Everton and Tottenham Hotspur played out a goalless draw at Goodison Park on Sunday in English Premier League action, which kept both teams in contention for next season’s UEFA Champions League places. But Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris’ return after a violent head injury was the talking point.
In truth, it was a game that was short on excitement for the neutral observer with a minimum of goal scoring opportunities, though the committed supporters of either side would have found it an absorbing contest and been reasonably happy with a point. Tottenham is still yet to concede a goal to any team outside of London in this season’s campaign, while Everton remain unbeaten at Goodison after 14 games this calendar year.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez made just one change to his starting XI, with Leon Osman receiving the nod over promising teenager Ross Barkley who was consigned to the bench. Striker Arouna Kone is suffering with a knee injury as is midfielder Darron Gibson.
Better news for the Everton camp is that Netherlands international defender John Heitinga was available again the after missing the last two games. Antolin Alcaraz is recovering from a hernia problem and will hope to make his debut within two or three weeks.
Andre Villas Boas opted to go with the same side that beat Hull City last time out. Defender Danny Rose (foot), Nacer Chadli (hamstring), Emmanuel Adebayor (foot), and defender Zeki Fryers (groin) were all unavailable, but England winger Andros Townsend was fit to start after recovering from an awkward fall.
Respect for the Fallen
With Veterans Day coming up, representatives of the armed services took the field with the players and officials prior to kick off. Referee Kevin Friend blew his whistle for the start of a minute’s silence, during which the only sound in the stadium was a spine chilling rendition of the “Last Post” from an army trumpeter by way of respect for those that gave their lives in the service of their country.
Spurs Dominate First Half
With Everton having won five from six and Spurs winning three from four on the road, this promised to be a pretty even contest. However, it was the visitors who were first to settle and seize control of the midfield.
In fact, Sandro tested Tim Howard before three minutes had passed. Spurs had another opportunity on 18 minutes when Howard could only parry a stinging Kyle Walker free kick.
The Everton keeper did not have to move and one suspects that, had it been a yard either side, Tottenham would have been a goal to the good.
Spurs dominated the first half while creating little in terms of clear-cut goal scoring opportunities. Given that they frequently found it hard to even get out of their own half, Everton would have been relieved to go in at the break with the scoresheet still blank.
Everton made a much better fist of it in the second period and it was Spurs who started to lose their way somewhat. The home side did have a shout for a penalty on 66 minutes when Jan Vertonghen appeared to have possibly brought down Seamus Coleman. The Everton faithful vocalized their displeasure loud and long when the referee showed no interest, but replays indicated that contact was minimal.
Moreover, although Coleman stumbled under the Belgian’s challenge, he did keep his feet, which no doubt further discouraged Kevin Friend from pointing to the spot.
A fine curling long range shot from Spurs substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson was beaten away by Howard at full stretch, while at the other end Romelu Lukaku just failed to make contact with one of the few testing crosses of the afternoon.
But the most dramatic event of the match came on 77 minutes when Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris received an accidental crack on the head from the knee of Lukaku as both went for a 50-50 ball in the 6-yard box.
The Tottenham medical personnel were adamant that Lloris should go off and be replaced by Brad Friedel. However, the French international was having none of it and simply refused to go.
Eventually he got his way and was allowed to continue—apparently with no ill effects. The Premier League will need to review this incident and take stronger measures to protect players from head injuries.
The delay meant that there were nine minutes of stoppage time, but even that was not enough to produce a decent chance for either side, let alone a goal.
So it was honors even with Everton remaining unbeaten at home this year. Spurs went away with a point, which probably few teams that visit Goodison this season will emulate, and so would have been reasonably content with their afternoon’s work.