Premier League - Tottenham close on leaders with win
Tottenham moved level on points with Manchester United after a comfortable 2-0 victory over Everton in their Premier League encounter at White Hart Lane.
Aaron Lennon rather fortuitously gave his side the lead in the 35th minute courtesy of a cruel deflection off Sylvain Distin, and Spurs could have had a penalty as Luka Modric was hauled down by Tim Cahill.
If it was a fairly laboured performance from Harry Redknapp’s title-chasers in the first half, it certainly wasn’t in the second as Benoit Assou-Ekotto scored with a thunderbolt of a strike to lift his side level on points with second-placed United and three behind leaders Manchester City.
Scott Parker failed to overcome a knee injury and was left out of Tottenham's team as Jake Livermore replaced him in midfield; meanwhile, Michael Dawson started his first league game in over four months, and Jermain Defoe dropped to the bench. For Everton, Cahill overcame his groin injury to return to an Everton team that contained three changes from the XI that beat Tamworth on Saturday.
Everton almost stunned their hosts in just the second minute as Landon Donovan surged forward with an incisive run and found Louis Saha, who almost made a very early impact, only for his shot to drift agonisingly wide.
But Spurs slowly settled into their stride, and Emmanuel Adebayor should have put his side in front in the 25th minute after Gareth Bale had outstripped Leighton Baines down the right, but the forward could not keep the ball in play after rounding the onrushing Tim Howard.
Adebayor collided with Distin in the Everton box in the 28th minute with referee Martin Atkinson waving away the appeals, but just seconds later Spurs felt rightly aggrieved as Modric was clumsily bundled over by Cahill. Again the decision went against the hosts.
The vociferous appeals of the home side were effectively placated, however, as a long ball from Assout-Ekotto picked out Lennon, who wriggled past Baines before his shot from the edge of the box was cruelly deflected past Howard by a lunging Distin.
Spurs were good value for their lead at the break and, just five minutes after the restart, Bale drew a fine save from Howard with a fierce shot after a scorching run down the left as the American keeper kept the Welshman at bay.
David Moyes made an enforced change on the hour mark as Distin limped off injured and Shane Duffy replaced the veteran defender with Everton left almost immediately lacking certainty at the back as a result.
Three minutes later, three Everton players backed off Assou-Ekotto, and the result was a piledriver from 30 yards which flew into the top corner in emphatic fashion – albeit, having taken a deflection off Cahill - to double the hosts' lead. It was a goal to remember for the diminutive left-back.
Bale was afforded similar time and space as he capitalised to surge forward at pace and unleash a fierce strike in the 70th minute, but this time the effort went over the crossbar as Moyes was left to vent his fury at the Everton players.
Steven Pienaar was introduced at the expense of Lennon against his former side as Tottenham continued to control the game from midfield, and only a string of fine saves from the impressive Howard kept the hosts at bay.
Royston Drenthe made a second-half appearance and the burly forward could have won his side a penalty late on as he drew a rash challenge from Younes Kaboul inside the Spurs box, but again referee Atkinson was unmoved, to the bewilderment of the visitors.
Redknapp’s side have now earned 25 points from the last 27 available at White Hart Lane and kept five clean sheets in their last six on home soil as their title aspirations become increasingly difficult to ignore.