Everton find their fight but shoot themselves in the foot

Lyndon Lloyd 16/04/2021 23comments  |  Jump to last

When the bones are picked out of this season and if, as now seems likely, Everton have failed to secure Europa League qualification at the least, it will be the Blues’ home form that will stick out a mile as the determining factor. Few teams have used the pandemic’s empty stadia better than Carlo Ancelotti’s to pick up points on the road and, perhaps, only Liverpool’s home record has matched Everton’s in terms of how surprisingly bad it has been.

Goodison Park has been a fortress for the Toffees at times in recent years and Ancelotti didn’t oversee a home defeat as manager until the final day of last season in a meaningless contest against Bournemouth. But without that reliably packed house roaring them on from the Grand Old Lady’s stands, things just haven’t been the same.

Just one home win in eight before tonight had seen Everton’s once-robust Champions League dreams wither and against Spurs they were killed off in agonising fashion, by two defensive lapses — the second as embarrassing as it was horrendous and costly — and more profligacy in front of goal from Richarlison just when he needed match-winning composure in Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s absence.

Michael Keane hasn’t been in the best of form for a while now, perhaps a consequence of (or reason behind) losing his place in the England squad and Mason Holgate has been shuffled around across the back four and even into midfield in recent months. Unfortunately, with Holgate deployed in the Yerry Mina-sized hole in front of Jordan Pickford and Keane looking disconcertingly unsure of himself throughout, they erred in combination on two crucial occasions; their mistakes falling to arguably the last Premier League striker you would want them to in the form of Harry Kane.

It was cruel on the Blues because this was almost everything that the home performances against Leeds, West Ham, Newcastle, Fulham and Burnley very painfully were not. Everton were energetic, purposeful, intense and they played some lovely football at times, exemplified by Gylfi Sigurdsson’s second goal, a magnificently-worked moved and composed finish. Somewhere, Ancelotti’s men found the requisite fire in their belly that feels like it has been absent since their last meeting with Tottenham in that barmy 5-4 cup tie in February.

But in failing to pick up so much as a point in any of those five matches and also giving up that late lead against Crystal Palace, Everton didn’t have the leeway that would have allowed them to drop points against a rival for European qualification on the back of the kinds of individual errors for which a manager can’t really legislate. Pick a up just a point in each of those five games and the Blues would still be level on points with Chelsea in fifth; now, however, they remain in eighth and face an uphill task to finish in the Europa League spots.

If there is a positive it’s that though there’s a feeling it will have come too late, a return to the kind of form and football that propelled Everton into the Champions League reckoning in the first place earlier this season would give the Toffees a good chance to making Europe. Another few surprise results in a season full of them over the remaining seven games and the door might just remain ajar.

If it doesn’t, there were, at least renewed signs that this team can move the ball with pace through midfield, attack through the middle when James Rodriguez has the space to work and string some attractive passing moves together. The trick will be to do it against less open teams than Spurs but that remains a challenge for Messers Brands and Ancelotti to puzzle over in terms of finding the right players to add the necessary quality.

Though Dominic Calvert-Lewin was ruled out again with an adductor problem and André Gomes wasn't risked, Ancelotti was finally able to include Allan in a starting line-up that saw Holgate drop into a central defensive three with Keane and Ben Godfrey. Allan’s return alongside Tom Davies to provide the tenacity in front of the defence and that gave James license to be the world-class talent that he is and he enjoyed his best outing in Royal Blue for many weeks.

The Colombian graced this contest with his range of passing and vision but also provided the necessary grit while also taking some punishment in the process, including with the foul that drew a penalty for Everton’s first goal after half an hour. Prior to that, they had been hugely unfortunate to fall behind to Spurs' only real chance of the first half, one gratefully snapped up by Kane.

Tenacious in the press and exhibiting the running in midfield that had been lacking against the Seagulls, Everton started well and carved out the first genuine opportunity when James threaded Richarlison through the defence but his shot was pushed away by Hugo Lloris in the 22nd minute.

Just five minutes later, however, Tottenham went ahead very much against the run of play. A flighted cross from the left by Tanguy Ndombele was glanced on by Keane as Holgate appeared to lose his footing, which left Kane all the time he needed to chest the ball and volley past Pickford.

Everton were level within just four minutes, though, after Sigurdsson broke away down the left and cut it back to the top of the box for Rodriguez who went down under a clumsy challenge by Sergio Reguilon and referee Michael Oliver awarded a penalty.

