With Everton the masters of pulling off narrow wins and Spurs nor
recently renowned for winning on their travels, a point at Goodison Park
was a good result, but in a scoreless match among a season of turmoil
and goals in most games, it was a surprising outcome. With events
back in Honduras leaving Tottenham without Wilson Palacios, the "race
for seventh place" is a lot less important than what had happened to his
kidnapped and murdered brother. Our thoughts go out to him and his
It appears that the sombre
mood quickly spread throughout the ground, as the rain fell, the teams
failed to play to their potential and the crowd settled back to enjoy
the poor fare on display quietly. Spurs had the better of the
opening third of the match and Everton came back into it, but the
scoring attempts were few and far between, with neither goalkeeper being
over-worked and only the singing of the Spurs crowd disturbed the quiet.
Well, that and Mr. Mason's ever-blowing whistle.
If ever there was a referee who needed to
watch either the Champions League semi-final first leg game at Old
Trafford or the first leg of the Blue Square Premier play off semi-final
between Torquay United and Histon, then Mr. Mason is your man.
Both games showed what can happen when referees accept that there will
be contact in what is a physical game and that not all contact is a
foul. Even Rob Styles played some good advantages last week
without needing to blow up every time a player touched another one.
Perhaps it was surprising that he failed to do anything when Rodwell
almost kicked out at Hutton, when the Scot was on the floor.
With absences due to injury and other
reasons, Redknapp set the team up in a 3-5-2 formation, deploying Hutton
and Bale as wing backs and Corluka, King and Woodgate as the three
centre-halves. It seemed to upset the 4-4-2 that you expect from
Everton. The home side were content to throw crosses into the box
all day, aiming for Jo or Cahill, with Lescott up from the back for
set-pieces. What they failed to do was to put Gomes under
sufficient pressure with the direction of their balls into the area, as
he was having a day when his decisiveness in coming for crosses was less
The first decent cross that was played
into the Toffees box was one which caused some concern. Bale's
ball in from the left fell kindly for Robbie Keane, but Jospeh Yobo
threw himself in the way to block the Irishman's eighth minute effort.
A couple of minutes later, the ball came in from the other side, when
Hutton's low cross was stepped over by Keane and it took Joleon Lescott
to get there first to kick it out for a corner ahead of Defoe.
With Gomes choosing to punch on most occasions, one of them went out to
Modric, who passed to Defoe and although he was stopped in his progress,
Bale picked up the loose ball and couldn't get the ball beyond Howard.
Tottenham's wing backs were pushing
Everton back and the passing from the midfield were giving the home side
plenty to think about, but the usual failing of not making the
possession pay had reasserted itself in the Tottenham players' minds.
Too often good passages of play ended with crosses which did not make
their intended target, which, with two short men up front was vital or
the ball was picked off too cheaply. One good move just after the
quarter hour was put together and Hutton was brought down from behind by
Lescott, which earned the Everton defender a yellow card. Gareth
Bale lined up the free-kick, but by the time he reached the ball, Steven
Pienaar was less than five yards away, such was his desire to close down
the shot. He too got a yellow card. With the wall back 10
yards, Bale took the second opportunity to hit the ball with some pace
and it fizzed inches over the angle with Howard not even close to it.
Halfway through the half, Spurs put
together a flowing move, with Gomes finding Modric, who linked with
Jenas and Keane, before JJ put Keano in for a shot that was well blocked
by Lescott. This produce done of a string of corners, but again,
nothing positive came from them, as they were easily cleared by the
taller Everton defenders ... or where they were played in to the near
post, some of the smaller home players.
Everton started to come into the game a
bit more after the half hour, with Pienaar volleying at goal, but
Woodgate blocking it and then the South African almost put Jo through on
goal, but Ledley King got back to slide in and stop his shot.
Shortly afterwards, Baines headed into Fellaini's path, but the Belgian
shanked his shot well wide. Then right before half-time, Jack
Rodwell burst forward to hit a 25 yard shot that flew powerfully at
goal, but Gomes was comfortable in letting it go over the top.
The second half was a much more sedate
affair. Everton have a FA Cup Final on their minds, while Spurs
were perhaps down about their team-mate's bad news and Mason wanted to
interrupt play at every possible opportunity. It didn't flow and
Spurs moved to a more traditional 4-4-2, which saw it almost cancel out
the Everton system.
Cahill's header early in the second half
was blocked by King and just before the hour, the Australian midfielder
hit a shot across goal with Gomes diving to his right, but the effort
went just wide. The Spurs keeper almost gifted Everton a goal when
he caught a corner, but then dropped it before getting it at the second
attempt. He had already given Spurs fans heart attacks with some
nervous footwork in his own box, when Jo closed him down and he only
just got past the striker.
The closest to a goal came in the 68th
minute, when Gomes flapped and Gosling fired a shot down into the
ground, which bounced up and hit the outside of the post on the way off.
it could have gone anywhere, but fortunately, it went into the ground,
which took a lot of the pace off it and it wasn't likely to hit too many
players, which a low shot might have done.
Strangely, the best Tottenham chance came
just a minute later, with Corluka playing the ball infield to Jermaine
Jenas and he put a short pass in to Jermain Defoe, with his back to the
goal, on the edge of the D. In one move, he spun around to hit a
left foot shot inches wide of the goal, with Howard rooted to his line.
In the remaining 20 minutes, Everton had a coupe of long shots that went
wide, while Spurs tried to see out time, leaving the game scoreless and
the home crowd roundly booing the referee at the end.
There haven't been many 0-0 results for
Tottenham this season, but with the defence improving at home and Tim
Howard keeping a record 16th Everton clean sheet in a season, perhaps it
was the most likely outcome here. The new system seemed to provide
the home team with problems and I guess Harry's comments about trying
players out and learning a lot about them means that it was a worthwhile
exercise. But for those travelling that far, it seemed like a day
trip to forget. Unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons, that
will not be the case for Wilson Palacios.