Everton 2 Tottenham 2: Round One to Tim Howard! American keeper defies Defoe to stave off Everton's fourth straight defeat

By John Edwards

World Cup hostilities may still be seven months away, but Tim Howard struck an early psychological blow for the United States after winning a dramatic battle of wits with Jermain Defoe in the third minute of injury time at Goodison Park.

Everton's USA goalkeeper modestly scored it as honours even after being beaten by the England striker for the first of two goals that looked like pointing to the easiest of wins for Tottenham.

But his animated response to blocking Defoe's 93rd-minute penalty, as he danced up and down on his goalline before throwing punches and kicking one of his posts, sent out a different message about who won this round.

Everton's Tim Cahill celebrates scoring with his team-mates

Equaliser: Everton's Tim Cahill celebrates scoring with his team-mates (above) after heading in past Spurs keeper Heurelho Gomes in the 86th minute (below)

Everton's Tim Cahill (right) scores the equaliser

Everton's stirring fightback from 2-0 down looked like being in vain until Howard acted on a tip from striker Louis Saha and kept out Defoe's kick with a trailing leg to send his side's spirits soaring and Tottenham's plummeting.

It completed a miserable 48 hours for Barclays Premier League penalty-takers, with Aston Villa's John Carew claiming the only successful conversion.

But no one should be surprised at Howard coming out on top in the weekend's fifth and final spot-kick duel.

Tottenham Hotspur's Wilson Palacios (centre) is fouled by Everton's Tony Hibbert (right) resulting in a penalty

Late drama: Wilson Palacios (centre) is fouled by Tony Hibbert (right) resulting in a penalty for Spurs, which Jermain Defoe had saved by Tim Howard

The former Manchester United keeper denied Rio Ferdinand and Dimitar Berbatov in an FA Cup semi-final shoot-out against his old club last season.

He was at it again with a series of penalty heroics in Everton's build-up to the current campaign.

Worryingly for Defoe and Fabio Capello, there could be more to follow when England face the United States in South Africa next summer.

Tim Howard of Everton saves the penalty kick of Jermain Defoe

No way past: Howard saves Defoe's poorly struck penalty kick

Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard celebrates after saving Jermain Defoe's penalty

Take that: Howard celebrates after saving Defoe's penalty

Everton manager David Moyes said: 'I don't know whether you should be asking a Scotsman about England's World Cup chances but you always feel Tim has a great chance when he's on the receiving end of a penalty. He is a lively keeper, very agile and quick on his feet and he also works at his game. As that saying goes, the harder you work, the luckier you get, and I wouldn't swap him for any other keeper in the country.'

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp refused to blame Defoe but was understandably dismayed at the loss of two points.

'Anyone can miss a penalty, but really it was game over at 2-0,' he said. 'We were in complete control and had the opportunities to make it 3-0, so it is very disappointing.'

Tottenham Hotspur's Michael Dawson (second right) celebrates with his team mates Aaron Lennon (left) and Jermain Defoe (right) after scoring

Two-nil: Tottenham's Michael Dawson (above, second right) celebrates with his team-mates Aaron Lennon and Defoe after scoring with a header (below)

Dawson scores the second goal

Speculation over Capello's World Cup squad will run for a while yet but Defoe had seemed intent, right up to his injury-time error, on keeping any discussion over his involvement to a bare minimum.

Tottenham's livewire striker looks the sharpest finisher in the land and has the statistics to back it up after becoming the country's leading marksman with 13 goals.

Liverpool, Manchester City and Aston Villa may still have something to say about Tottenham's claim to a Champions League place but there can surely be few arguments about how Defoe will be spending next summer.

Jermain Defoe scores the opening goal past Tim Howard

Class act: Defoe scores the opening goal past Howard

If he could have one wish, over and above a place in the squad for South Africa, it would surely be that Aaron Lennon goes with him after the lightning fast winger again provided the sort of service he relishes.

Defoe had already gone close three times - drawing a save from Howard, back-heeling a Benoit Assou-Ekotto cross over and firing narrowly wide of the far post - when the telepathic understanding that did for Wigan led to a 47th-minute breakthrough.

While makeshift centre half Tony Hibbert failed to read Lennon's intentions as he curled a waist-high cross towards the near post, Defoe was already in position to steer a first-time volley into the roof of the net.

Everton's Louis Saha (right) scores their first goal past Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes (second left)

Fightback: Louis Saha (right) scores past Heurelho Gomes (second left)

Match facts

Hibbert's fellow central defender Lucas Neill was just as guilty 12 minutes later, allowing Michael Dawson a free header that looked like condemning Everton to a fourth straight League defeat.

But a last throw of the dice by Moyes paid spectacular dividends as he sent on Yakubu and Saha and saw the game transformed.

Moyes has had his share of adversity in recent weeks and saw little to suggest his luck was about to turn when Joseph Yobo limped off with a recurrence of hamstring trouble in only the 15th minute.

A silver lining was not far away, though, as 21-year old full back Seamus Coleman filled the breach in a patchwork defence and proceeded to steal the show and push Lennon close for the accolade of star performer.

Always looking to attack, the Republic of Ireland youngster's spirit of adventure threw Everton a lifeline in the 78th minute when he burst down the right and crossed for Saha to apply an expert finish at the near post.

Tottenham Hotspur's Wilson Palacios (left) challenges Everton's Tim Cahill

Crunch: Spurs' Wilson Palacios (left) challenges Everton's Tim Cahill

WORLD CUP WATCH

Steven Pienaar's dazzling footwork could light up the tournament for his native South Africa. In the absence of Mikel Arteta, he was Everton's main creative force. Aussie Tim Cahill has had a wretched season by his standards but his second Premier League goal of the season denied Spurs.

Another right-wing delivery, driven firmly across the six-yard line this time, brought the house down in the 87th minute as Leighton Baines knocked it back for Tim Cahill to head only his second League goal of the season.

How the mood can change, though, and it went from elation to stunned disbelief deep in injury time when Hibbert floored Wilson Palacios as the midfielder latched on to a Peter Crouch knockdown.

After a long delay, in which Palacios went off on a stretcher and was taken to hospital, Defoe stepped forward and drilled a low shot that Howard knocked to safety.

Redknapp added: 'Palacios was in a lot of pain with damaged ribs. He is a tough lad, so it can't be good when you see him struggling like that.'

 


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