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Gylfi Sigurdsson's late strike prevented Tottenham Hotspur from slipping to a second consecutive home defeat in the Barclays Premier League as they had to settle for a draw against Everton at White Hart Lane.
Everton looked like taking three points from North London after Phil Jagielka and Kevin Mirallas scored following Emmanuel Adebayor's 35-second opener. But Sigurdsson, charged with the task of playing in the hole where the injured Gareth Bale has been so effective this season, salvaged a point for the hosts by scoring a crucial goal three minutes from time.
Despite finding the net twice, Tottenham missed the scoring talents of Bale and the wing play of Aaron Lennon. Tottenham lacked creativity going forward and often had to resort to long shots.
Spurs rarely looked like breaching the Everton back four, but Sigurdsson's last-gasp equaliser led to a sense of relief at the final whistle from the Tottenham fans. But if Arsenal beat Everton in their game in hand, they will leapfrog their rivals in the hunt for UEFA Champions League qualification. Spurs still have matches against Chelsea and Manchester City to come.
All the pre-match talk had been about how Spurs would struggle without Bale's goals, but they gave the perfect response by breaking the deadlock with the second-quickest goal of the season.
In the first move of the match, Everton's defence backed off Jan Vertonghen. The defender delivered a teasing ball across the box and Adebayor stuck out his right leg and prodded the ball past Tim Howard.
Everton were shocked, but it did not take them long to come back in to the game. Michael Dawson almost gifted them a 10th-minute equaliser when he passed the ball straight to Leon Osman 15 yards out, but the England midfielder curled high and wide.
Dawson cut out Victor Anichebe's cross as a row of Everton attackers lined up to convert, but David Moyes’s side levelled from the resulting corner. Jagielka found himself free at the back post and nodded Leighton Baines' cross in to the bottom corner.
Spurs head coach Andre Villas-Boas urged his players to regain their composure and long-range efforts from Dembele, Dempsey and Holtby all flew well wide. Spurs made claims for a penalty on the half-hour when Dempsey's cross brushed Darron Gibson's arm, but Andre Marriner waved play on.
Everton sounded an early warning just after the restart when Gibson struck a curling shot just wide, and with 52 minutes on the clock, they were ahead. Mirallas drifted in from the right flank past Scott Parker and Steven Caulker before slotting the ball beyond Hugo Lloris.
Spurs went straight on the attack and almost scored an equaliser through Dembele, whose 20-yard shot ricocheted off John Heitinga's foot and Howard's arm on to the bar.
Heitinga almost sealed the win at the other end soon after but Dawson put in a crunching goal-saving tackle to deny the Dutchman.
Howard punched a 25-yard effort from Caulker away on the hour as Spurs continued to resort to long shots on goal. In their search for a goal Spurs brought on Tom Huddlestone, who had not played since January.
And the goal came with with three minutes left, as Adebayor's shot came back off a post and Sigurdsson converted.
Anichebe had a chance to steal the game for Everton in injury time after he raced through, but Lloris pulled off a crucial save.
Tottenham head coach Andre Villas-Boas: "It's going to go down to the wire and things as it stands with Arsenal, Everton, Chelsea and Tottenham all in the frame for that Champions League qualification.
"In games like this you can really see how much desire is in both teams to get those objectives. It was a good game, full of opportunities for both sides, a really competitive match.
"We wanted to win so obviously we're not pleased but bearing in mind the circumstances, bearing in mind our super effort on Thursday it's good to see the team react once again.”
Everton manager David Moyes: “When you concede after 20 or 30 seconds it's all credit to the players for coming back. Tottenham had their tails up but thankfully we kept going and kept at it and played our way out of trouble and got ourselves a few chances.
"Tottenham had a lot of possession and we had to try and work to try and stop that. We didn't do it as well as we'd have liked but I always thought we looked a threat and we could score and we did a couple of times.
“A draw isn't a bad result coming to Tottenham and you could see today both teams did try to win it. I don't know if a point does a great deal for us. If we'd lost the game we wouldn't have been out of it. If we'd won it we would have been right in it. I don't think we're too far away but the only thing is you just hope the games don't run out. Tottenham are one of the top teams who have been fighting for second, third, fourth all season and we've taken four points off Tottenham this year so it's not a bad return."
"It was a terrific individual goal again [from Mirallas]. I was disappointed with him in the first half as we needed more from him going forward and also at times when we didn't have the ball I needed him to help us a bit more. But that's why you have those players. Those players are the ones who can waltz past a couple of people and get you a goal."
"It's hard to judge. It's his first season in English football and it will be different from what he's used to but he's definitely putting in a lot better performances and hopefully it can continue."
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|21 Apr 2013||v Man City (H)|
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|08 May 2013||v Chelsea (A)|