Resolute Everton earn their spurs in the face of artistry to earn reward
Tottenham Hotspur 1 Everton 1
If there was one team likely to capitalise on any signs of tiredness after Tottenham's midweek trip to the San Siro, then it was Everton, particularlyon the back of last weekend's victory over Liverpool.
Yet Tottenham shrugged off any weariness from their remarkable 4-3 defeat in Milan by European champions Internazionale in the Champions' League, and had the better of this combative draw with Everton.
On the evidence of this match Tottenham are learning quickly how to adjust to the greater physical and mental demands placed on players and staff by the group stages of the Champions' League. These are heady days for Tottenham, especially given that they were bottom of the Premier League when Harry Redknapp arrived as manager two years ago tomorrow.
Much like his team, Redknapp has blossomed at White Hart Lane, proving he is far more than a canny operator in the transfer market. Such has been his success at Tottenham that he is the favourite to replace Fabio Capello as England manager in 2012, although the man himself is keeping things in perspective.
"Things have gone well for us, we have been lucky and have had two good years," Redknapp said. "I am not going to get carried away. It's week to week, this job."
This week has been particularly special for Tottenham, coming from 4-0 down in Milan with 10 men thanks to Gareth Bale's hat-trick. Despite Wednesday's exertions, Tottenham began the brighter, with Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart conjuring all sorts of odd angles and openings which Everton were struggling to fill. Modric almost scored with a shot that Tim Howard saved well.
David Moyes' side landed a sucker punch when they took the lead after 17 minutes. Yakubu Ayegbeni exaggerated a challenge by Younes Kaboul to earn Everton a free-kick that the left-back Leighton Baines dispatched with a superbly flighted effort hit with enough dip to fly into the corner of the Tottenham goal.
Tottenham's response was swift, although it relied on a large slice of luck when Everton's normally reliable goalkeeper Howard misread the flight of a deep cross from Spurs' right back Alan Hutton. Howard punched at the air, the ball struck Tottenham's Peter Crouch and fell into the path of Van der Vaart, the Dutchman scoring for the fourth successive home game.
The scruffy goal was at odds with much of the football played by Tottenham, but despite the artistry of Modric and Van der Vaart, Spurs' greatest threat remained the aerial ability of Crouch, who should have put them in front just before the interval from Hutton's cross but headed the ball into Howard's hands.
Moyes reflected afterwards on just how difficult it is to play against this Tottenham team. "They have got good footballers all over the pitch," the Everton manager said. "They have pace with [Gareth] Bale and [Aaron] Lennon down the flanks, great footballers in Modric and Van der Vaart and the aerial threat of Crouch. You can't just focus on one thing."
Everton defended resolutely, and also played their part going forward with Tim Cahill and Steven Pienaar outstanding in midfield, looking to get into the Tottenham defence when the situation arose.
However most of their work was defensive, as Everton grafted for the point. Both managers singled out Phil Neville for special mention for the way he coped with man of the moment Bale. Redknapp said: "Gareth has been murdering everybody recently but Neville knows what he is doing," while Moyes spoke of Neville's influence on the rest of the team. He said: "There was consideration about his position in the team but the team seems to function better when he is in the side. He dealt well with Bale."
Referee: Mike Jones
Man of the match: Modric
Match rating: 7/10
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