EVERTON 2 (Saha 77, Cahill 85) – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (Defoe 46, Dawson 58)
Ref: Andre Mariner. Gate: 34,003.
After about 15 minutes an injured Joseph Yobo was substituted and a young, virtually unknown, Irishman called Seamus Coleman with number 31 on his shirt trotted into the right back position and pushed Lucas Neill across to centre back to leave Everton’s back four looking like a weak bridge hand, containing, as it did, three right backs. Shoulders dropped and in their hearts few on the pitch, or in the crowd, can have doubted that Spurs, already looking threatenening, were going to be trouble. A few minutes later, Coleman saw an opening and surged into the Spurs penalty area, beat his man and delivered a challenging cross which Cahill missed by inches. In that moment we saw the birth of a Premier League footballer: he had crossed the threshold, he knew he could do it and just as importantly, so did his team-mates. Rarely can a young player, promoted from the reserves, on home debut, have made such an immediate impact. This writer has witnessed just three; Joe Royle, David Johnson and Wayne Rooney.
A year ago Donegal-born Coleman was playing for Sligo Rovers. Bought for £150,000 in January, he now stands as yet another example of David Moyes’ transfer acumen; what price Kyle Naughton now, Harry? The £6 mln full back stolen by Spurs from under our noses didn’t even make the substitutes bench.
Nil nil at half-time became one nil to Spurs within a minute of the restart. Howard punched off Crouch’s head, the ball wasn’t cleared properly and Huddlestone found Lennon, whose instant cross was volleyed home by Defoe, who had left Hibbert for dead, from about three yards. Dawson made it two nil on 58 minutes when he escaped the attentions of Neill and met Kranjcar’s corner with a diving header. David Moyes responded by immediately taking off a subdued Jack Rodwell and Jo for Yakubu and Saha.
With less than fifteen minutes left came the moment which turned the game. Coleman raiding well forward, beat Gareth Bale (on for Assou-Ekotto) and picked out Saha with a perfect, low hard cross which King Louis flashed into the net. Goodison roared. The team suddenly had momentum: a second was certain to follow and on 85 minutes another attack, originating from our most creative player Seamus Coleman, was half cleared to Baines whose powerful, but misplaced shot, found Tim Cahill, who stooped and headed and scored. This was breathtaking football, this is what Sky TV pay billions of pounds to take to the sitting rooms and pubs of Britain, to the fashionable apartments of Hong Kong and Singapore and to communal TV sets in shanty town slums across Asia.
Tim Howard versus Jermain Defoe might well be a rehearsal for Rustenburg on June 12th. If so it was round one to the big American. Palacios and Hibbert came together as they chased Crouch’s knockdown into the area, Mariner pointed instantly to the spot, but a protracted pause of three minutes followed, as the clearly badly injured Palacios was stretchered off, a delay during which Defoe paced around, clearly working to control his nerves. In the event he drilled the ball straight, Howard had dived to his right, but not wholeheartedly, and his trailing legs did the rest.
A transformational result, a wonderful fight back, a new defender found, and a season suddenly filled with opportunity.
Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Neill, Hibbert, Yobo (Coleman 15), Baines; Rodwell (Yakubu 63), Bilyaletdinov, Fellaini, Pienaar, Cahill ©; Jo (Saha 63).
Subs not used: Nash, Duffy, Agard, Baxter.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-1-3-2): Gomes; Corluka, Dawson ©, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto (Bale 45); Huddlestone; Palacois (Hutton 95), Lennon, Kranjcar (Jenas 88); Crouch, Defoe
Subs not used: Alnwick, Pavlyuchenko, Keane, Bentley.