(Jelavic – 22)
Tottenham Hotspur 0
A first-half Nikica Jelavic strike was enough to see Tottenham Hotspur come away from Goodison Park empty handed despite a dominant second half display.
The Croatian struck midway through the opening 45 minutes after some good work from Leon Osman, which was enough to see Everton across the finish line with all three points.
Harry Redknapp made three changes from the side that lost 3-1 to Manchester United last Sunday with Scott Parker, Jermain Defoe and Gareth Bale all coming in for Jake Livermore, Louis Saha and Aaron Lennon.
A flat opening quarter of an hour finally sprung to life after 18 minutes as Defoe looked to latch onto a Bale through ball only for Jonny Heitinga to deny the England striker just before he could pull the trigger.
Brad Friedel did well to deny Marouane Fellaini from a tight angle before January arrival Jelavic tucked away from 14-yeards after Osman comfortably darted past Younes Kaboul to open the score.
The goal appeared to spur the away side into life and Bale fired twice wide from distance, while Tom Howard easily gather Luka Modric’s tame effort.
Jelavic attempted to add his, and Everton’s, second, but Friedel was on-hand to deny the former Rangers front-man’s free-kick.
Spurs began the second half with the sole purpose to break the Everton back-line with Defoe early on forcing a reaction save from Howard before firing over the American’s goal.
Redknapp’s side continued to press as Modric fired over from the edge of the 18-yard-box, Kaboul sent a free-kick high into the stands while Defoe forced another smart save out of Howard after the pint-sized hit-man’s 22-yard effort took a slight deflection.
Former Toffee’s striker Saha entered the field of play for Emmanuel Adebayor in the 54th minute and came close to drawing matters level after skipping past captain Phil Neville and Osman only to see his goalbound strike headed away from Sylvain Distain.
Everton has just one effort in the second half, with Friedel denying Osman as Spurs effectively camped out in the home side’s half.
Defoe managed to turn the ball into the back of the net with a close-range volley, but the linesman had his flag raised with the striker two-yards offside.
And it was French international Saha who came closest to levelling matters in the dying embers of the encounter.
Substitute Rafael Van der Vaart deflected off Heitinga and away for a corner. Modric floated the ball to Benoit Assou-Ekotto whose wayward effort found Saha. He managed to get his shot away despite pressure from Tim Cahill, but with Howard helpless, he struck the post just moments before referee Mark Halsey blew up for full-time.
What Redknapp had to say
“How did we lose the game? Second half, we never came out of their half. We just battered them non-stop and could not get a break in front of goal,” Redknapp told ESPN after the game.
“We put more industry in than them and that is why we battered them in the second half.
“Our athleticism and our ability made it so they could not get the ball off us. We penned them in and just could not get the break.
“It was complete one-way traffic in the second half.”
Man of the match
Jermain Defoe, after his two-goal performance during the 3-1 win over Stevenage, retained his place in the starting XI and deservedly so. The England international looked lively throughout and caused constant problems for the Everton back-four all evening. Managed to turn the ball into the back of the net, but was ruled for offside and deserves to keep his place for the FA Cup encounter with Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.
Moment of the match
Louis Saha hitting the post late on summed up Spurs’ evening at Goodison Park. Despite being on top of the Toffee’s for much of the second half, Redknapp’s side just couldn’t find a way past Tim Howard and were left to rue missed chances in what could be a pivotal result in the race for a top four finish.
Harry Redknapp needs to stop playing our best players out of position. Luka Modric on the left and Gareth Bale on the right all but limited our attacking threat throughout the frustrating encounter. With Aaron Lennon ruled out through injury, Redknapp was going to sacrifice Modric to the wing, but by playing Bale on the right, he effectively played two players out of position instead of just the one.
Spurs got to the position they are in now by playing 4-4-1-1, with Rafael Van der Vaart slotting in behind Emmanuel Adebayor for much of the season. Now that the Dutchman has returned to fitness, Redknapp needs to utilise him once again a switch back to the aforementioned formation in order to not only add a creative influence behind Adebayor, but shore up a midfield that has lack steel in recent games.