Everton impressed in their first Premier League game under Ronald Koeman but had new goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg to thank late on as they drew 1-1 at home with Tottenham.
The hosts went ahead in the fifth minute when Ross Barkley’s free-kick, possibly intended as a cross, bounced straight in, and they put in very encouraging, organised performance for the rest of the first half under their new manager.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham had offered little up to then but drew level in the 59th minute courtesy of Erik Lamela’s header, and it subsequently took two superb late saves by Stekelenburg on his competitive Everton debut to ensure Spurs did not complete a turnaround as he denied substitute Vincent Janssen and Lamela.
Koeman, appointed in June as successor to Roberto Martinez, had claimed ahead of the game that his players were only at 70 per cent of the fitness he wanted.
They did appear to tire as time went on, but certainly there was plenty overall to enthuse the Dutchman here as he looks to revive the Merseysiders after the disappointments of the Martinez era.
Meanwhile, a key concern from the match for Pochettino, who is looking to build on his side’s title push last term, will be the condition of their goalkeeper Hugo Lloris after he had to come off in the first half.
Everton appeared full of energy as the contest got under way and swiftly took the lead when Tottenham allowed Barkley’s delivery to bounce across the box and into the corner of the net.
It was Spurs who were looking sluggish, with the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli – two of five players in the team who, unlike Barkley, had played in England’s humiliating Euro 2016 defeat to Iceland – struggling to make much of an impact.
A few days on from selling John Stones, Everton showed the kind of defensive solidity that was rare under Martinez as skipper Phil Jagielka and new signing Idrissa Gueye, amongst others, excelled in blunting Spurs’ efforts in attack.
Christian Eriksen did see one strike saved by Stekelenburg, while at the other end Lloris tipped Jagielka’s header from another Barkley free-kick over the bar.
Tottenham’s frustrations increased in the 35th minute as they were forced to bring Lloris off for Michel Vorm, who then made a smart stop in first-half stoppage time when Gerard Deulofeu – leading the Everton line in the absence of the injured Romelu Lukaku – looked to punish a poor attempt at a backpass from Danny Rose.
Pochettino tried to shake things up for the visitors just over 10 minutes into the second half, bringing on new striker Janssen for Eric Dier – and three minutes later Tottenham were level as Lamela converted Kyle Walker’s fine cross.
Ramiro Funes Mori sent a shot whistling wide of Vorm’s goal, but it was Spurs who then applied the late pressure as Stekelenburg palmed away a close-range shot from Janssen, saw Eriksen’s free-kick go onto the roof of his net and brilliantly tipped away a Lamela effort that deflected off Mason Holgate.
It was certainly a tale of two halves, at half time I would have taken a draw but given the chances we had in the second half – notably Janssen and Lamela, we could have stolen all three points.
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