Everton 1 Tottenham 1
For men who claimed contentment with their opening-day rewards, Ronald Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino were short on smiles.
Both the Everton and Tottenham managers spoke of satisfaction with the efforts of their players, yet both wore the frowns of men with things to ponder after a draw on Merseyside.
It was little wonder, given the stark fluctuations of form both teams suffered during a game that ultimately delivered a fitting scoreline.
For Pochettino, the post mortem was all about a flat first-half in which last season’s title challengers failed to fire, trailed to Ross Barkley’s fifth minute free-kick and might have fallen further behind.
For Koeman, the inquest centred around the second-half drop-off that allowed Eric Lamela to head Spurs level and, but for the excellence of goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, would have handed the visitors victory.
Pochettino initially cited the effects of the summer’s Euros but, possibly spying the dangers of handing his players easy excuses, reined himself in when pressed to expand on the theory.
“They are ready to compete and for that reason they played,” said the Argentine.
“It is true it is very close to the period they were involved in the Euros and it is difficult to manage that, but they are ready. I think it is no excuse. Now whether they were fit or not I think we played very badly in the first half and we did not play in the way we usually play.
“The second-half, I think, looked like Tottenham.
“The second-half was a good, clear image of how we play. I think we played very well and had the chance to score the second goal. I am happy with the second-half.” The anaemic way Tottenham ended last season will, perhaps, be as significant as their players’ summer exertions for their countries.
The mental bruises from their spring fade-out will take a little overcoming which is why Vincent Janssen could emerge quickly as a key man.
The Dutchman, signed for big money in the summer, has none of those scars and his introduction from the substitutes’ bench early in the second half offered Pochettino’s men a freshness they had hitherto lacked.
His presence might well remove from pressure from Harry Kane, whose display on Merseyside was more akin to his horrid England form of the summer than the electric displays Spurs fans are accustomed to.
“This season we have a lot of competitions, including the Champions League, and a lot of games and maybe they can play together, or we can play Vincent or Harry,” said Pochettino.
“Harry needs to be ready for every game and then it is my decision whether he plays or not.”
With Kane struggling and Tottenham lacking energy, Everton dominated the opening half in Koeman’s first competitive game at the helm. Barkley, Kevin Mirallas and Gerard Deulofeu proved tough to subdue as a fluid front three and Barkley’s early free-kick eluded everyone, including Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, to nestle in the net.
The Toffees pressed some more and, when Deulofeu pounced on a poor Danny Rose backpass and raced clear on the stroke of half-time, it should have been 2-0.
Instead, substitute goalkeeper Michel Vorm denied the Spaniard, for whom that wasted opportunity was not the only reason for criticism from his boss despite some eye-catching play.
“Those type of chances you have to score,” said the Dutchman. “Sometimes Gerard and Kevin - I like the players - but they need to run more, do more and press more. It is all about workrate of the players and sometimes it is difficult because that kind of creative player is sometimes a bit more sloppy in that aspect of football.
“It’s not a question of how good is his technique or how good is his first touch of the ball. He needs to take more responsibility for the team and do also a job defending and that makes the team stronger. But we will work on that.”
Tottenham had offered little threat until, on 59 minutes, Kyle Walker found space on the right and crossed for Lamela, who ghosted in front of debutant Everton defender Mason Holgate to head home.
But that goal sparked a period of Spurs dominance and Stekelenburg emerged as the hosts’ late hero, reacting superbly to claw away Janssen’s crisp shot before doing equally well to stop Lamela’s deflected shot at his near post.
“At the moment I’m the No. 1 and I plan to finish the season as No. 1,” said the Dutchman, amid ongoing rumours of Everton interest in other goalkeepers.
“I don’t know what else is happening but that is not in my hands. The only thing I can do is what I did on Saturday.”
EVERTON (3-4-3): Stekelenburg 8; Holgate 6, Jagielka 6, Funes Mori 6; McCarthy 7, Gana 8, Barry 6 (Cleverley 85), Baines 7; Barkley 7, Deulofeu 7 (Kone 68, 6), Mirallas 7 (Lennon 76).
Subs not used: Robles, Oviedo, Davies, Galloway.
TOTTENHAM (4-2-3-1): Lloris 6 (Vorm 35, 7); Walker 6, Alderweireld 6, Vertonghen 6, Rose 6; Wanyama 7, Dier 6 (Janssen 56, 8); Lamela 7, Alli 6, Eriksen 6; Kane 5.
Subs not used: Mason, Onomah, Winks, Davies, Carter-Vickers.
Referee: Martin Atkinson
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