Lloris and Son clash but Spurs hold on to beat Everton
At least Tottenham Hotspur showed some fight and Jose Mourinho, for one, certainly did not mind the bizarre half-time bust-up between goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and striker Son Heung-min as his team scrapped their way to a muchneeded victory over Everton, who appeared combative themselves but were desperately disappointing.
Instead it was a sobering blow to Carlo Ancelotti, whose side had impressed since the restart and would have gone above Tottenham, improving hopes of a late challenge for European football, with a victory, but they capitulated dismally and now have to turn their minds to a summer rebuild.
The Ancelotti eyebrow was at maximum extension throughout as the Italian furiously chewed his gum and surely wondered about what was unfolding in front of him. Tellingly, he hooked Alex Iwobi during the interval and Gylfi Sigurdsson not long after, with the two big-money signings – worth a combined £85million, do not forget – contributing precious little. A reckoning is coming.
Mourinho, meanwhile, will simply look at the result and feel vindicated after the criticism he faced following the dispiriting defeat by Sheffield United. He will also know that this was his 200th win in the Premier League, in 326 games, with only Sir Alex Ferguson having reached that milestone more quickly, in only four games fewer. Such statistics will not be missed by Mourinho, even if there will be a pang of disappointment that he did not beat Ferguson’s total.
Nevertheless, this kind of continually mediocre football is surely not what Spurs crave. Harry Kane looked like a lost soul throughout as he was starved of support and opportunities, although he at least tried to affect the play when he did get the ball. It says something when the “highlights” are led by an own goal and an angry exchange between two team-mates. And that was it.
The bright spot for Spurs, beyond the points, was the contribution of Giovani Lo Celso, who was central to the goal and was also alert enough to position himself between Lloris and Son after the captain had run over to berate the striker. Presumably it was for not tracking back as Everton created a rare chance, which was typically wasted as Richarlison shot wide. Even so, it looked harsh on Son, given he was sent a duff pass on halfway that was easily intercepted.
Harry Winks also intervened to hold back an agitated Lloris as he shoved Son, who had reacted to the outburst, before he went down the tunnel. Although the pair were reconciled before the second half began, and hugged each other at the end, was it a sign of their desire to win or an indicator of the frustration that Spurs are simply not playing very well? Either way, they managed the feat of starting a fight in an empty house.
Lloris later said it was “part of football”, but it was more revealing that he also stated Spurs’ predicament this season was something the players were not happy with. So it was that annoyance, the culmination of a poor, disjointed campaign, boiling over.
Quite what the supporters made of it all appeared to be indicated by what was happening on the big screens inside the stadium, where those on the Zoom calls appeared soporific as the game meandered. And who could blame them? In fact, they looked as though their screens had frozen.
In fairness, this was a mid-table clash and even if both teams had much to play for there is a reason why they are scrapping around trying to force themselves into the fight for Europe rather than being at the heart of it, which is where they should be. Both changed their managers mid-season and hired high-calibre replacements; replacements but not magicians, of course, although Mourinho is going to run out of goodwill soon enough unless he starts to pull a few rabbits out.
The ball ended up in the Everton net with the last kick before the first-half drinks break, and it would have been hard for them to swallow. It was typically scrappy as Kane’s shot was blocked by Michael Keane and the ball rebounded to Lo Celso, who swivelled and drove it goalwards – except it was flying well wide until it struck Keane’s arm as he ran across to cover and wrong-footed Jordan Pickford.
It meant Lo Celso could not claim his first Premier League goal since
joining Spurs, but the Argentine is at least providing some spark, and he was their driving force in a first half when they were undoubtedly the better team. Not that they had to do too much to achieve that. Spurs also certainly targeted Richarlison, who came in for some hefty challenges, and with no fans in the ground his loud reactions were audible.
The only other items of note came from goalkeeping errors. Lloris spilt a header by Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Pickford alarmingly allowed a corner to slip through his hands. Neither mistake was capitalised on and that said it all.
Maybe the clash with Lloris fired up Son, because he finally threatened with a shot past Pickford’s post and then forced a sharp save from the England international. The only flickering signs of resistance from Everton came from a weak shot by substitute Moise Kean, who should have done better, two efforts from another replaceBy ment, Anthony Gordon, and an improvised flick by Calvert-Lewin. It was that meek from the visitors, who suffered their first defeat in four games since the restart.
Making up: Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and team-mate Son Heung-min hug during Tottenham’s 1-0 win after almost coming to blows as they left the pitch at half-time in a row over tracking back. Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho described the incident as “beautiful”.
Ricochet: A shot by Giovani Lo Celso (right) deflects in off Michael Keane (second left)