Conte’s Tottenham earn hard-fought draw at Everton
VAR denies Toffees a penalty as Spurs draw 0-0 at Goodison Park in Conte's first Premier League game in charge
07 November, 2021 — By Dan Carrier
EVERTON 0 (Holgate sent off 90+2)
ANTONIO Conte’s first Premier League match at the Tottenham helm illustrated the size of the task ahead of him – but after witnessing a hard fought goalless draw away to Everton, the new boss noted how his players had responded by showing their commitment to the cause.
Speaking after the game at Goodison Park, Conte said the effort his players put in was a vital foundation as he seeks to nurse a struggling squad up the league table. He added: “Today I have seen the heart of my players, the passion, the will to fight, to sacrifice.”
There was a sense of anticipation amongst those in the sold out away end as the Italian began a new era, and with Everton having a tepid season, a trip to Goodison to kick start Conte’s campaign was as good as any place.
But while it was a vast improvement to the fare served up under Nuno Espirito Santo, Conte’s magic touch will require time to seep into the players.
In a game with few clear cut chances, played at pace and littered with individual errors, Spurs saw a second half penalty awarded against goalkeeper Hugo Lloris after he tangled with Richarlison. It would have been harsh – and was rightly chalked off by VAR.
Late on, substitute Giovani Lo Celso went close for the visitors when he smashed a curler from range against the post with Everton’s Jordan Pickford well-beaten.
Otherwise Spurs defended resolutely but did not register a shot on target, though both wing-backs, Sergio Reguilon and Emerson Royal, should have done better when presented with decent opportunities.
“We made many, many mistakes in the final pass,” reflected Conte. “If we made the final pass in the right way, we could have chances to score. Instead, with the last pass we made many mistakes.”
But he added he was pleased overall with a point – and it is clear where the work on the training ground will be focussed. He added: “Honestly, I have to be happy for different reasons and the first is that Goodison Park is not an easy place to come to play against Everton, especially when we had a very intensive week.
“After we played the game [in Europe] on Thursday, I have to be happy because I started to see some tactical situations for sure we can improve and we have a lot of space for improvement.
“In different situations, tactically and physically, but also the mentality. Sometimes you can teach the tactical arts and physical arts better but the heart, the passion, the will, the intensity – you have or not. My players are showing me we are in a good position and it is a good point to start for.”
Conte’s first league game saw a back three with Ben Davies playing as a centre-back. It gave Royal and Reguilon the license to get forward. Royal looks particularly suited to the system, while Reguilon was off colour, finding former Tottenham man Andros Townsend a handful when called on to defend.
With defensive midfielders Oliver Skipp and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg starting, Conte’s team was sufficient to lockdown any threat – but lacked genuine creativity in the final third.
As Spurs looked for a winner, Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele were given minutes. Both brought an extra dimension to the performance – and Lo Celso nearly sealed a win when he collected the ball, wriggled into space outside the box, and fired off a shot. He struck the post with the effort – and it was to be the closest either side came to breaking a deadlock.
With another international break now in play, Conte has time to work on the fringe players who have yet to be given their chance – and then a kind looking run in the league up to Christmas. Games against Leeds, Burnley, Norwich and Brentford look winnable and will give his players the chance to build confidence and stay in touch with the top-four.
Everton: Pickford, Coleman, Godfrey, Keane, Digne, Gordon, Delph (Davies, 60), Allen (Holgate, 81), Townsend, Gray (Gbamin, 90+3), Richarlison
Substitutes not used: Kenny, Begovic, Iwobi, Tosun, Branthwaite, Rondon
Spurs: Lloris, Romero, Dier, Davies, Emerson, Reguilon (Doherty, 71), Skipp, Hojbjerg, Moura (Lo Celso, 71), Son (Ndombele, 85), Kane
Substitutes not used: Gollini, Sanchez, Tanganga, Winks, Alli, Bergwijn