That the Colombian appeared to catch the turf with his foot before contact was pored over by the likes of Jamie Carragher in the Sky Sports studio but all the evidence pointed to the contact on James’s back prompting that uncharacteristic mis-step and Reguilon would likely have cleaned him out on the follow-through anyway. In any event, Sigurdsson stepped up and sent the goalkeeper the wrong to confidently despatch the spot-kick into the other corner and level things up.

The Icelandic international smacked a direct free-kick into the defensive wall, James tested Lloris with a shot and Iwobi fired a goal-bound shot into Sigurdsson after a giveaway by a Tottenham defender before a nicely-worked move almost put Everton in front. Rodriguez and Sigurdsson played a neat one-two in the box and the Colombian got a shot off but the keeper was there again to make an excellent save.

Then, in first-half stoppage time, James whipped a free-kick behind the visiting defence which Godfrey met at the far post but he couldn't keep his header down and it flashed over.

The half-time interval appeared to disrupt Everton a little and it was Spurs who looked the more likely to score next as Son Hueng-Min turned Keane and tried to sneak a shot inside the near post but Pickford saved well.

Kane fed Ndombele a few minutes later and his drive deflected off Lucas Digne and dropped onto the top of Pickford's goal before Toby Alderweireld planted a near-post header off a corner onto the outside of the post.

However, a timely and prescient substitution from Ancelotti turned the match in Everton's favour. Seamus Coleman replaced the willing but largely ineffective Alex Iwobi as right wing-back on the hour mark and within a minute, the Irishman had laid on the Toffees' second goal; a real belter.

Coleman exchanged passes with Richarlison to take him around Eric Dier, he picked Sigurdsson out perfectly with his centre and the Icelander guided a beautiful first-time shot across Lloris and into the far side of the goal to make it 2-1. It was as good a team goal as Everton have scored all season.

Unfortunately, that lead didn't last very long either. Erik Lamela, recently on as a sub himself, clipped an innocuous ball in from the Spurs right, Keane stooped to nod it to Sigurdsson in the box but his header hit Holgate, fell to Kane and the England striker needed no further invitation to bury a first-time finish past Pickford.

Again Everton seemed to lose their way for a spell and Kane grazed the woodwork with a flicked header from a Lucas Moura cross while Lamela floated a shot over and Kane had a close-range shot charged down but the best chance to win it fell the home side's way with five minutes left.

The indefatigable Allan intercepted the ball in the centre-circle, Richarlison found Josh King, on for Davies as Ancelotti went for the win in the closing stages, and when his shot was beaten away by Lloris it fell to Richarlison but the Brazilian's composure deserted him and he lashed it well over the crossbar.

And that, bar a couple of late corners and sliced James effort at the death, was that. A trip to Emirates next where rejuvenated Arsenal await but another display like this and Calvert-Lewin back in the ranks would give the Blues every chance of keeping the Gunners at arm’s length in the table and, perhaps, gaining some ground on those above them.

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Reader Comments (23)

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Jerome Shields
1 Posted 17/04/2021 at 08:53:17
I think we all got a big dose of reality yesterday evening.

Allan gave more momentum to Everton's play and quite a few players stepped up to the plate. Iowbi played one good ball when he seen the board go up for his substitution. Everton whole attack was up the opposite wing to the one he was on, because of his poor play. He could have been subbed after 10 minutes.

Keane was making mistakes all evening and cannot defend on the turn. He knows this and tries to avoid such situations. Holgate has lost his defensive consistency and distribution, since his injury last year.

So Everton played better, playing a poor Spurs side, and Pickford didn't make a mistake, but others did gifting Kane goals he did not deserve. We might be glad of the European Conference league, given some of the players Everton have, so as to claim some progress this season. The fact that it is a league would give season round extra games, getting some payback for the wages paid out and preparation for the Europa and Champion League in subsequent seasons.

Aleast Everton got a draw, with players like that it could have been worse. Everton will be lucky to get a 6th place, but may get 7th. But then , the fans are due a bit of luck.

Stephen Brown
2 Posted 17/04/2021 at 09:17:51
I really like Michael Keane but I think Mina and Godfrey should be first choice pairing going forward. I'm also sad to say that maybe Holgate is the man get generate funds in the summer.

Now the dust has settled I think despite the obvious disappointing results here and there we have the makings of a good team especially if we can keep Allan and the imperious James fit and on the pitch!

Steve Little
3 Posted 17/04/2021 at 09:23:38
I think we have played well in the last two home games, just individual errors cost us.

It's the previous few games that were the frustrating ones.

Carlo's priority was to create a style that could compete with the better teams. Having done that has he now found a way to dominate those winnable home games?

