ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
A record for Tottenham, but perhaps more importantly, a statement of intent from them. For the first time, Spurs have won nine successive Premier League home games. The history books need rewriting but the immediate implications are more important. There may still be a title race. At the least, Tottenham should not return to the Europa League any time soon.
They have trimmed the gap to leaders Chelsea to seven points. Perhaps as significantly, both in north London and in the context of Champions League qualification, they are six ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal.
Yesterday, they overcame a different sort of rival. Everton arrived at White Hart Lane having secured the joint-most points in 2017 alongside Spurs. They left without that mark.
Another duel between supposed equals had a similar outcome. Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku were tied at the top of the goal-scoring chart. While the Everton hitman scored his 18th of the season, this hottest of hot Spurs won the shootout, just as he is outgunning his rivals across the division. "Just a one-season wonder," chorused the Tottenham fans ironically as Kane stepped up his campaign to retain the Golden Boot with a brace.
He illustrated his potency by scoring a goal out of nothing to break the deadlock. It was a shot that seemed to take Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles by surprise, a 25-metre effort that beat the Spaniard at his near post.
Robles did not acquit himself well with Kane's second either. As though unaware Tottenham press high up the pitch, he rolled the ball out. An under-pressure Morgan Schneiderlin coughed up possession to Dele Alli. He found Kane and he found the net. It was not merely his 15th goal in 13 games, but his eighth in the space of three Sundays.
Those statistics could have been more startling. A couple of minutes after his opener, Kane swopped passes with Christian Eriksen and strolled through. This time, Robles repelled his shot, as he did in the closing minutes. Tottenham's penalty taker claimed a spot kick when Ashley Williams tugged him when the Dane whipped in a free kick.
Eriksen was excellent and elusive. Tottenham should have scored more, especially when Victor Wanyama curled a shot against the post, a motionless Robles watching it fly past him. Tottenham's defence seemed so dominant that Jan Vertonghen found time to surge forward and unleash a forceful shot and Everton were muted, not mustering a shot on target until Ross Barkley's tame 71st-minute effort. But then Lukaku sprang to life, powering away from his fellow Belgian and scoring, and, after Alli touched in Harry Winks' injury-time free kick for what proved the decisive goal, Everton substitute Enner Valencia grabbed their second but it was not enough to spare Everton a first defeat in 10. Tottenham were deserving winners.