The game was only a few minutes old when Seamus Coleman lifted the ball into Tottenham’s area. As it dropped Richarlison pulled back his favoured left foot, swung and, to joyful cheers from the home support, missed completely. And that, right there, was the night in a nutshell: glum for one side, glee for the other.
Frank Lampard’s decisions to bring on first the Ukrainian Vitalii Mykolenko and then the former Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli were greeted with the unique generosity of a crowd that cheered five unanswered home goals, and that was as positive as the evening got for a coach whose three away games at Everton have now been lost by an aggregate score of 10-1. In all they have not won a Premier League away game since August, part of a run of three wins in their first four since revealed to be the falsest of dawns. By the time they get another chance it will be April.
Spurs scored five goals and against opponents whose fragile confidence was swiftly shredded two players who did not get on the scoresheet, Dejan Kulusevski and Matt Doherty, were outstanding.
Everton were bright enough in the opening exchanges, snapping into challenges and denying the home side space as they tried to play out of defence. The problem was that they seemed much less motivated when it came to denying Spurs space to play into theirs.
Tottenham were excellent, with Kulusevski providing a lesser goal threat than Harry Kane and Son Heung-min but offering real creativity both with crosses and through-balls. Spurs had not won consecutive league games since early December.
Now they return to Manchester, where they beat City last month, to face United on Saturday having won three out of four and with a Champions League place once again a realistic target.
Kane took his individual record against Everton to 13 goals in 14 league games with a brace – a feat he has now achieved in six of his last nine appearances against these opponents in this competition. The stadium announcer charitably credited him with the opener as well, even as the striker’s celebration made it obvious he had no hand in it. When Ben Davies slightly overhit a pass down the left both Coleman and Mason Holgate visibly relaxed, but Ryan Sessegnon caught up with it and speared it into the six-yard box, where it flew into the net off Michael Keane’s knee.
Three minutes later Kulusevski drew Holgate, prodded the ball through to Son, and the South Korean’s low shot squirmed under the dive of Jordan Pickford, who will remember neither his 200th Premier League appearance nor his 28th birthday with any fondness, despite making several fine saves and rescuing his side from outright humiliation.
Doherty revelled throughout in his freedom not just to come forward but to come infield, and despite spending most of the night on Tottenham’s right he provided some of the game’s finest creative passes from central areas.
It was with one of these that he released Son down the left in the 28th minute, only for Pickford to save his shot and Kane to volley the rebound wide. A few minutes later the Irishman blasted at Pickford from Son’s pass, and then he produced a splendid first-time defence-splitting pass to send Kane clear to extend Spurs’ lead at the interval to three.
At this stage Everton’s chances, such as they were, relied on Lampard masterminding a stunning half-time transformation. Just 45 seconds after the restart Spurs scored their fourth. Sergio Reguilón had only just come on, replacing the injured Sessegnon, and his first task was to run entirely unnoticed onto Kulusevski’s low cross and pass it into the net.
In the 53rd minute Dominic Calvert-Lewin had the visitors’ only noteworthy shot of the night, a low effort that ran across goal and wide.
Perhaps this, finally, was the first green shoot of an Everton recovery? Absolutely nobody held their breath though, but if they had it might have lasted through two decent Spurs chances and a fifth goal, all of which came within the next 90 seconds of the match.
First Son’s shot hit Jarrad Branthwaite, another half-time substitute – having declared himself able to play despite illness. Keane endured a miserable 45 minutes at the heart of an overrun defence, capped by taking a vicious Holgate clearance full in the head, and understandably changed his mind – then Eric Dier headed over, and finally Everton gave the ball away midway into their own half, Doherty crossed and Kane scored with a beautifully measured left-foot volley.
Spurs created a few more chances, Steven Bergwijn shooting at Pickford after Kulusevski played him in, and Davinson Sanchez heading narrowly wide from Reguilón’s free-kick, but they had already turned the evening into a procession at Everton’s expense.