This was the sort of game that Everton had not won for a long time. The statistic that tracked them to London had highlighted their failure to triumph at a top-six Premier League club since December 2013 – a run of 40 matches, with the vast majority having been lost.
Carlo Ancelotti has overseen a summer spending spree that has added Allan, Abdoulaye Doucouré and James Rodríguez and his broader challenge is to harden the club’s mentality. This was an excellent start, even if it came against a flat and uninspired Tottenham who had one of those days that offer José Mourinho’s critics a blank canvas.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored the decisive goal early in the second half, heading home powerfully from Lucas Digne’s fine free-kick, but Everton’s margin of victory could and should have been greater. Richarlison might have played all day and not scored – his most glaring miss came early on – but for Ancelotti, it was not an occasion to dwell on the negatives.
All three of the debutants – recruited at a cost of £62.5m – caught the eye. Allan, who sat in front of the back four, showed a relish for the physical fight and provided tempo and organisation; Doucouré was slightly higher, looking to spark moves, while Rodríguez worked off the right, allowing him to cut inside on to his left foot.
Spurs forced Jordan Pickford into two first-half saves but creatively they were found wanting. Their tempo was low and the patterns were frustratingly predictable. The service to Harry Kane was poor. Everton were the slicker team at the outset, moving the ball with more purpose and they ought to have led on 16 minutes when Richarlison ran clean through and went around Hugo Lloris. The forward’s touch at full speed took him a little wider than he might have liked but he still had enough of the goal to aim at. Stumbling slightly, he lifted wildly off target.
The opening had been sparked by a loose and risky crossfield pass from Ben Davies, which had been intended for Toby Alderweireld, but set up a foot race between the Spurs centre-back and Richarlison. Although Alderweireld lost it, he had the presence of mind not to foul Richarlison. Had he done so, it would have been a sending-off.
Mourinho asked Dele Alli to press high from his No 10 role andTottenham’s plan was to make incisions up the channels. They laboured, although there were flickers from them in the first half. Son Heung-min aimed a ball in from the left towards the far post on 24 minutes which asked Kane to stretch to apply a decisive touch. The striker was inches from doing so and the ball then bounced narrowly past the far corner.
Could Spurs win the ball high to drive a quick transition? They managed to do so once before the interval when Lucas Moura got the better of Allan and fed Son, who ignored Kane’s run to play in Alli. The Tottenham midfielder dug out a shot for the roof of the net only for Pickford to show his excellent reflexes to tip over the crossbar.
The Everton goalkeeper would distinguish himself again on 42 minutes to thwart Matt Doherty. Tottenham’s debutant right-back got the run on Allan and played it into Kane, getting the ball back via a beautifully weighted lob. Doherty took on the shot first time only for Pickford to block smartly.
Rodríguez’s quality was evident in the passes that he picked, often out to the left flank, while there was a threat from him in the final third. He curled a low shot just past the post on 37 minutes and dropped a cross over Doherty for Richarlison to head wide early in the second half. Moments earlier, he had scuffed a shot from an André Gomes cut-back.
Gomes also had a shot charged down by Alderweireld and the breakthrough goal had been advertised. It would have aggravated Mourinho that it came from a free-kick. Calvert-Lewin got in between Alderweireld and Eric Dier to score his first goal since 1 March.
Mourinho groped for the solution. He removed Dele at half-time, introducing Moussa Sissoko on the right and, midway through the second half, he shuffled again, swapping Harry Winks for Steven Bergwijn and going to 4-4-2 with Son up front alongside Kane. His final change saw him bring on Tanguy Ndombele in midfield and switch Sissoko to right-back.
Nothing worked for him. Spurs were bankrupt in the second half,
sleepwalking towards a defeat that will stir pessimism among their fans and the damage would have been worse had Richarlison not curled wide of the far post on two occasions.