By the end, however, it was more of a tactical loss for Ronald Koeman as his conservative starting 11 struggled to cope with their superior opponents during the first hour.
Mauricio Pochettino arguably had his strongest side out for this game, minus Danny Rose who continues to be absent through injury.
Koeman opted for Gareth Barry in place of Adele Lookman as the only change from last week’s victory over Sunderland. The lack of Lookman or Kevin Mirallas would leave Lukaku somewhat isolated which prevented the Toffees from imposing themselves on Spurs’ defence.
Given that Tottenham were going into this game as strong favourites and on an eight-game winning streak, it was understandable that Koeman went for a midfield trio that was predominantly defensively minded.
The opening 20-minutes provided little goalmouth action with the home side restricted to just three long-range efforts, all of which were blocked. Everton, meanwhile, showed little ambition as they failed to muster a single attempt at Hugo Lloris’ goal.
But then Kane tried his luck from distance and was rewarded with the opening goal of the game. Question marks were raised over Joel Robles’ attempt to save the dipping drive while Barry should have closed down the striker sooner.
Kane was then denied a second by Robles while Christian Eriksen saw his low effort roll wide of the far-post and Victor Wanyama hit the post. Tottenham had their tails up while Everton struggled to get up field.
The positives of being just a goal behind at the break soon vanished when Robles inexplicably rolled the ball to Morgan Schneiderlin with Mousa Dembele and Dele Alli closing in. The former Man Utd midfielder tried to shift the ball a couple of yards to Ashley Williams which saw Alli pounce and in-turn, play Kane in on goal down the inside left-channel. The England international showed the sort of composure you’d expect from a forward in peak form. His brace made it 14 goals in 12 appearances this calendar year.
Koeman relented and threw caution to the wind on 64 minutes with Mirallas and James McCarthy replacing Tom Davies and Barry respectively. From then on, Everton managed the same number of attempts at goal as Spurs (six) which was just two shy of the blues’ match total.
Amongst those six attempts were both of the away side’s goals. First, Lukaku pulled one back to ensure a nervy last 10-minutes. Then, Everton’s third substitute, Ener Valencia, scored an immediate consolation in injury-time after Alli caught the defence sleeping to all but seal a deserved victory for Tottenham.
Territory and Passes
An indication of Everton’s cautious set-up, saw over 100 passes in their defensive third attempted (87.7% completion), a similar amount to what they tried in the attacking equivalent (59.4%).
Tottenham, meanwhile, attempted more than two-and-a-half times their 61 defensive third passes (98.4% completion) in the final third (66.7%). This subsequently led to more than double the number of chances created in comparison to the visitors (15 to seven).
Koeman’s tatics were contradicting as they set-up with a defensively minded midfield three only to have a large amount of possession in their defensive third but lack any outlet aside from Lukaku on the break. Everton would have been better off without so much of the ball in favour of a pacey option like Mirallas or Lookman once possession was regained.
The outcome wasn’t a surprise but the result did flatter Everton. Although, all three goals conceded could and should have been avoided. But the difference in their performance once Mirallas and McCarthy came on – albeit against a side two-nil to the good – suggests Koeman has the tools to carry out a more expansive and braver approach in future away matches against the top six.
As the table shows, the Goodison Park side have enjoyed strong performances at home but struggled away to those who currently sit above them. In order to close that gap, Koeman shouldn’t ignore a more bullish tactic that won’t leave one of the league’s best strikers without sufficient support.
Lukaku did well considering Kane was always going to be in a stronger position to have a greater influence on proceedings. The Belgian’s strike saw him become the club’s all-time leading Premier League scorer (61).
Despite having the joint-meanest defence in the league, it’s Tottenham’s consistency in front of goal that has seen a marked improvement. Fifteen of the last 20 competitive fixtures have yielded at least two goals which is a complete reversal of their first 20 that saw just five games where two or more goals were scored.
Whilst Pochettino will be frustrated by the concession of two late goals he can take plenty of positives from a generally commanding performance, which saw Spurs achieve their longest winning streak at home. The club are exceeding expectations in terms of their financial resources but the next challenge will be to build on the foundations of the last two seasons where they’ll have to start recruiting players of a higher caliber.
EPL Results (Gameweek 27):
Man Utd 1-1 Bournemouth
Leicester 3-1 Hull
Stoke 2-0 Middlesbrough
Swansea 3-2 Burnley
Watford 3-4 Southampton
West Brom 0-2 Crystal Palace
Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal
Tottenham 3-2 Everton
Sunderland 0-2 Man City
West Ham 1-2 Chelsea