Tottenham Hotspur 1 Everton 0
Jermain Defoe said his goodbyes to all corners of White Hart Lane after the final whistle but Tottenham’s striking focus has long since shifted towards Emmanuel Adebayor.
Having been rehabilitated under Tim Sherwood, the Togo striker once again demonstrated why his continuing good form remains key to the club’s hopes of forcing a way into the top four.
Condemned to train with the youth team under Andre Villas-Boas, Sherwood’s predecessor, Adebayor’s contribution has helped revive the club’s campaign. Coming into this fixture, the Togo forward had scored six goals in 10 games since Sherwood took charge and he added to that tally with a precise, 64th-minute finish that ensured Tottenham claimed victory despite registering just one shot on target.
While Adebayor remains in this kind of form, Defoe’s imminent departure to Toronto and the MLS — the England striker is due to check in with his new club on March 1, making this his last chance to say farewell at home, although he could still appear in three more away games — will not be felt, although Sherwood was quick to concede his side must improve if they are to achieve a place in next season’s Champions League.
The victory allowed Spurs to move ahead of Everton into fifth, three points behind Liverpool. However, had Everton made more of their first-half dominance, it would have been they who were closing on Brendan Rogers’ side. Adding to their pain, the visitors’ sense of frustration was fuelled by a sense of injustice at being denied a penalty in added time when Seamus Coleman was felled by Etienne Capoue.
Roberto Martinez diplomatically offered an even-handed response to the incident although television replays confirmed Everton had grounds for feeling aggrieved.
The Everton manager, though, knew his side had only themselves to blame for not having put the game out of reach before the interval, when their more forthright approach exposed Tottenham’s caution.
Sherwood grew increasingly animated on the touchline at his side’s reluctance to press Everton higher up the field but with the Spurs manager failing to get his message across, Martinez’s team needed no invitation to take advantage of the space presented to them.
Leon Osman was the dominant presence in the opening 20 minutes, producing four efforts on goal and immediately testing Hugo Lloris, the Tottenham keeper. Lloris kept his side in it during the opening bombardment with a string of impressive saves as his defences fell apart in an alarming display of disorganisation.
In the absence of a recognised striker, Steven Naismith led the Everton attack, but such was the fluency of their movement and the interchange between the forward players, the visitors’ weakness turned into a strength. Until, that is, they were presented with a sight of goal. Then, the combination of Lloris’s excellence together with some wayward finishing ensured Tottenham survived unscathed before Sherwood was able to provide fresh instruction at the break.
The home manager’s message was clear; he wanted his side to play on the front foot. And finally, following the turnaround, they switched the momentum of the game, forcing Everton to hurry and unsettling the rhythm of Martinez’s side.
Adebayor sent a header wide from a Christian Eriksen corner in the 53rd minute and the effort proved to be a precursor for his impressive finish 11 minutes later. The chance, though, owed much to the quick-thinking of right-back Kyle Walker after Spurs had been awarded a free-kick near halfway.
Spotting Adebayor positioned in space between Coleman and Phil Jagielka, and with the Everton back-four slow to prepare themselves for the dead-ball, Walker floated an excellent pass that Adebayor collected on his chest before rifling past Tim Howard with a left foot shot. The finish was as ruthless as it would prove decisive.
The striker came close to adding a second with a powerful rising drive and while Everton continued to enjoy plenty of possession in their opponents half, they failed to create enough clear chances of note to claw their way back into the game. While both sides could argue they are still in the shake-up for the top four, the reality is neither side provided a compelling case that they have the credentials to step up.
TOTTENHAM (4-1-4-1): Lloris 8; Walker 7, Dawson 7, Vertonghen 6, Rose 6; Bentaleb 8; Lennon 6 (Defoe 84,6), Dembele 6, Paulinho 6 (Capoue 67,6), Eriksen 5 (Townsend 58,6); Adebayor 9.
EVERTON (4-2-3-1): Howard 6; Coleman 7, Jagielka 7, Distin 6, Baines 8: McCarthy 7, Barry 6: Mirallas 7, Osman 8 (McGeady 72,6), Pienaar 6 (Barkley 63,6); Naismith 7 (Deulofeu 72,6).
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)
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