We may only find out when the squad is fully fit but I am still optimistic.

Thomas Richards
4 Posted 17/04/2021 at 09:31:54
Good report as usual Lyndon.

Frustrating we didnt get three points but happy enough with the performance.
Allans energy made a big difference in midfield, he needs games to get him back to scratch but happy with him.

James.
A joy to watch, doesn't always come off but that will happen when a player tries things.
A pure footballer.

Tom did well last night, best game for a while, although he should have done better cutting the cross out for thier second.
Saying that the cross wouldnt have mattered if not for the sunday league defending from Keane and Holgate. Not good enough, both of them.
Seamus is on the back end of a great career we all know that. The fight and reaction of the players when he comes on tells you all you need to know about the esteem the players hold him in.
There will never be a signing made by Everton who will give the value he gave us, and all for 60 grand.

All in all a good game to watch and one we should have won

Clive Rogers
5 Posted 17/04/2021 at 09:37:23
Their two goals can be called mistakes, but in my view they were mainly down to bad luck. Keane had to go for the first and it skimmed off the top of his head while Holgate knew nothing of the second which rebounded to Kane.
Coleman playing from the start would have been a better option.
Nicholas Ryan
6 Posted 17/04/2021 at 10:40:49
How cruel things can be. Two minor mistakes, both landed at the feet of an unmarked Harry Kane in the 6-yard box; and the rest is history.

We could play Spurs a thousand times, and that wouldn't happen again!

Tony Everan
7 Posted 17/04/2021 at 10:59:14
I thought the lads played very well, at last they found some intensity and matched it with some good technical ability too. More of he same please now we can see you can do it!

I thought the goals conceded were both very unlucky on the whole, but I think big Yerry would have cleared the danger away for both goals. Spurs were damned lucky though the way both times the ball landed to Harry Kane almost on a sixpence.

Only one concern for me last night was Iwobi, again. The player continues to struggle, can't get past a full back, can't get crosses in, ball retention is poor and passing is errant. Unfortunately the player has become a liability and doesn't deserve to be starting matches until he can demonstrate improvement.

When he got taken off you could almost hear a collective sigh of relief from Evertonian's up and down the country in front of their screens. Seamus came on and offered more immediately. It's a position we need to recruit for in the summer. If Brands can somehow sell or trade Iwobi he will be really earning his wages.

Dave Abrahams
8 Posted 17/04/2021 at 11:55:52
Jerome (1)” Keane was making mistakes all evening” Amen to that, twenty seven years old and plays every game like the nervous kitten he is, no awareness, no anticipation,no aggression, two or three seconds behind the game in his head, and yet people say he has had a very good season until the last few games, I just don't see it, he's like a nervous wreck every game he plays and makes me a nervous wreck watching him.

If they sell Holgate and the ex Burnley player in the summer they'll have more clubs interested in Holgate and get more money for him as well.

Ajay Gopal
9 Posted 17/04/2021 at 12:17:40
I just finished watching the game - the replay - without knowing the outcome and I haven't looked at the match reports and comments. Here are my thoughts:

The overall team performance was much, much better than recent ones - I would go so far as to say, one of the best of the season.
2 freak defensive errors - which gifted the goals to Spurs. Those were the only 2 genuine chances they had all game, and unfortunately for us, they fell to the most clinical finisher on the pitch.
We had excellent chances of our own to get us all 3 points, but it is clear, Richarlison is no Harry Kane.
Special mention to Godfrey, Davies, Digne, James, Siggy - they were the standout players on the pitch
I thought Allan was pretty quiet and Davies carried the midfield. Iwobi was poor, but at least, he was working hard and trying to do something.
Coleman and Josh King when they came on, looked lively, and they both created great chances - Coleman's resulted in a goal, and Josh King's effort should have resulted in the winner.
I am not trying to belittle Richarlison - the amount of effort he puts into every game is immense, if he just develops that consistent goal-scoring touch, he would be a top, top star.
Once again, there was a big difference in bench quality between the 2 sides.

Really disappointed with the result, but greatly encouraged by the performance.

Danny O’Neill
10 Posted 17/04/2021 at 12:34:24
I pointed at Keane last night, my brother was more in the Holgate's fault camp. I think when you look at it, really, both are at fault. Poor communication, poor positioning and poor decision making from the pair of them.

Keane has been much improved this season Dave, but only due to the deep defensive set up we've employed regularly. But, concerns of those like me will always be there. What you say, he watches the game, watches the ball and then decides to do something. Lacks the anticipation and reading of the game to compensate for lack of pace.

