Everton’s Fabian Delph shields the ball from Tottenham’s Harry Kane. Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images
Ten-man Everton battled to a feisty 0-0 draw with Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park on Sunday as Rafa Benitez’s side brought a halt to a worrying run of defeats.
The Blues headed into the Premier League clash having lost three games on the bounce and wrestling with a series of key injuries and a loss of form that could be traced back to the end of September.
The manager made three changes to his starting lineup as he sought to arrest that slide with Fabian Delph, Lucas Digne and Anthony Gordon coming in to add fresh impetus.
It was an encouraging enough display from Everton and although a draw against a Spurs side who had new manager Antonio Conte constantly cajoling them from the dugout, it could, and maybe should, have been more.
Everton’s Brazilian forward Richarlison thought he had won a penalty following a coming together with goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in the 64th minute, but referee Chris Kavanagh overturned his decision after reviewing the incident on the VAR monitor.
There was more VAR drama late on when Kavanagh’s yellow card for substitute Mason Holgate’s tackle on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was upgraded to a straight red in the 89th minute.
Everton’s loss of form
The Toffees had made a fantastic start to the Premier League season under new manager Benitez and after four wins in an unbeaten five-game run and many pundits suggested a European challenge was on the cards.
But since then, Rafa’s side have lost form. After slipping to defeat away to Aston Villa back in September, Everton have won just once and suffered a humiliating 5-2 defeat against Watford.
There have been key injuries to contend with during that run. Star striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin hasn’t played since August 28 and remains sidelined with a quadricep leg injury.
Key changes to starting line-up against Spurs
However, for the visit of Spurs, Benitez had two experienced players back and available to start as he made three changes to the team that had lost 2-1 at Wolves last time out.
Former Barcelona left-back Lucas Digne and Premier League winner Fabian Delph both came in as youngster Anthony Gordon was also restored to the side.
Delph, making his first start since December 2020, replaced Jean-Philippe Gbamin as Benitez continued his search for an adequate replacement for centre-midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure, who himself had been sidelined for a lengthy spell with a foot problem.
And it was Delph who was the pick of the three new faces in Rafa’s starting lineup. The manager said before the game he wanted the 31-year-old to add a ‘competitive mentality’ to his side and provide a steady influence on the ball.
In his 60-minutes on the pitch he did that and more. The Blues showed nerves and tension in their early play and it was Delph who provided a calming influence, while also adding bite in the centre of the pitch.
The former Manchester City man covered more distance (5.67km) and at a faster pace (7.37km per hour) than any of his team-mates in the first half.
After the break, it was Delph who made a couple of brilliant interceptions and excellent challenges on Lucas Moura to snuff out Tottenham attacks.
When he was eventually subbed for Tom Davies after 60 minutes he received a standing ovation from the Everton fans. He is sure to start against his former club City next time out.
Digne, who came in for Mason Holgate and Gordon, who replaced Alex Iwobi also played their part.
The former dovetailed well with Demarai Gray, who had the beating of his full-back, down the left flank and the latter added that youthful zest and guile in midfield.
Although Gordon should have done better with a chance he blasted into row z of the Gwladys Street end it was the other side of his game that stood out as he won more duels (20) then any of his team-mates against a Spurs side that were robust in the challenge from the kickoff.
It would be a surprise if all three players didn’t keep their places for the trip to the Ethiad after the international break - injuries allowing.