Match Reaction | Everton 1-1 Spurs: Gueye shines in opening day draw

Ronald Koeman started his reign as Everton manager with a draw against Tottenham at Goodison Park.

Ross Barkley gave the hosts the lead from a long-range free kick within five minutes. The goal owed more to hesitation from Hugo Loris than the Everton man’s skill, as the ball was allowed to bounce and go all the way in without intervention.

Despite the fortune in taking the lead, Everton were good value for their lead and should have doubled it when Gerard Deulofeu was played in by a stray Spurs backpass. But the Spaniard failed to squeeze it under substitute keeper Michel Vorm, just minutes before half time.

Everton’s influence in the game waned in the second half while Spurs took the initiative. Erik Lamela’s header drew the visitors level on the hour mark, with the Blues under increasing pressure, but it ended all-square with the hosts hanging on.

New boy Gueye is Gana prove a shrewd buy

Despite conceding the lead there were plenty of positives to take from Everton’s first competitive game under new management. Idrissa Gueye made his debut along with Maarten Stekelenburg, and the Senegalese international wasted no time in impressing his new adoring fans.

Cult status beckons for the little man in the middle, who showed his qualities with 90 mins of energy and tenacity. Making 6 tackles, Gueye is one of those footballers everyone loves to have on their side. Combative when screening his defence, the 5’7″ midfielder makes up for his diminutive size with a tough-tackling approach and an ability to simplify Everton’s game. Keeping the ball moving after breaking up attacks, Gana brings calm and control to midfield.

After his hugely impressive debut, his work will certainly not have gone unnoticed on the touchline, with Koeman deciding to bring off the 35 year-old Barry when legs began to tire. Can you imagine Barry being withdrawn under previous management? The Dutchman is well aware of his qualities and how they rank among his peers. Something the fans are now seeing for themselves.

100% for effort; 70% for fitness as Blues tire

Revealing that his players were only “70% ready” for the season opener, Koeman was applauded by fans for his honesty. Whether it was a thinly-veiled attack on his predecessor or a gauntlet lay down for his starting XI to prove him wrong , it was clear to 40,000 Evertonians by 4.30pm that he wasn’t lying.

Everton impressed in the first half when they closed down Spurs in packs of 2s and 3s. They didn’t press for the sake of pressing, but when they did it was with intensity and at the right moments; working together. And they dictated the game under their own terms, using wing-backs Leighton Baines and James McCarthy to stretch Spurs, patiently keeping possession and trying to force the ball forward when the chance presented itself (Deulofeu in particular ran tirelessly to occupy Spurs’ back four).

But this energy faded after the half-time whistle. Deulofeu had given his all, as had Kevin Mirallas whose killer instinct appears to have been blunted by his time in the wilderness under Roberto Martinez. They were just two of Everton’s work-horses, but all 10 outfield players looked short on fitness after the hour mark, and Spurs began to take control.

Chances were thus hard to come by and despite a few shaky defensive clearances and a couple of outstanding reflex saves from debutant Stekelenburg, Everton did well to hang on under immense Spurs pressure.

Lukaku & Coleman injuries expose lack of depth

While Evertonians will be pleased in general with what they saw, they know as well as Koeman that the squad is in desperate need of new recruits.

With Romelu Lukaku out with a cut sustained against Espanyol, Everton were forced to play Deulofeu as a makeshift striker. Despite a decent goal return in pre-season in this position, the evidence of this experiment in the Premier League leads to one clear conclusion: more strikers are needed.

Arouna Kone’s attempt to roll the ball under his foot, only to shunt it out for a goal-kick did little to satisfy Blues or his manager that he is the man to step up in Lukaku’s absence. And while McCarthy did a perfectly steady impression of a right back, cover in this area in Seamus Coleman’s absence (as well as to add genuine competition for the Irishman) is blatantly obvious.

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