Everton inflicted a first Premier League opening weekend defeat on Jose Mourinho as they ran out narrow 0-1 winners at Tottenham this Sunday afternoon.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side, which included all their major summer acquisitions, were unlucky to not have won by a bigger margin as they often caught a lacklustre Spurs team napping.
Nevertheless this success, for which the Merseysiders are also indebted to a couple important saves from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, was their first win against a ‘Big Six’ club since December 2013 when they defeated Manchester United (then managed by former boss David Moyes), subsequently ending a 40-match streak.
Naturally, there were individual winners and losers. Here are today’s.
Winner: Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Before last season’s Premier League was temporarily halted due to COVID-19 very few strikers were in better form than Dominic Calvert-Lewin, whom many felt would be part of Gareth Southgate’s squad at Euro 2020, after bagging 10 goals across 13 outings. Those goals dried up after the restart, but Everton manager Ancelotti retained faith by starting ‘DCL’ in eight of their nine matches.
— Everton (@Everton) September 13, 2020
There was no chance of him missing out today and though chances were minimal in the opening half, Calvert-Lewin made it count when the Merseysiders earned a free-kick 10 minutes after the break when he met Lucas Digne’s picture-perfect cross. It was his third headed effort since Ancelotti took charge. During that period no Premier League player has been as prolific. Some of the credit no doubt belongs to club legend, and current assistant coach, Duncan Ferguson, who knew a thing or two about headers.
Everton’s leading marksman from last season couldn’t believe his luck when a wayward Ben Davies’ ball bypassed Toby Alderweireld and made its way into no-man’s land. The 23-year-old Brazilian international raced past the Belgian centre-back before smoothly rounding a grounded Hugo Lloris. With the hard part done, his manager Ancelotti readied for the net to burst; however Richarlison’s left-footed effort was skied over the Spurs goal and into an empty stand. This was his first attempt on goal and he would go on to enjoy six more. ‘Enjoy’ is perhaps the wrong word, here because he ended the game without the goal his performance deserved. Richarlison completed 10 take-ons with a 100% success rate and made 12 recoveries.
Winner: James Rodriguez
James Rodriguez was the only player to receive a pass from every outfield teammate in the first half.
Get. It. To. James. 🎯 pic.twitter.com/ZxR0S9nahS
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 13, 2020
First impressions, as they say, really do matter, and the Toffees’ marquee signing James Rodríguez did made quite the introduction in north London this afternoon. Having been in the footballing wilderness, this Premier League represents an opportunity to rehabilitate his career. Linking up with his former boss will no doubt prove beneficial during this assimilation phase but on today’s showing the Colombian playmaker seems very much settled already.
Starting on the right flank in a 4-3-3 with a licence to roam, Rodríguez continually asked for possession and distributed the ball neatly (47 of his 56 passes completed) and threatened Lloris goal on three occasions as well as creating five chances for his new teammates. It wasn’t just going forward where the former Real Madrid man shone. He also did his fair share of defending, producing four interceptions and one tackle as Everton continually frustrated their hosts.
Loser: Dele Alli
A return to Spurs’ lineup after playing just 29 minutes across their last seven league outings last term was no tonic for Dele Alli, who came into this season with something to prove. No longer an emerging talent, the 24-year-old midfielder hasn’t been his true self for a while now having averaged 10 goal involvements across the last two seasons. Before that it was 22 in the preceding three campaigns.
He lasted 45 minutes today, during which the Milton Keynes-born midfielder completed just 11 passes and forced Jordan Pickford to make a single save. Mourinho’s decision to replace him with the more disciplined Moussa Sissoko seemed justified given he was regularly guilty of losing possession.
Winner: Lucas Digne
Calvert-Lewin’s goal was fittingly created by Everton’s most creative outlet Digne, who you could argue is now performing at the level that first attracted Barcelona’s attention. Chances of him making a Camp Nou comeback anytime soon looks remote, but you won’t see Everton supporters complaining. His assist today was the 12th he’s produced since beginning of last season. Only Merseyside rivals Trent Alexander-Arnold (25) and Andrew Robertson (24) sit ahead of him as more productive full-backs in this sense.
Since joining Everton at the start of the 2018-19 season, Lucas Digne has created more chances in the league than any other defender in Europe's top five divisions.
Deliver it like Digne. 🎯 pic.twitter.com/0ATwsmajhC
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 13, 2020
However, since moving from Spain at the start of the 2018-19 season, the Frenchman has created more chances in the league (144) than any other defender in Europe’s top five divisions. An impressive statistic no doubt. Behind him is the aforementioned Alexander-Arnold (137), but the Liverpudlian has twice as many assists whilst registering eight more big chances with 29. Nevertheless Digne is worthy of being in the same conversation.
Loser: Spurs’ debutants
The latest footballer to say he played under both Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, didn’t have the best day. Spurs’ latest recruit struggled to get a foothold in this game, a bit of a surprise given he was the most prolific ball-winner in England’s top division last season. Southampton’s former captain was guilty of losing possession and was forced to make a couple of tackles (one of which was mistimed and earned him a yellow card on debut) as Everton continually overran Spurs midfield.
His partner-in-crime, Harry Winks, didn’t fare any better and was put out of his misery by Mourinho with thirty minutes remaining. It was the same experience for Tottenham’s other debutant Matt Doherty, who enjoyed Fantasy Football cult status during his spell at Wolves, but the Irish international was seemingly off the pace and saw his number come up in the 76th minute. He (and his FPL owners) will be hoping for a better showing next time out.