Everton FC analysis: A season-changing win over Tottenham
THE comprehensively buried header that Steven Pienaar butted past Hugo Lloris was the 1,000th that Everton have celebrated in 20 years of Premier League football.
By an odd quirk Clint Dempsey’s cruelly deflected shot which looped over Tim Howard was the 999th they have conceded in the same time frame.
Which suggests Everton’s Premier League history has been exceedingly average.
Blue fans have been tormented and treated to two wildly contrasting decades since the Premier League began.
For 10 years Everton were appalling under-achievers, a once great club not just flirting with, but passionately embracing relegation twice, regular bottom half feeders, a decade lightened only by the 95 neon of an FA Cup.
For the following decade, the AD timescale – that’s after David – the Blues have been upwardly mobile and ambitious and this season threatening their most impressive season of that entire timescale.
Two wildly contrasting spells of Premier League football – a little like yesterday.
For long periods of a frustrating second half Everton were exceedingly average.
Sloppy passing, scrappy play and then a horribly deflected strike threatening to undo the good work of a hugely promising first half performance.
Then came three minutes of magical penalty box goal grabbing.
If anybody left early to beat the rush they will be kicking themselves.
Pienaar’s equaliser would have sparked celebrations in itself, but there was still time for Nikica Jelavic to spark the wildest of parties.
It was fitting that the cross for the late, late match winner came from the game’s dominant figure, Darron Gibson.
The frustration of Everton’s season has been that two of their most influential performers have proved to be their most fragile.
Gibson, with a three-month chunk already sliced from his season by a thigh injury, has come back to add the shape, midfield security and wonderful range of passing the Blues were denied for so long.
And that’s not to mention that strange quirk about Everton hardly ever losing when he is in the side.
It’s still a fact that the only Premier League game that Everton have lost of the 17 matches he has started, came when he limped off the pitch at The Hawthorns with the scores level.
Then there is Kevin Mirallas.
His first 45-minute performance wasn’t quite in the devastating derby display vintage which left poor Andre Wisdom with twisted blood.
But he was still enormously impressive, running at the apprehensive Spurs defence with a sureness of touch and footing and firing in dangerous crosses and shots.
Until the stroke of half-time when he ended a mazy dribble across the edge of the Spurs penalty box by pulling up holding his hamstring gingerly.
If Everton are to realise the potential this season is offering, much may depend on keeping these two figures fit.
Following the Belgian’s exit Everton needed inspiration from elsewhere – and it was heartening that it came from an endlessly willing young Irishman.
This has been a testing season for Seamus Coleman, mentally as much as physically.
On the receiving end of inane and ill deserved abuse from the internet warriors of Twitter after a couple of defensive misjudgements, he then had to spend a couple of weeks on the sidelines injured.
But he stepped back in yesterday with a point to prove.
Not all of his contributions were positive.
A typically thrilling third minute run ended with a dangerous cross which Lloris smuggled behind.
Then he sliced a poor pass into touch.
A wonderfully buccaneering run into the Spurs box ended with a shot well wide of the target.
Then he misplaced another pass.
But he kept going and going.
His mentality was impressive and with an exasperated crowd ready to vent their frustration as the clock ticked into time added on, he collected possession again wide on the edge of the Spurs box.
Rather than whip the ball in hopefully, he looked up and pulled the back the most calculated cross onto Steven Pienaar’s head which received the finish the ball deserved – even if his manager suggested afterwards that his target had lain elsewhere!
Coleman’s demeanour as he left the pitch at the final whistle suggested he’d put a few demons to rest.
Maybe his team-mates had to. The number of times Everton have tossed away winning positions this season has been costly.
Yesterday they turned a costly home defeat into an invaluable victory.
As their manager agreed afterward, moments like those astonishing 88 seconds can be season changing.
After 90 minutes the Blues were languishing outside the Premier League’s European places. At the final whistle they were back up into Champions League contention.
Don’t you believe it.
As one of the original founder members of the Football League, Everton are a club steeped in history and tradition and have played more seasons in the top flight of English football than any other club. Their association with the greatest cup competition in the world has thus conjured some wonderful moments, and this offering from Sport Media celebrates a century of memories since their first FA Cup success in 1906. Celebrate a century of memories with 'Everton's FA Cup 100'. Read