LONDON -- Tottenham Hotspur beat Everton as Harry Kane and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg scored to secure a 2-0 win on Saturday to draw level on points with second-placed Manchester City in the Premier League.
However, Spurs suffered an injury blow when Brazil forward Richarlison exited after 52 minutes of the game with a calf injury. The 25-year-old was pictured on crutches and in tears after the game and was ruled out for the upcoming game against Manchester United.
Spurs struggled to work themselves into the lead against the Toffees, only earning their breakthrough from a Jordan Pickford error as he brought down Kane for the 60th minute spot-kick after Frank Lampard's Everton missed good opportunities in the first half.
Conte's side made sure of victory four minutes from time as Hojbjerg struck a late blow. Midfield partner Rodrigo Bentancur found Hojbjerg in the box and the Danish midfielder sent a deflected shot past Pickford to wrap up all three points for Spurs.
1. Tottenham win again but can Conte's lack of rotation really last?
Any casual observers would be forgiven for thinking Tottenham only had about 16 players. Despite the return of Champions League football this season, Antonio Conte is minimally rotating positions, largely at left-sided centre-back, left wing-back and on the right side of his attack in the preferred 3-4-3 system. Those were the three positions in which he changed personnel against Everton on Saturday and after a promising opening 10 minutes, Spurs were flat for long periods.
They did produce better spells in the second half to grind out a 2-0 win, but it is difficult not to think fatigue could be a factor -- especially given Conte's notoriously gruelling training regime. Nevertheless, Tottenham found a way to win once more, their seventh victory from 10 league games, to move within one point of Arsenal having played a game extra.
This was another case of Spurs dragging themselves over the line rather than impressing with the authority of their performance but Conte's methodology is vindicated by the stats: it's their highest points total after 10 games since 1963-64, having won 11 of last 12 league home games dating to last season. The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is proving a difficult place for any team to come right now.
2. Kane nets another penalty in 400th game but Richarlison's injury a concern
The England captain is getting plenty of penalty practice before the World Cup. Saturday saw Harry Kane take his fifth spot-kick of the month, converting for the fourth time after 59 minutes here to break the deadlock in an even game prior to that moment. It marked his 400th appearance for Tottenham in the most positive way, more so than Richarlison against his former club.
The Brazilian scored 43 goals in 135 Premier League games for Everton prior to joining Spurs this summer in a £60 million deal. He was something of a surprise inclusion here given the knee injury he sustained against Marseille in midweek but then again, Dejan Kulusevski was ruled out completely and, as already discussed, Conte is currently not considering many options outside of what he sees as a core group within the first-team squad.
Richarlison was a peripheral figure -- attempting just four passes and three shots in 52 minutes before limping off with what was later described as a calf problem. The injury could spell doom to his World Cup chances, with the tournament just a month away.
Everton actually had the better chances in the first half and Richarlison's injury prompted Conte to introduce Yves Bissouma and switch to a 3-5-2 shape which helped Spurs impose themselves thereafter. The fact both Rodrigo Bentancur and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg vacated central midfield to combine for Tottenham's second goal was a benefit of this change.
3. Pickford falters as Everton's progress slows
A week ago, Everton had the best defensive record in the division. Successive defeats against Manchester United and now Tottenham have dented the promise created by that run with Jordan Pickford effectively handing an advantage to Spurs with a moment of poor goalkeeping.
Pickford failed to hold Matt Doherty's tame shot and then collided with Kane as he reacted to the rebound, conceding a penalty which turned the game irrevocably in the home side's favour.
Pickford is likely to remain England's No. 1 for the World Cup but Arsenal's Aaron Ramsdale and Newcastle's Nick Pope are making pressing cases to replace him. High-profile errors like this will not help club or country.
Tottenham: Lloris 7, Romero 7, Dier 7, Davies 7, Doherty 7, Bentancur 7, Hojbjerg 8, Perisic 7, Richarlison 6, Kane 7, Son 7.
Subs: Bissouma 6, Moura 6, Spence 6, Moura 6.
Everton: Pickford 5, Coleman 6, Coady 6, Tarkowski 7, Mykolenko 6, Iwobi 6, Gueye 6, Onana 6, McNeil 6, Maupay 5, Gray 6.
Subs: Calvert-Lewin 6, Garner 6, Rondon 6.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Tottenham.
Gave Spurs a sense of control in midfield and capped his display with a well-taken second goal, steering a shot past Pickford into the top corner.
WORST: Jordan Pickford, Everton.
One mistake compounded the other as he gifted Tottenham their crucial opening goal.
Highlights and notable moments
A goal to mark his 400th Spurs appearance ✊— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) October 15, 2022
Of course. pic.twitter.com/a81ZMfUgjo
A remarkable achievement for the captain.
After the match: What the managers, players said
Spurs' Richarlison on if his injury could doom his World Cup dreams: "I know it's hard to talk at this moment, but let's see, I'll recover. I have a scan on Monday but even walking hurts. I have to stay positive if I want to go to Qatar."
Spurs' Antonio Conte on Richarlison's injury: "For sure, [against] Manchester United, he is out. He felt something in his calf and he won't be available for the game against United. I think he needs a bit of time to recover."
Spurs' Harry Kane on his penalty against Jordan Pickford, to BT Sport: "Whenever you miss a penalty the next one is the most important one. I've practiced so many against Jordan and I feel like I'm coming up againat a lot of English keepers this season. It was nice to get that one, it was really important."
Everton's Amadou Onana on the loss, to BT Sport: "That penalty broke us down mentally but we haven't got time to feel sorry for ourselves. We've got to bounce back at Newcastle."
Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
- Harry Kane has reached the 30-goal plateau from the penalty spot, becoming the fourth Premier League player to achieve this (Alan Shearer, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard).
Tottenham: Spurs visit Old Trafford next on Oct. 19 and then Newcastle on Oct. 23. With Manchester United in 5th place and Newcastle in 6th, Conte's side will be put to the test to hold onto their 3rd place spot. Spurs will then host Sporting in the Champions League, when a win will all but confirm their qualification into the knockout stage.
Everton: Frank Lampard's side visit an in-form Newcastle next on Oct. 19, followed by a home match against Crystal Palace on Oct. 22, and then a visit to Fulham Oct. 29. Everton is under pressure this season to perform after last season's relegations scare, and players such as Iwobi and Calvert-Lewin will be expected to step up.