Okay, I don't want to dwell on the negatives. The overall consenting sentiment on these pages is that the performance warranted a win and we enjoyed the performance. Refreshing to still see that fans will always respect effort and performance even if the result doesn't go our way. Over to you Everton; of course we want the win, but if we don't win, then leave us knowing you tried to.

Tom Bowers
11 Posted 17/04/2021 at 12:44:32
When Son and Kane are together they are troublesome for any central defenders. Kane in particular is a class act and I wasn't surprised in the least that he scored the goals.

Everton's defensive weaknesses have been evident lately with Holgate not looking particularly smart and I am not sure he is good enough to start and certainly not at central defence.

Swapping all the players around at the back has not been a good thing and Injuries don't help but Carlo has to get a settled pairing for next season amongst other things.

Steve Brown
12 Posted 17/04/2021 at 12:54:32
We are simply a better team when Allan plays. He and Tom complement each other well.
Jerome Shields
13 Posted 17/04/2021 at 13:13:31
Dave#8

One thing that I omitted and which you are rightly pointed out was Keane's confidence. I always maintained that Keane was a confidence player.

When he played along side Jagielka his confidence was completely shot. Jagielka communicate little and was not dependable covering his team mates.

When Mina came in Keane was a different player, thought still badly exposed when the right back was committed, which has cost Everton three goals since Xmas. It could be the unexplainable drop in Holgates level of competence is having a knock on effect on Keane. It may also be that Holgate is trying that much to get up to speed he is just looking after himself and not really communicating with Keane.

Keane was exposed all game ; giving away the ball just outside the penalty area; exposed covering the right back position ; poor clearance headers and getting caught in possession coming forward. He just looked he was having a nightmare of a game.

I have had games like that myself and it isn't a pleasant experience and, I guess, even more difficult for a Professional footballer to overcome.

Agree with Danny #10 that Keane (and Mina imo ) is exposed when Everton a pushing forward. both Keane and Mina are more comfortable when play in front of them. Holgate was a better footballer than either of them prior to his injury and had no problem.

Rick Tarleton
14 Posted 17/04/2021 at 13:18:20
Richarlison's effort cannot be faulted, but he is not a number nine, nor does he have the clinical coolness that true strikers have. Kane had two chances and he didn't work the keeper, he simply scored.
Richarlison was often just over, or he worked the keeper a little.
Rodriguez was excellent and Davies, as ever, worked his socks off. Keane and Holgate were nervous all night, Why not play Godfrey, the bigger and faster unit alongside of Keane?
If you are selecting Allan and Davies, then a back four with Coleman and Digne as more traditional full backs is fine.
Sigurdsson had his best game for a long time and overall we were unlucky not to win.
Paul Birmingham
15 Posted 17/04/2021 at 13:28:41
Taking the vast improvement in the tempo and ambition of this performance, was a welcome boost and Spurs got out played and cut up in phases of this game.

The concentration lapses causing the gifts to Kane, last night and recently Burnley, Chelsea and Palace, means Michael Keane position is uneasy and Ive said we should have got his the defensive partner Ben Mee, whose agile and mobile, and Michael Keane, in my view is a cricket player.

Mistakes happen in every game but these big mistakes have not helped the cause this last month.
The flame of hope burns still and there's still an outside chance of making the Europa.

Hopefully the Everton management team will now have tangible results to warrant a summer transfer campaign to buy at least 4 players - perhaps, CB, Koulibaly,RB - Florentine's, RW - Leon Bailey, midfield - Rabiot and a CF - Belotti.

The time to start the phase 2 of rebuilding this squad starts this summer, but the challenge of off loading the sick notes and deadwood won't be easy.

Marcel Brands has a challenge but I'm confident he can step up to the plate and whilst, I don't like to presume he's staying, and has a new contract signed or pending signing.

This summer is key to building on this year and the style of football played last night.

All enjoy the weather and to victory at Arsenal.

Dave White
16 Posted 17/04/2021 at 15:40:47
Having officially let go of any vague hopes of CL after the Palace debacle I went into last night's viewing with a sense of calm. I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.

Put simply, in my opinion, if we played like that on a consistent basis we would be sitting in the top 4 places now.

If only Carlo could bottle whatever last night's team seemed to have and dish it out every week.

Special mention to Ben Godfrey who seems to get better and better. If that lad Aarons is cut from the same cloth he should be our No1 target for the summer.

Jim Bennings
17 Posted 17/04/2021 at 16:50:24
Taken isolation, a point against Spurs (4 from them this season) is not terrible.

