Koe­man faces strug­gle to break glass ceil­ing

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - RORY DOLLARD

Ever­ton Tot­ten­ham

IF EVER­TON are to break through the Premier League’s glass ceil­ing and move up­wards into the top six at some point, they are go­ing to have to start beat­ing the teams likely to fin­ish above them. There was no sign of that here. Tot­ten­ham swat­ted away Ever­ton’s chal­lenge with al­most con­temp­tu­ous ease, leav­ing Ron­ald Koe­man to re­flect that even a sig­nif­i­cant amount of sum­mer spend­ing does not ap­pear to have made the job any eas­ier.

The Ever­ton man­ager had been highly com­pli­men­tary about Spurs be­fore­hand, de­scrib­ing them as one of the strong­est teams in the Premier League. That is not much of an ex­clu­sive or an in­sight as it hap­pens, Tot­ten­ham have looked the part for at least a cou­ple of sea­sons now, but lest any­one un­der­es­ti­mate Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino’s play­ers after a slow­ish start to their league cam­paign, this was an ob­ject les­son in how to con­trol a game through ap­pli­ca­tion and in­tel­li­gence.

Davin­son Sanchez, mak­ing a solid start as the cen­tral de­fender in a back three and look­ing as com­fort­able as if he had been there all his life, must be won­der­ing if all the re­ports about the tough­ness of the Premier League are cor­rect.

Ever­ton is sup­posed to be one of the more daunt­ing venues to visit, after all, yet Spurs were so far ahead by the end of the first half, they could prac­ti­cally af­ford to take the sec­ond half off. The home sup­port­ers cel­e­brated Goodison’s 125th birth­day with an un­char­ac­ter­is­tic 45-minute si­lence. Long be­fore the end of the game, the Spurs fans were the only ones mak­ing any noise and the Gwla­dys Street end was half empty.

With Au­gust out of the way, Harry Kane is free to start scor­ing again, and his 100th goal for Spurs was cer­tainly one to re­mem­ber. At least Jor­dan Pick­ford will not for­get it in a hurry, Ever­ton’s new goal­keeper be­ing un­ac­cus­tomed to be­ing beaten by dip­ping shots from a long way out­side the penalty area, but whether in­ten­tion­ally or oth­er­wise, Kane put the ball in the one place where no one could reach it. That in­cluded his Spurs team-mates, too, so if Kane was at­tempt­ing to cross after re­triev­ing an over-hit cor­ner, it was a poor ef­fort.

The fact is that Ever­ton were slow to close down the dan­ger, and after telling Kieran Trip­pier ex­actly where he wanted the ball, it is pos­si­ble Kane de­cided to try his luck after spot­ting that Pick­ford was slightly off his line. If so, he was im­pres­sively ac­cu­rate, and Pick­ford’s only pos­si­ble ex­cuse was that he, too, had been po­si­tion­ing him­self for a cross.

In one sense, Tot­ten­ham’s opener came out of noth­ing, though by that point in the game, the vis­i­tors had weath­ered Ever­ton’s early storm — if one brief chance for San­dro Ramirez from a glo­ri­ous cross by Cuco Martina can be thus de­scribed — and be­gun to dic­tate play on their own terms. Spurs not only pressed bet­ter than Ever­ton, they passed bet­ter than the hone side, too. Chris­tian Erik­sen’s poise and dis­tri­bu­tion was par­tic­u­larly no­table, com­pletely over­shad­ow­ing Gylfi Sig­urds­son’s con­tri­bu­tion on his home de­but.

Moussa Sis­soko could have put Spurs ahead from a Davies cross even be­fore Kane broke the dead­lock, but he was un­able to come up with a con­vinc­ing fin­ish in front of goal. Erik­sen had no such prob­lem in ex­tend­ing the Spurs lead three min­utes be­fore the in­ter­val.

Pick­ford had partly re­deemed him­self with a point-blank save from Ben Davies after Dele Alli had found space on the right, but the goal­keeper could not hold the ball and Erik­sen was on hand with an em­phatic fol­low-up. Ever­ton fell apart a lit­tle after that and when the half-time whis­tle sounded it was greeted by more than just a few boos.

Koe­man’s re­sponse was to send on two sub­sti­tutes in Tom Davies and Do­minic Calvert-Lewin, yet re­mark­ably Ever­ton made no at­tempt to shut down Ben Davies’s space on the left. It took less than a minute of the restart for the wing back to make the home side re­gret that, eas­ily pick­ing out Kane for the striker to reg­is­ter his 101st Spurs goal with a lan­guid fin­ish a mere 47 se­conds after the restart.

The Ever­ton man­ager’s side were in­volved in a dam­age-lim­i­ta­tion ex­er­cise. Namely, try­ing to keep the fi­nal score more re­spectable than the one Liver­pool ended up with at Manch­ester City. Thanks to a fly­ing save from Pick­ford that kept out an Erik­sen vol­ley after an in­spired pass by Kane, and a cou­ple of late misses from an anony­mous Wayne Rooney at the other end, the score re­mained un­changed.

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