For the Tottenham Hotspur coach Tim Sherwood this was one to get out of the way, look at the table and raise a toast, or maybe a Lucozade, to Emmanuel Adebayor. Had the previous regime at White Hart Lane been inclined to do the same, Sherwood might still be coaching the kids.
So frustrated had he become with Tottenham’s laboured movement he kicked a bottle of energy drink over his counterpart in the Everton technical area. It was that kind of afternoon for Roberto Martinez, meeting an undeserved end on and off the pitch. Up to that point it was the only shot on target registered by Spurs. That would change emphatically just past the hour.
Everton dominated possession but lacked a striker. Spurs absorbed the pressure then stole the points via the agency of a centre-forward. Adebayor might have been invisible for much of the match but he is no false 9 with the goal posts in view. A free-kick by Kyle Walker sought ought Adebayor, who chested it down on the edge of the box and crashed the ball past Tim Howard with his left boot.
“With Ady it is all about how he is being managed,” Sherwood observed. “How do you get the best out of him? I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing. He is a good character and shows the right application. I’m just delighted with him at the moment.”
Not so with the way his team are playing at home. “We started slow again. We have to find the reason why. Hugo [Lloris] kept us in game early on. I have to address it. At half-time I managed to sit them down and have a little chat. I told them we were just waiting to get beat. The contrast between the halves was encouraging. But I’m not pleased with the way we are starting games.
“I want to play with risk. I want them to move the ball, to see some rotation in the middle of the park, give the ball to players when they are marked. So there is stuff to work on.”
Tottenham 1 Everton 0: in pictures
Tottenham 1 Everton 0: in pictures
1/8 Tottenham 1 Everton 0
Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen slides in on Everton's Kevin Mirallas in Sunday's Premier League clash
2/8 Tottenham 1 Everton 0
Everton's Seamus Coleman surges past Tottenham defender Danny Rose
3/8 Tottenham 1 Everton 0
Everton's Tim Howard races out of his goal to thwart Tottenham striker Emmanuel Adebayor
4/8 Tottenham 1 Everton 0
Adebayor gets to grips with Everton defender Sylvain Distin during the match at White Hart Lane
5/8 Tottenham 1 Everton 0
Mirallas evades the attention of his compatriot Vertonghen as both teams search for a goal in the first half
6/8 Tottenham 1 Everton 0
Rose holds off the challenge of Everton midfielder James McCarthy
7/8 Tottenham 1 Everton 0
Adebayor breaks the deadlock as he rifles home from the edge of the box under pressure from Coleman and Phil Jagielka
8/8 Tottenham 1 Everton 0
And the Tottenham striker is delighted as his goal proves enough to settle the match
And for Martinez, too. His side were enterprising enough but did not threaten Lloris enough for the possession they enjoyed. Martinez has won plaudits this season for the style of his team. They are easy on the eye but of the top six sides, Everton have won the least, only 12 times, and posted nine draws.
Leon Osman had Lloris at full stretch in the first ten minutes, the first of three shots on target in the opening half. Osman, Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas were allowed far too much space by the Spurs midfield. The prinicipal culprit was Mousa Dembélé, a fine footballer with the ball at his feet but too easily outmanoeuvred without it.
As the first half wore on Pienaar became increasingly influential down the left, his movement utterly unchecked by Dembélé. Everton should have been in front at the break and again shortly before the hour when Seamus Coleman escaped down the right only to pick out the boot of Jan Vertonghen instead of the blue shirts flooding into the box.
It was a flaw that afflicted both teams all afternoon, the ball in from overlapping full-back too easily intercepted by the outstretched limbs of defenders. The Everton wide men could argue that there was not enough of a target in Steven Naismith, who looked a world beater against Stevenage in the FA Cup.
In this setting Naismith does not offer anywhere near the incisive threat required of a lone striker. It took Martinez 72 minutes to acknowledge the problem before replacing the Scot with Gerard Deulofeu. The upswing in impetus was immediate, Deulofeu combining well with Ross Barkley, who had replaced Pienaar. The possession count increased towards 65 per cent in Everton’s favour. Unfortunately there are no points awarded for style.
“It is fair to say that in football it is better to be lucky than good,” said Martinez, lamenting the bounce of the ball. “Today was a case in point. We had to hit the back of net when we were dominant in the first half. We restricted Spurs to very little. I would have taken one shot on target from Spurs before game, but if we can take this kind of performance into the next 15 games we are going to get a lot of points.
“Hopefully the game won’t be this harsh on us. The first goal is always important. We tried everything but Spurs put players behind the ball and hit us on the break. But the performance tells us a lot. It shows that we can go to difficult grounds and be ourselves. But when you are the better side you need to win. We didn’t do that. The lapse in concentration cost us.”
Like Sherwood, Martinez believes his team must look inward for solutions, and work out the answers on the pitch. “To perform in the manner we did and not get the result means we need to look internally. It is developing into one of most exciting endings ever in the Premier League, it’s unique the way it is developing at the bottom, in the race for the Champions League and for the title. It is down to us to produce this level of performance every week while making sure we get the result.”
So Everton trade places with Spurs, who assume fifth spot three points shy of Liverpool and two clear of yesterday’s visitors. Spurs sent on Jermain Defoe in the closing stages. He didn’t make the scoresheet but he leaves the Lane a winner en route to a quieter life in Canada.