It's hugely disappointing because our home form has cost us arguably a top 4 placing, given our fabulous away form, if only we could have pinched wins against Newcastle and Fulham or Burnley.

As it stands we have won just 5 home games all season and only once since December, that's curtailed our progress.

Last night the blame is because one, our forwards can't shoot accurately enough when more than presentable chances arise and two, because Michael Keane and Holgate is a partnership made for nightmares.

Neither Keane or Holgate are switched on enough for my liking and last night illustrated why they shouldn't be a pairing.

Mina and Godfrey will be the way forward unless a move for Koulibaly does materialize in summer which would be a great coup.

Now the remainder of the season is about fending off Arsenal, Leeds and Villa for a top half finish.

The game against Arsenal next week will be crucial as they should dispatch Fulham tomorrow, whilst the two matches we have against Aston Villa will be pivotal too.

Tony McDonald
18 Posted 17/04/2021 at 18:55:56
Disappointed? Yes. Encouraged? Yes also. When was the last time against one of the so-called Big 6 that Everton had 12 shots, 7 of them on target? And all this without our leading scorer.

The display was so much better than previous outings and much credit must go to the work rate and overall performance of the oft-criticised Sigurdsson. He played a blinder and blended very nicely with the pure genius that is James. A nod here as well to Godfrey, Allan and Davies.

On another night, we would have secured all 3 points but what I witnessed brings much relief and hope for the future. I don't worry too much about this season. That particular horse has bolted IMO. I am looking forward to what might be next season. The acquisition of a proper centre-back, a right-back (although I personally would play Godfrey there provided someone like Koulibaly comes in), and a little bit more inventiveness in and around the forward areas.

Just sort out those injury problems, please, Everton...

Paul Jones
19 Posted 17/04/2021 at 22:20:10
You could see why Ancelloti has identified Koulibaly as a priority signing, Keane and Mina are not going to get any better or more reliable.

Holgate is a useful squad player for now but not commanding enough to be a regular centre-back until his composure and concentration improves. Like Stones, he cannot be forever potentially a good player if he is to play at a club that aspires to be in the top six.

Danny O’Neill
20 Posted 17/04/2021 at 22:52:25
My call for weeks Paul Jones. I would love us to get Koulibaly and have him play alongside Ben Godfrey.

Stones is a top 6 player. He is more than that. Football is a game of mistakes. All players make them and defenders' are more exposed than others. John Stones was always going to be top draw, we just panicked because he could play football. Admittedly, that panic was justified given what he had in front of and around him.

He is about to add his 3rd Premier League winners medal to his collection of FA Cup and League Cup medals.

Jerome Shields
22 Posted 17/04/2021 at 23:52:52
Though Richarlison does disappoint with his poor pass completion and lack of clinical finishing ability, he does do a lot of work pressing and making himself available. He is often the brunt of being targeted by opposition defences. It is noticeable that he is seen as the main forward threat, in the absence of others who take on the burden, even when Calvert-Lewin is playing. He often gets the attention of two opposition defenders. They are clearly coached to push him inside and stop him shooting.

King was a threat when he came on and was more up to speed than his previous appearances. Digne is back to being consistent, probably putting in the best Everton player performance. Both James and Sigurdsson were at a different level. Iowbi was not at the races and Coleman showed him up every time he got the ball. Allan and Davies can at last play in the same team.

I expect Ancelotti to reexamine his centre-back pairing, although Godfrey did add much-needed pace in his present position. Carlo will also look at the attack and King may get more game time.

Europe is still possible, but maybe not as we know it.


Bob Parrington
23 Posted 18/04/2021 at 07:17:35
I reckon David and Tony have got it right. This was overall an excellent performance thwarted by 2 crazy errors between Keane and Holgate (or were they just bad luck?).

I thought Sigurdsson played really well, full of energy and running plus skill. Holgate looks to go back many times when he should go forward and so takes positive momentum from us. On the couple of occasions he moved or passed forward, the team was on the front foot.

If we play like this for the rest of the games, we will move up at least a couple of league placings IMO.

Paul Jones
24 Posted 18/04/2021 at 15:48:31
Danny 20 agree football is a game of mistakes I think with guidance Holgate can improve his decision making. That will come by playing along side defenders that are are better positionally and less prone to making basic errors.
Stones has been consistently better for City but is still prone to the horrendous gaffe playing for England. I suspect with Holgate he came too from a football background where he was expected to be able to think about the next pass.
For both the decision making needs to be consistently better when they play at a higher level. Everton need to identify two regular centre backs who can play with a sound first choice goalkeeper. In recent seasons we have conceded too many soft goals.

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