well," Redknapp said. "When you have a good start you can afford to lose a few games. If we'd won today we could have got out of the bottom pack. Instead we're still stuck down there."
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, King, Woodgate, Assou-Ekotto (Bale,67); Lennon, Zokora, Huddlestone (Boateng, 75), Bentley; Bent (Campbell, 62), Pavlyuchenko. Substitutes not used: Sanchez (gk), Gunter, Dawson, O'Hara.
Everton (4-5-1): Howard; Neville, Jagielka, Yobo, Lescott; Pienaar, Arteta, Fellaini, Cahill, Osman (Baines, 87); Yakubu (Saha, 10; Anichebe, 70). Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Castillo, Rodwell, Gosling.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).
Booked: Tottenham Hotspur Ekotto; Everton Fellaini, Cahill, Pienaar.
Man of the match: Jagielka.
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