van der Vaart 22
A moment of Leighton Baines brilliance – combined with a moment of Tim Howard madness – gave Everton a deserved point from their trip to Tottenham Hotspur and extended the Toffees’ unbeaten Premier League streak to three games.
With Steven Pienaar and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov replacing the injured pair of Mikel Arteta and Leon Osman, Everton lined up in their familiar 4-4-1-1 formation, Pienaar replacing Arteta in the centre of midfield as the Blues’ playmaker and Bilyaletdinov coming in on the left of midfield in the only changes from the side victorious over Liverpool six days prior. The performance differed more than the line-up, however, as the high pressure game that brought three vital points from the Reds was replaced by a more composed style, perhaps a by-product of being out of the hectic derby atmosphere. Tottenham did play with considerable tempo but Everton’s defending was resolute enough – particularly Phil Jagielka’s handling of Peter Crouch – to deny the hosts a clear chance, bar the Howard error for Rafael van der Vaart’s equaliser.
Jagielka’s battles with Crouch were a recurring feature of the game. Much of Tottenham’s play is based around using the former Liverpool striker’s height to full effect, with long diagonal balls from the right, delivered well through this game by Alan Hutton at right-back – indeed, it was Hutton’s cross that drew Howard’s mistake and allowed Spurs to level the scores. Jagielka, giving away a good six inches in height to Crouch, was often aided by his captain Phil Neville doubling up on the striker but on at least one occasion the two Phils walked the fine line between solid defence and needless fouls, and a more pernickety referee may have given a first half penalty for a slight Neville push in Crouch’s back. Despite this, Jagielka was arguably Everton’s man of the match, and quite possibly player of the season so far, marshalling Crouch well and winning numerous headers to prevent the ball reaching his opponent.
In the absence of Arteta Everton looked to Pienaar to dictate their play and the mercurial South African performed well, playing with perhaps less style than his Spanish colleague but an added dynamism and willingness to break from his deeper central role into a more advanced position. But what Pienaar adds to a central role is arguably lost by moving him from the left – Bilyaletdinov had an encouraging game after a long spell out of favour but the link between Baines and Pienaar is still Everton’s most dangerous weapon, one that has been greatly missed while Pienaar has been injured. There is little danger of Pienaar replacing Arteta long-term, however, as the No 10 is one of the most influential players – on and off field – at Goodison Park, but a little variation could help break down determined opposition, a problem Everton have had this season and, with Stoke City coming to Goodison next week, may have again soon.
18 Neville – 6 Jagielka – 15 Distin – 3 Baines
23 Coleman – 5 Heitinga – 20 Pienaar – 7 Bilyaletdinov
22 Yakubu Substitutions
62 – 8 Saha on for 22 Yakubu
78 – 2 Hibbert on for 5 Heitinga
84 – 16 Beckford on for 23 Coleman