Saha 3, Coleman 75
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1
van der Vaart 11
Everton shook off their winter blues with a sterling team performance to take three points against title-chasing Tottenham Hotspur. A first Premier League goal of the season for Louis Saha and Seamus Coleman’s second-half winner cancelled out Rafael van der Vaart’s equalising goal but it was a combined effort from each of the Toffees’ XI that earned a first home victory since October.
David Moyes made two changes to the side that lost to Stoke City at the weekend, John Heitinga and Jermaine Beckford replacing Phil Jagielka and Tim Cahill respectively. The absence of Cahill – on Asian Cup duty with Australia – brought about a change in formation. Beckford partnered Saha in a two-pronged attack, a departure for Moyes from his preferred 4-4-1-1 system, and the pair of forwards combined well at times, linking up as if a seasoned combination and not strike-force playing together for the first time. Saha may have been the only one on the score-sheet – and entered an excellent all-round performance – but Beckford had a number of decent chances, and while the build-up play was often good – as has often been the case with Everton this season – the finishing was not up to scratch.
It would be churlish, however, to criticise Beckford or any Everton player too harshly the day after what may have been the Blues’ best 90 minutes of the season. The goals of Saha and Coleman may take the headlines but it was the performance of the team as a whole that overcame Spurs. Tim Howard made a number of magnificent saves to keep parity, the defence – led by the imperious Sylvain Distin – marshalled the disparate threat of van der Vaart and Peter Crouch well bar the aberration that allowed the Dutchman’s goal, and the midfield, with Marouane Fellaini especially strong, supported the defence and attack in equal measure. For a team playing an unfamiliar formation and without Cahill, their talisman, such a determined showing belies Everton’s mid-table position.
The two-striker formation Everton reverted to demanded more support from the central midfield partnership of Fellaini and Mikel Arteta, and, to their credit, they delivered. Arteta has been in a shaky patch of form but last night’s game was an improvement for the Spaniard, again playing as if he has all the time in the world despite a Premier League midfield whirling around him. On more than one occasion Arteta found himself on the edge of Spurs’ box and rarely in recent games has the No 10 pushed so far forward. Fellaini, meanwhile, spent much time challenging aerially with Crouch but was still able to offer his usual poise and calming influence, and as the Arteta-Fellaini axis develops, the Belgian’s surety should help Arteta continue the recovery towards his best form.
Before this result, the prospect of a Cahill-less Everton was a grim one. Life without their top scorer will still not be easy but Everton should take heart from this deserved victory.
18 Neville – 5 Heitinga – 15 Distin – 3 Baines
23 Coleman – 10 Arteta – 25 Fellaini – 20 Pienaar
16 Beckford – 8 Saha
77 – 22 Yakubu on for 16 Beckford
86 – 21 Osman on for 20 Pienaar
88 – 26 Rodwell on for 8 Saha