Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Start your Independent Premium subscription today.
After all the reviews, glowing and sceptical, here was the clearest indication that Tottenham Hotspur are still where they were last season. Confused, stagnant and, in this opening match of the 2020/21 season, beaten. As comprehensively as you can be beaten 1-0 by an Everton side who were everything they have strived to be. Engaging, gusty yet calculating in midfield and smarter with every choice they seemed to make.
The game was settled by a Dominic Calvert-Lewin header from a fine cross off the left-wing from a Lucas Digne free-kick in the 55th minute. What will irritate manager Jose Mourinho most is that the Everton forward out jumped both his centre-backs, finding space between Toby Alderweireld and Eric Dier before rising to power a header into the top corner. It ended a run of 10 Premier League matches without a goal and saw the 23-year old draw level with Wayne Rooney’s 25 league goals for the club.
If you have not watched Spurs’ All Or Nothing documentary yet, don’t rush. But if you are interested in giving it a whirl and were watching this match, you should know that some of its main football themes were on show.
For within episodes more sanitised than the balls on cones alongside the pitch were frustrations from Jose Mourinho on a lack of continuity and bodies to fashioning an attack to match Spurs’ lofty ambitions. And if you hadn’t guessed it. Even with three more episodes to go, he never finds a remedy. And still hasn’t.
Spurs were neither dominant in possession nor devastating on the counter. Their midfield three, in the absence of Giovanni Lo Celso, were too shy to carry the ball and forwards too uncertain during the moments that were stacked in their favour.
Basically, the polar opposite to Everton here. It was in their own central triumvirate that their superiority was most pronounced, which is all the more impressive considering two of the three were making their debuts for the Toffees.
With Andre Gomes, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan, there was a bit of everything: grace, drive and business, all underpinned by an energy that was seriously lacking in the middle of the park last season. There was almost a five-a-side relentless to their work, forward and back as one, never too far away from each other.
That was largely down to the fact that Everton’s creative work at the business end of the pitch was being governed by James Rodriguez. The Colombian had a fine debut that ended in the 91st minute when he was substituted off to as close as we are going to get to a standing ovation without a crowd.
Operating from the right, he drifted inside and was always entrusted with the ball. Nothing underlined that more than the fact that he was the only player to receive a pass from every outfield teammate in the first-half. These are early days, but the 29-year old looks in a great place to remind his snap, especially under Carlo Ancelotti who looks to have created the perfect system for him to thrive.
There was a point in the opening 45 minutes when it looked like Spurs should have brought their own ball with Everton keeping this one away from them with ease. But despite boasting 70 per cent possession in the opening quarter-of-an-hour, it was only when the hosts finally got control of the ball that Everton had a chance on goal. And what a chance it was.
Richarlison’s pace beat Toby Alderweireld to an awry clearance across the defence from left-back Ben Davies, allowing the Brazilian a clear run on Hugo Lloris, using his momentum to pass the keeper with sharp touch to the left. But it was a touch that took him wide of the left near post, and blood pumping, Richardson blazed an effort high and wide of an empty net with his weaker foot. Only when he looked up from his sprawled position on the floor did he eventually see Dominic Calvert-Lewin in the middle, perfectly set for a cut-back.
The close-shave drew Jose Mourinho out to the edge of his technical area, and no doubt a few expletive from his lips. And from there Spurs improved enough to go in at half-time wondering how they were not ahead. A counter-attack saw Son slip in Dele Alli whose firm shot was firmly pushed out for a corner by Jordan Pickford, who used his right-foot to prevent debutant Matt Doherty from volleying past him after a lifted pass from Kane to complete a one-two.
That would be as good as it got as far as clear-cut chances, or anything else positive for that matter. Dele Alli was removed at half-time for Moussa Sissoko in a move that seemed more about making a statement than a change, and did little to suggest any kind of clarity of thought and more to hint at disappointment from Mourinho to a player he hoped would be one of his key confidants.
Everton’s commitment never wavered, particularly when Doucoure seemingly broke the land-speed record to chase down Lucas Moura as he was laughing a one-man counter-attack that was five paces from seeing him meet Pickford one-on-one.
The rest of the moments of worth fell the way of the visitors, specifically, Richarlison who had a couple of chances to confirm the win early than the referee’s full-time whistle with two shots from the left-hand side of the penalty box that did not bend enough to trouble the far corner.
Nevertheless, there was no real cause for alarm, which is all the more damning for Spurs, who were unable to produce a single chance for Harry Kane. That, perhaps, should ring the most alarm bells. The system is not broken – there simply isn’t one.
Everton’s English striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring Everton’s first goal during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Everton at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on September 13, 2020. (Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by CATHERINE IVILL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Everton FC, Tottenham Hotspur F.C., Premier League, José Mourinho
Actu monde – GB – Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s header heaps misery on Tottenham as Everton celebrate new dawn under Carlo Ancelotti