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Tottenham, The Glory-Glory Game
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Spurs' loss of form continued at Goddison Park, allowing the chasing pack to draw closer. Two months ago at White Hart Lane, Spurs beat Everton with ease to move level on points with Manchester United, three points off top spot. This heralded widespread media discussions as to whether Tottenham could actually win the title. How things have changed in that subsequent period. Everton have now gone seven games undefeated while Tottenham have managed only two League wins and and have lost three successive League games for the first time under Harry Redknapp. Spurs difficulties have been compounded by a loss of players to injury with Aaron Lennon and Michael Dawson joining that list and as in recent games an individual error has led to a goal being conceded.
To compensate for the loss of Lennon, Gareth Bale started the game on the right with Luka Modric on the left and Sandro playing in the middle beside Scott Parker. Jermain Defoe was given the opportunity to play alongside Emmanuel Adebayor. Unfortunately, from early on Spurs were very disjointed and Everton were the much more purposeful team. They were quicker to the ball and dominated possession for much of the first half. Having said that, for all Everton's possession, the Spurs defence wasn't having too many problems although a poor clearance by Younes Kaboul presented Everton with a shot wide and after twenty minutes Brad Friedel saved a dangerous cross-shot from Fellaini. Two minutes later Osman beat Kaboul too easily as he ran into the penalty area and found Jelavic who scored his first Everton goal on his home debut.
Everton continued to dominate the half and it was only in the final ten minutes before the interval, after Bale moved to the left, that Spurs began to look more of a threat.
In the second half Spurs were much quicker to the ball and showed greater endeavour. Defoe had a shot saved as Spurs provided the greater threat. Kyle Walker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto who had rarely progressed into the Everton half before the interval were now taking up much more advanced roles as Spurs pushed forward for an equaliser. On 52 minutes, Defoe had another shot saved after being set-up by Parker and following the introduction of Louis Saha in place of Adebayor, Modric shot over after good interplay between Bale and Assou-Ekotto.
Just after the hour mark, Kaboul shot over from a free-kick after a foul on Bale on the edge of the penalty area. Defoe then had another shot saved and Van der Vaart replaced Sandro. With twenty minutes remaining Saha had a shot blocked and then Everton had their first goal attempt of the half when Brad Friedel saved well from Osman. With fifteen minutes remaining Defoe put the ball into the net but was clearly off-side.
Throughout the second half Everton did what they do best. Having scored the goal before the interval, they were content to defend in depth and frustrate Spurs. Spurs had eight corners while Everton had none and in the second period Spurs had about fourteen attempts on goal to Everton's one. It shows the level of supremacy in terms of possession and threat that Spurs offered in the second half but the damage had been done before the interval.
In a final dramatic five minute period of added time after Everton had used every time wasting tactic available, Spurs might have scored on a number of occasions - a Van der Vaart shot was deflected and curled over the bar, Saha had a shot against the post which then bounced onto the goalkeeper's knee and away to safety and Defoe shot over.
At the end of February last year Spurs went on a run that saw their season tail off disappointingly and it was at a similar time this year that the defeat at Arsenal marked the start of this current dip in form. In the coming week Spurs need to assess where things have gone wrong, to determine how to eliminate individual defensive errors, how to make the best use of the players available to them and to focus on what they do best. Progress in the Cup next weekend and a win against Stoke a few days later are essential if a very promising season isn't going to disappear into obscurity.