Tottenham Hotspur ended Everton’s excellent Premier League run with a typically entertaining, high risk-reward 2-1 home victory on Saturday that capped their own impressive December and took them back into the top four.
Goals by Richarlison and Son Heung-min had Spurs 2-0 up inside 20 minutes but things are never straightforward for the home side and, as Everton took command in the second half, they ended up hanging on desperately when Andre Gomes made it 2-1 eight minutes from time.
They did so, just, to secure their third win in a row – following a five-game winless run – that lifted them above champions Manchester City into fourth place.
Everton will wonder how they got nothing from the game after dominating the second half and continue to hover just above the relegation zone thanks to their 10-point deduction.
They had come into the match on a run of four successive league wins, without a goal conceded, but all too aware of their dire form against Spurs in recent years, having won only one of their last 21 meetings, drawing 10.
That sturdy rearguard was soon punctured twice as Spurs put together a series of slick attacks.
A low cross by Brennan Johnson was neatly swept in by former Evertonian Richarlison after nine minutes for his fourth goal in three games, having managed two in the previous 39.
It was the first Everton had conceded since losing 3-0 to Manchester United in November but nine minutes later they were undone again when Johnson’s shot was parried by Jordan Pickford straight to Son, who bundled it back past the England keeper.
Spurs, sticking relentlessly to the Ange Postecoglou playbook, showed remarkable skill and poise to play the ball out of their own box with intricate passing patterns. However, it was not without danger and Everton nicked the ball back too frequently for the nervous home fans.
Having engineered promising positions, though, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, James Garner and Jack Harrison all finished tamely, allowing Guglielmo Vicario to make comfortable saves.
Calvert-Lewin finally found the net five minutes into the second half, only for the goal to be ruled out by VAR for a foul on Emerson Royal.
Garner brushed a post with a crisp shot as Everton continued to press and Tottenham refused to try to close the game down.
Richarlison went off, feeling his back, and there was a nice touch as he applauded the Everton fans, who returned the compliment to a player whose goals saved them from relegation two seasons ago.
Everton continued to press and Gomes, in his first appearance since May 2022, lashed in a great low shot to make it 2-1 after 82 minutes before a brilliant save by Vicario prevented Arnaut Danjuma levelling.
Everton piled forward relentlessly and, almost comically, so did Spurs in a relentless finale, but the home side held out.
“We went through that difficult spell where we got ourselves in front but didn’t end up putting the game to bed. In the context of everything we’re going through with the squad, it’s a big three points,” Postecoglou said.
“We started taking too many touches on the ball and slowing the game down which played into their hands. We had to show resilience in the second half to get a result.”
Everton manager Sean Dyche was frustrated by the disallowed goal decision, but as upbeat as any manager could be after a defeat.
“That was one of the performances I’m most proud of – superb,” he said.
“The way we played, asking questions. Bizarrely, we come away with nothing but that was an outstanding performance. The level of performance today was absolutely excellent.”