Spurs miss chance to secure top-four place in Everton defeat
Everton 2 Tottenham 1
HARRY Redknapp was left bemoaning a ‘farcical’ lack of concentration from Peter Crouch as Everton ended Tottenham’s 11-match unbeaten run.
Spurs had last been beaten on November 6 at Bolton and were one of only two teams to win all three of their league fixtures over the festive period.
However, the trip to Goodison Park proved to be one match too far for the Lilywhites, who were playing their fourth game in 11 days, and having come back from an early Louis Saha goal to equalise, they were undone by Seamus Coleman’s 75th-minute winner.
Redknapp was frustrated with his side’s second-half showing, but was particularly incensed by one moment just before half-time, when Gareth Bale raced away and set up Crouch for an easy finish, only for the goal to be disallowed because the England striker had needlessly strayed into an offside position.
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“I was disappointed with the second half,” said Redknapp. “In the first half we came back from an early setback, going 1-0 down after a couple of minutes. We came back and played well in the first half, got a good goal back and we should have come in at half-time 2-1 up for sure.
“We had a great opportunity when Gareth broke away, and he and Crouchy had an open opportunity between them. He should never have been offside really in that situation.
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“Either Gareth should have taken it further and left a tap-in or Crouchy should have stayed onside. Between the pair of them they should have scored. It was farcical really, and turning round in front might have made a difference.
“But in the second half Everton picked the pace up and got after us. We started the second half sloppily, I thought we had some bad backpasses in the first few minutes, some bad throw-outs.
“We put ourselves under pressure, invited them onto us, got the crowd up for it and credit to Everton, in the second half they had some good opportunities to score. We had some opportunities on the break as well but certainly it was a much more difficult second half.”
As they emerged from their dressing-room after full-time, Spurs will doubtless have been cheered to see that Chelsea had also lost again, and that Arsenal and Manchester City had shared the spoils at the Emirates.
However, when they study the league table today, the Lilywhites will also be aware that they missed a big chance to take advantage of those results and secure their position in the top four.
Had Redknapp’s side left Merseyside with all three points, they would now be lying three points behind second-placed Manchester City, and with a four-point cushion over fifth-placed Chelsea – with a game in hand over both.
Bale’s back injury is also a concern, fixing the spotlight on Redknapp’s decision to play his key men - the likes of Bale, Luka Modric and Aaron Lennon - throughout the Christmas period, unrested and unrotated.
The manager’s policy of sending his best team onto the field time and again produced nine points out of nine at the turn of the year, while Arsenal made eight changes for their trip to Wigan and dropped two points in a 2-2 draw.
However, the inherent danger in Redknapp’s choice has now been highlighted and the manager - who intended to rest Bale in Sunday’s FA Cup tie against Charlton - now faces an anxious wait for news of the Welshman’s back problem.
Everton took the lead after three minutes last night, with the predominantly left-footed Saha surprising Heurelho Gomes with a low right-foot shot from outside the box.
Spurs responded quickly and levelled eight minutes later, with Crouch nodding Alan Hutton’s right-wing cross back across the goalmouth and Rafael van der Vaart heading home from close range.
Both sides traded efforts in an open game and Everton were indebted to goalkeeper Tim Howard on a number of occasions, while Crouch’s ‘goal’ was chalked off just before half-time.
Howard was in fine form again in the second half, denying Crouch and Van der Vaart, but Coleman grew in influence after the departure of Bale on the hour-mark, and it was he who netted the decisive goal 15 minutes from time.
Jermaine Beckford turned the ball into the path of Saha, and when the Frenchman’s shot was parried by Gomes, Coleman reached the rebound ahead of Jermaine Jenas to head the ball into the bottom right corner.