An Emmanuel Adebayor goal proved the difference as Tottenham secured a valuable 1-0 win over champions League rivals Everton at White Hart Lane. It was a match that was arguably shaded by the visitors, but Adebayor’s strike midway through the second half from a quickly taken free-kick was decisive in an encounter where both teams struggled to create opportunities.
The victory takes Tottenham above Everton into fifth place in the Barclays Premier League, and three points behind Liverpool in the battle for the final Champions League berth. Looking so good just two weeks ago, Everton have now lost two of their last three matches and face a major task to get back into the reckoning for a top-four place. The absence of Romelu Lukaku has played a key part in their dip, and certainly hampered them at White Hart Lane. The man brought into cover for the Belgian, Lacina Traore was on the bench for the first time but somewhat curiously failed to make an appearance. Had Adebayor been on the opposite side it's hard not to think that the result would have been very different.
Tottenham continue to be a curious case. Again there were signs of the tactically naïve, off-the-cuff elements to their play under Tim Sherwood. Yet, with the exception of the top opposition they have faced, they continue to produce generally positive results. After a dismantling against Manchester City and a draw with struggling Hull City, this was a vital three points and in that sense Spurs passed an important test of character. Still, better performances will be needed if they are to overhaul Liverpool.
Everton started firmly on the front foot and Leon Osman came close on several occasions to exposing the lack of balance in Tottenham’s midfield. With Mousa Dembele and Paulinho both pushing forward, Nabil Bentaleb was struggling to get to grips with the most advanced of Everton’s midfielders. Of four efforts on goal in the opening eight minutes, Osman’s best came with a well-struck half volley from the edge of the box that Hugo Lloris did well to turn around the post.
Spurs gradually slowed the wave of attacks, with Bentaleb getting closer to Osman. Yet, even when they had a brief spell in the ascendency midway through the opening period, their play in the final third was extremely disjointed, with passes going astray left, right and center. The only threat on the Everton goal came with a fine low cross from Danny Rose right into the danger zone with which Adebayor just failed to make contact on the stretch.
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At the same time, Everton were clearly also missing the focal point in attack of Lukaku. Steven Naismith, while industrious and intelligent, lacked both the presence or craft to complement his side’s passing play. Much was dependent on the in-form Kevin Mirallas to provide a spark, supporting Naismith from the right, but his best moment came with a mazy dribble that culminated in him ignoring the run of the Scottish forward and instead striking an ambitious effort over the bar.
The second half continued in the same manner, with Everton enjoying the bulk of possession but lacking the penetration in attack to capitalize upon it. Admittedly Tottenham had better energy after the interval but still failed to impose their will on their opponents. Both sides looked to introduce some vitality into their lineups with Andros Townsend making his return from injury from Tottenham and Roberto Martinez bringing on the talented Ross Barkley. But it was a goal that had very little to do with tactics or the balance of play that broke the deadlock.
Kyle Walker took a quick free-kick inside his own half, with Everton players, and their central defenders in particular, still ambling back into position and not even watching the ball. Adebayor ran in behind the Everton Phil Jagielka, with Sylvain Distin playing him onside, to control the pass superbly on his chest before drilling a low left-footed shot inside the post.
Martinez looked to respond by introducing the returning Gerard Deulofeu and Aiden McGeady to operate on the flanks, with Mirallas moved through the middle. Despite being on the bench, it can only be assumed that Martinez lacked faith in Traore’s fitness as he returns from injury. Certainly the rangy Ivorian in full throttle would have provided a threat that Everton simply lacked as they toiled in vain to try and conjure up what would have been a vital equalizer. Instead Tottenham saw out the remaining minutes in comfort, with Sherwood also taking the opportunity to give Jermain Defoe a final appearance in a Spurs shirt at White Hart Lane before his move to Toronto FC.