IT’S all turned a bit scrappy down at Tottenham. Literally.
The scruffiest of games decided by a horrible own goal, memorable only for an on-pitch tussle between two Spurs team-mates.
Hugo Lloris and Heung-min Son had to be pulled apart from each other as they headed for half-time as simmering frustrations boiled over for all to see.
At least they climbed up to eighth after this win, at least easing some of the pressure on the manager – but they are still below neighbours Arsenal.
From the brink of being Euro champs to chumps in the space of a year, with hardly any money to improve a worsening team. Life is not great for Jose Mourinho and his band of not-so-merry men.
Having succumbed so tamely in defeat against Sheffield United, Mourinho had suggested he would be within his rights to make eleven changes to his side,
In the event only three were axed, but the Spurs boss had left his senior players in no doubt he felt it was time they stood up and started to lift the gloom that is hanging over this part of North London.
Someone like Son, who in his three appearances so far since the restart played in a manner which suggested his talent had been drilled out of him while on military service in South Korea.
Son’s recent flatness has been symptomatic of Tottenham’s form which is threatening to end their run of ten successive years qualifying for European football.
Everton can only dream of enjoying such a fruitful period, though in Carlo Ancelotti they finally have a manager who looks capable of building a competitive squad going forward.
When the game started, Europa League was still a possibility for either of these sides if they could finish the campaign in top form, and with so much at stake the hope was there the players would produce a real ding-dong affair.
Some hope. The early stages had all the intensity and excitement of a long distance snail race.
This sight of Everton’s centre-midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson visibly slamming on the brakes to avoid a 50-50 tackle with Tottenham’s not-so-hard man Harry Winks summed it all up.
Eventually, something did happen, as Lucas Moura decided to let rip with the first shot of the game on 21 minutes only for the ball to pass two yards wide.
Encouraged, Spurs finally got on the front foot and took the lead three minutes later – although this one will never be a contender for the DVD of the best bits of the season.
Son ran directly at the Everton defence, and the ball broke for Harry Kane just inside the area. He was tackled, but possession looped to the feet of Giovani Lo Celso 12-yards out.
The Argentine swivelled to shoot towards the far corner, the ball deflected off the chest off Michael Keane and spun into the net with Jordan Pickford completely wrong-footed.
Scrappy might be overselling it, but Spurs and Mourinho didn’t care. Judging by the timid reaction of Everton to going a goal behind, you would be forgiven for wondering if they cared either?
For Ancelotti’s men were truly awful right up until stoppage time in the first half when Richarlison briefly sparked into life to shoot just wide from the edge of the box.
When the whistle blew seconds later, that was that – until Lloris went after Son for what he clearly thought was a lack of effort from his team-mate.
The forward reacted angrily to something his keeper had said and had to be dragged away from him, with others holding Lloris back from getting more physical.
It was the most passion anyone on the pitch had shown all game.
And it was also enough for Ancelotti who hooked the anonymous Alex Iwobi at the break in favour of teenager Anthony Gordon – who wasted little time testing Lloris with a low shot from distance.
The French keeper had earlier made a point of shaking hands with Son in the tunnel before they returned for the second half – and the forward tried to do his talking on the pitch, only to be denied by a low Pickford save.
Maybe the spat had the desired effect, for the Korean then went close with a curling effort just wide before he again forced Pickford into another save.
But there was to be no goal to lift the mood for the 27-year-old, who was hauled off on 77 minutes to be replaced by Steven Bergwijn.
For their part, Everton did run around more in the second half, not that they created much, and the loss of important defender Mason Holgate to injury only added to their misery.
Ancelotti is no fool – he will have rumbled many of his current players for not being good enough and there is likely to be a lot of business done at Goodison Park this summer.
Mourinho has probably rumbled many of his stars too, only he doesn’t have the finances he’d want to make the changes he thinks he needs. They’re going to have to scrap for everything from now on.