Victory at White Hart Lane sees Harry Redknapp's side draw level on points with second-place Manchester United, as David Moyes' men once again fail to threaten
In a game rescheduled due to August’s riots, goals from Aaron Lennon and Benoit Assou-Ekotto either side of half-time ensured Spurs’ surprise title challenge continues to gain momentum.
The win not only means United’s advantage over Harry Redknapp’s side is cut to just goal difference, but it also sees the north London outfit pull away from city rivals Arsenal and Chelsea in the battle for Champions League qualification
Michael Dawson maintained his place in the starting XI following Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Cheltenham in the FA Cup, with the 28-year-old captaining the side on his return to Premier League action.
Elsewhere, Emmanuel Adebayor, Rafael van der Vaart, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale all returned to the line-up, with Brad Friedel also replacing Carlo Cudicini in goal, whilst Jake Livermore deputised in central midfield for the injured Scott Parker.
For the away side, David Moyes recalled Leighton Baines back into the first XI, after the left-back was rested for the 2-0 victory over non-league Tamworth at the weekend, whilst Tim Cahill also overcame injury concerns to feature, with Victor Anichebe partnering Luis Saha up front and Royston Drenthe available from the bench.
The first opening of the game presented itself to Everton in the first minute. Landon Donovan was allowed to drift towards the Spurs 18-yard line, and whilst his cross into the box was poor, Younes Kaboul failed to clear, allowing Saha the chance to turn and shoot, but the Frenchman could only direct his shot across the face of goal.
The hosts soon began to settle into their passing game, with the quartet of Bale, Modric, Van der Vaart and Adebayor linking up well, but Tottenham’s chances on goal were limited in the opening quarter of an hour, as they struggled to penetrate in the final third.
A wayward Donovan pass allowed Adebayor a run at goal, but he was unable to find the angle to threaten Tim Howard, before Assou-Ekotto did well to cut inside from the flank following a Van der Vaart pass, but his return ball evaded the Dutchman’s run into the box.
Everton looked to exert pressure in the Tottenham half with a series of corners, but Sylvain Distin’s lack of tidiness in possession nearly proved costly. The centre-back lost out to Van der Vaart, allowing the former Real Madrid man to find Gareth Bale on the break.
The Welshman did well to cut across goal for Adebayor, but the on-loan Manchester City forward elected to take a touch instead of shooting first time, and the chance was gone. The 27-year-old then saw his penalty appeals waved away by referee Martin Atkinson after tumbling in the box under pressure from Distin.
The hosts would no doubt have been more aggrieved moments later, when the official again ignored Spurs’ calls for a spot-kick – this time Cahill’s clumsy challenge on Modric appeared to be a more legitimate appeal.
Redknapp’s men looked increasingly likely as the half progressed; with Adebayor’s toe-poke following an Assou-Ekotto cross going just wide of the post, while Everton were reduced to pop-shots from distance.
The home side broke the deadlock soon after, and it was to be the Cameroon full-back’s cross-field ball that released Lennon for the opening goal.
The wideman was allowed to cut inside from the right-hand flank far too easily by Baines, and the 24-year-old took advantage, driving into the box before slotting the ball past Howard to give Tottenham the lead 10 minutes from half-time.
Rising High | Victory saw Spurs draw level on points with Manchester United
Bale looked to exploit his new-found central role soon after the restart, breaking from inside his own half to drive goalwards. The former Southampton man fully demonstrated his pace and power, but Howard’s save was equally impressive after the 22-year-old’s shot from the edge of the box was deflected.
Spurs should have doubled their advantage a minute later, with the same three characters again playing similar roles to the opening goal. Assou-Ekotto provided another sumptuous ball and, with Baines once more slow off the mark, Lennon stole a yard in front of the full-back, but he could only direct his header back across goal.
Everton’s injury woes this season took a further blow when Distin was forced off due to a knock and replaced by debutant Shane Duffy – a particular blow for Moyes with the former Manchester City man doing so well to rein in Adebayor.
The Scotsman’s misery was to be compounded even further half an hour from time as Spurs doubled their lead. Assou-Ekotto received the ball 30 yards from goal, and with no immediate option in front of him, the former Lens man drilled his left-footed effort past Howard, albeit aided by a Cahill deflection.
There was no let-up as Redknapp’s side pushed for a third. Baines went some way to atoning for his earlier errors when blocking well as Adebayor went to pull the trigger, before crosses from both Bale and Lennon just evaded the head of the ex-Arsenal player.
The introduction of Royston Drenthe added a bite to the Toffees attack that had so clearly been absent, but even the Dutchman’s energetic play was unable to provide any clear chances on goal.
The on-loan Real Madrid winger did evidently cause the Tottenham backline problems, however, and if his first penalty appeal was hopeful, then his second after a clumsy Kaboul tackle was nailed on – only for the referee to once again show reluctance in pointing to the spot.
Despite that, the game drew to a close with Spurs easing to victory. Whilst the ease with which they secured the three points may not have reflected how vital they were, the north London side have not only become clear favourites to secure a Champions League return, but are also refusing to bow down in the title race.
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