The Tottenham coach, Jacques Santini, whined last week when a new Premiership referee, Peter Walton, awarded a penalty to Manchester United, insinuating the official was in awe of the occasion as his side went on to lose their first match of the season. Well, the Great Santini pulled a rabbit out of the hat with the more experienced and larger-than-life man in black, Graham Poll, in charge yesterday.
"I thought Mr Poll reacted very well," Santini said afterwards. And no wonder, because Tottenham were lucky to end up with 11 men on the pitch, when they could have been reduced to nine, might have had two penalties awarded against them, and somehow won the match with their only attempt on target, from the French full-back Noe Pamarot.
The Everton manager, David Moyes, remained admirably calm but drew attention to an over-the-top challenge by Jamie Redknapp which put Tim Cahill, Everton's best player, out of the game, and a two-footed tackle by Jermain Defoe on David Weir. Poll thought both warranted only bookings, and the Tottenham fans still gave him a hard time.
The implications for Cahill, who refused to accept Redknapp's apology, could be serious with ligament damage feared. "Tim will not be able to go with Australia [for two World Cup qualifiers against the Solomon Islands], and we will need to have a good look at his leg," Moyes said. "It has got a real 'wobble' so we do not know whether it is his knee or shin. I do not believe that Jamie Redknapp is that sort of player and I want to emphasise that, but I think any referee who saw that again would have given a red card. As for Defoe? It was two-footed, he had both feet off the ground and it was a meaty one."
Moyes rightly pointed out that Everton had been the better team and deserved to win, but added that he was happy to see the club still in third place in the Premier-ship table and seemed to accept Santini's summation. The Frenchman's command of English is, understandably, by no means perfect yet, but this is a good translation of what he said: "That's football."
He continued: "We had seven or eight chances against Norwich recently and drew, but this time we had one and we won. I think some of my players were tired physically and mentally, but we worked hard and won a game which I know Everton will feel they could have won too."
He was also supportive of his players' tackling: "I do not think that either of the bookings, for Redknapp and Defoe, deserved more than yellow cards. I do not feel that either player intended to hurt or injure their opponents."
As regards the result, it's no wonder that Tottenham are now being compared with the old Arsenal. They were played off the pitch for most of the game before filching victory by the scoreline that used to be the trademark of their dreaded north London neighbours.
They even showed some of the grit that made Arsenal so difficult to beat and so annoying to play against 15 years ago. Their supporters have not adopted a "One-nil to the Tottenham" song, as that would be taking things too far, but they enjoyed celebrating their first win in five games on a day which was supposed to mark another Everton victory and a rise to second in the Premiership table. Santini again seemed happy to keep his bus in front of goal and wait for a break in the second half. The Tottenham plan, if indeed there was one, worked to perfection as their summer signing Pamarot headed in after Robbie Keane had worked a short corner with Simon Davies.
Pamarot then saved Spurs at the other end as Everton threatened a quick equaliser when Leon Osman cracked a low shot against a post. Kevin Kilbane was poised to knock in the rebound before Pamarot lunged in to knock the ball clear.
Now the match had a real edge, and Tottenham's captain, Redknapp, escaped with his fifth yellow card of the season for his 60th-minute challenge on Cahill. Whatever the intentions of Redknapp, Cahill limped off after two minutes of treatment, to be replaced by Steve Watson, and had to leave the ground on crutches.
Moments later, both benches nearly broke into a fracas themselves when Defoe was booked for his two-footed foul on Weir right in front of the dug-outs on the touchline.
Tottenham ended up with five at the back as Moyes threw men forward in numbers in search of an equaliser Everton surely deserved on the balance of play. But there were no more incidents at either end, just a small band of happy north Londoners in one corner of the ground, while the majority of the spectators vented their frustration en masse. Everton are still third, but this was a missed opportunity and Tottenham are now only three points behind.Reuse content