Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Everton
Expectation will briskly turn into a cross-examination of Jose Mourinho and Tottenham Hotspur after they displayed very little evidence of evolution against an effective, but unspectacular Everton side.
The Lilywhite huffed and puffed, but were ultimately some way off blowing down the defensive conundrum exhibited by the Merseysiders.
Ahead of the match, Mourinho confirmed that he saw Everton as a threat: “I do see them as top-six challengers,” the Portuguese chief explained.
“I think the ten-point distance last season was just the consequence of how strange last season was.”
Nevertheless, he will have concerns that his side appeared anything but as they slipped to a frustrating defeat thanks to Dominic Calvert-Lewin’ goal ten minutes after the break.
The Spurs chief handed debuts to Matt Doherty and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, while his opposite number, Carlo Ancellotti, showcased his three high-profile signings, James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucouré – a collective statement that neither manager was particularly satisfied with what had gone before.
Nevertheless, it was one of Tottenham’s tried and tested stars, Heung-Min Son, who drilled the first opportunity of the match at England stopper, Jordan Pickford. The Everton response saw Richarlison skip clear of Toby Alderweireld, then round the advancing Hugo Lloris, but the Brazilian ran out of road – sending a hurried finish high into the South Stand, the lack of a crowd undoubtedly saving the Everton man a barrage of flack as the ball bounced across the canvas-covered seats behind the goal.
Son again caused a problem, this time from the left. The South Korean’s centre eluded Harry Kane – Pickford relieved to see the ball fizz the wrong side of an upright.
Pickford tipped over from Dele following a swift raid involving Son and Lucas Moura. Meanwhile, Rodriguez was a whisker away for the Toffees as he attempted to chip away at the £12m outlay his new employers had weighed out less than a week previous.
Pickford continued to earn his corn, this time using his feet to avert the danger as Docherty fired goalwards – Lloris clung to Richarlison’s low drive as the sides continued to create, without effect.
Rodríguez dragged wide after Calvert-Lewin had picked him, while Richarlison was unable to make a telling contact as Everton restarted brightly. Abdoulaye Doucouré’s timely intervention denying Lucas Moura a free run on goal.
And the interception proved decisive as Everton switched the play, winning a free-kick which Calvert-Lewin firmly nodded beyond Lloris following Lucas Digne’s pinpoint delivery from the left.
Richarlison twice curled, right-footed, wide while Seamus Coleman and Calvert-Lewin drove straight at Lloris as Everton – resolute and playing without fear – looked to double their money – Mourinho, prowling the touchline dissatisfied, replaced Doherty with Tanguy Ndombele in a bid to salvage the situation.
But in truth, Tottenham seemed devoid of ideas and off the pace – a worrying scenario at the unfolding of what will be a gruelling campaign.
Tottenham Hotspur return to Premier League action on Saturday, September 19 when they take on Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium (3pm).
Tottenham Hotspur: Hugo Lloris (Capt), Matt Doherty (Tanguy Ndombele 76’), Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier, Ben Davies, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Harry Winks (Steven Bergwijn 60’), Lucas Moura, Dele Alli (Moussa Sissoko 46’), Heung-Min Son, Harry Kane Subs not used: Davinson Sánchez, Erik Lamela, Joe Hart (GK), Serge Aurier
Booked: Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (foul)
Everton: Jordan Pickford, Seamus Coleman, Michael Keane, Yerry Mina, Lucas Digne, Abdoulaye Doucouré, Marques Loureiro, Richarlison, André Gomes (Gylfi Sigurdsson 68’), James Rodríguez (Tom Davies 90+1’), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Moise Kean 89’) Subs not used: Jonjoe Kenny, Theo Walcott, Bernard, João Virgínia (GK)
Goals: Dominic Calvert-Lewin 55’
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Assistants: Lee Betts and Peter Kirkup
Fourth Official: Graham Scott
VAR: Andre Marriner
Assistant VAR: Scott Ledger