Mason Holgate delivered an error-strewn performance as he badly let Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti down by gifting Tottenham Hotspur a draw on Friday night.
Ancelotti opted to field Holgate as part of a three-man defence beside Michael Keane and Ben Godfrey for the visit of Jose Mourinho’s Spurs to Goodison Park, as the Italian sought to manage an adductor injury for Yerry Mina.
The Toffees were badly in need of a positive result against the north Londoners after a run of two defeats and two draws, but were forced to settle for a third straight stalemate after goals from Harry Kane either side of a brace from Gylfi Sigurdsson.
The result meant that Everton remained eighth in the Premier League table and a point behind Tottenham, who have played a game more, and they now trail the top four by six points ahead of West Ham visiting Newcastle on Saturday.
Everton will have felt that the win was there for taking having controlled every department of the pitch after Sigurdsson converted a penalty to equalise in the 31st minute, and they firmly deserved the lead when the Iceland international clinically volleyed home just after the hour mark.
However, defensive mistakes proved costly for the Toffees as a mix-up between Holgate and Keane gifted Kane an opening for his second of the night, which the England captain refused to waste by rifling an unstoppable effort past Jordan Pickford.
Kane had fortuitously opened the scoring midway through the first half after Keane failed to make purposeful contact with Tanguy Ndombele’s cross before Holgate’s slip left the 27-year-old unchallenged to lash home.
Neither Keane nor Holgate will have been pleased with their efforts to prevent Kane from moving two clear at the top of the Premier League’s Golden Boot race with his 20th and 21st goals of the season.
Everton’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League are now in relative tatters and must rely on results going away from West Ham, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs if they are to claim a spot for UEFA’s premier club competition.
Ancelotti will have been particularly disappointed by Holgate’s display, having seen the £16m-rated centre-back – who the Liverpool Echo’s Sam Carroll has previously dubbed as “Mr Dependable” – struggle more than Keane throughout.
Holgate could have done better to prevent both of Kane’s goals, having been in the perfect position to intercept Ndombele’s delivery despite Keane’s attempted clearance, only to slip at the crucial moment.
A communication breakdown later led to Kane bagging his brace despite Keane appearing to call for Holgate to leave Erik Lamela’s cross as he stooped to head clear the danger, only for the ball to ricochet into the forward’s path.
Kane’s double meant that Everton had to settle for a point, but the result could have slipped through the Toffees’ fingers were it not for Keane, who blocked two shots and made three clearances while Holgate ended the night with two clearances to his name, per SofaScore.
With Mina set to miss the next few weeks through injury, Ancelotti faces tough decisions over sticking with an unchanged backline or dropping one of his three centre-backs when Everton visit Arsenal next Friday.
AND in other news, a rarely-seen Everton outcast is wanted in a £10.5m summer transfer…