Everton 1-1 Spurs (Doucoure red 58′, Keane 90′ | Kane pen 69′, Moura red 88′)
GOODISON PARK — They stood at Goodison ready to rue the Monday evening on which Everton were given motive, opportunity and means to pull themselves clear of doom and chose self-implosion instead. But sometimes you just have to doff your cap to your opponent and admit when you are beaten. Everton are not the self-implosion champions of this league, after all. Tottenham are in town; let them show you how the professionals do it.
Sean Dyche has nine more reasons to believe. But if Everton had met an opponent this malleable and still found a way to lose, relegation would have been inevitable and deserved. You can pick a team and plot your path to salvation, but it requires heads to be kept. Nobody on this pitch could do that.
It is an unlikely storyline, but Dyche is now one of the most important individuals in Everton’s modern pantheon. If reports from the auditors are to be believed – and they are notoriously not prone to making up scare stories just for a laugh – relegation might cause a financial apocalypse at Everton. Right now, this club is peering over the precipice at their own gross wastage. Championship football and, more importantly, Championship broadcasting revenues would give them a nudge in the back on a blustery day.
That can express itself in two ways: nervous existentialism that transposes itself into the jelly legs of footballers, or raucous, throaty desperation that inspires them. Goodison is determined to commit to the second act because they realise the magnitude of what is at stake. Nobody who left Goodison on Monday night knows if they can really make a difference, but my god they intend to try.
Who really inspires who? Do the fans really change the minds and belief of those who they pay to watch, or are their cheers and imploring roars provoked by those moments when someone in Everton blue briefly shows them behind the velvet curtain where hope resides?
It’s a trick question: who cares, is the answer. But Everton do look a team and this crowd has its teeth into something approaching aspiration. Alex Iwobi is the usual catalyst, converted first into a central midfielder and then back again to a winger during his time on Merseyside. But Amadou Onana never shies from the ball in a situation where some might. In defence, James Tarkowski and Michael Keane, the ghost of Burnley past and past-er, have provided cement where none existed. Dyche likes what he knows and knows what he likes.
But if Everton do go down, they may dedicate a paragraph to the foolishness of Abdoulaye Doucoure. Everton began the second half as they ended the first, endangering Tottenham’s sanity by treading on the right side of the line between intensity and spice. Everton supporters can moan about Harry Kane going down too easily (and they did), but if you push a player in the face you deserve to leave the field for dimness alone.
And it spread. Cristian Romero has been guilty of countless rash lashes of his right leg this season, but it was he who was felled by Keane. Again Everton protested as if the victim of a great injustice by referee David Coote. The one player absent from those complaints: Keane himself, who sheepishly walked from the scene and cursed his own overexuberance.
Still, it appears that Tottenham have not been entirely transformed by swapping their erstwhile manager for his assistant. Ryan Mason stood by Cristian Stellini’s side, talking into his ear like your just-too-inebriated friend in a late bar, but there was no instant change in mood. Their matches are still dotted by those weird periods when someone stands with the ball at their feet for five seconds and still can’t see a pass.
And then you watch the last 15 minutes of Tottenham’s evening and you understand why everyone takes so long to pass the ball: they are incapable of avoiding their own ignominy. Son Heung-min was terrible again, but at least he didn’t get himself sent off for a wild challenge at Goodison again; Lucas Moura, his replacement, did that. Keane, inexplicably magnetised to the action, got the equaliser that felt inevitable from the moment Spurs tried to defend a lead.
Who knows what it means, just yet. Who knows if dreams, hopes and decades in the top flight will die over April and May. But we can be sure of two things: Everton will fight tooth and nail to avoid their destiny. And they will be fortunate to face an opponent as willing to assist their own decline as Tottenham. Plus ca change.