Final score: Tottenham 1-0 Everton

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The night which ended with a hug for the cameras between Hugo Lloris and Son Heung-min started with a warm embrace between the two managers, old foes meeting in combat for the first time in a decade.

Jose Mourinho was at Inter Milan and Carlo Ancelotti was at Chelsea when their teams collided in the last 16 of the Champions League in 2010.

That was a tie played out in febrile atmospheres, with Inter rejuvenated on their way to a Treble and Mourinho making his first return to an adoring crowd at Stamford Bridge, where Ancelotti was already on the way to a Double.

How things have changed. On Monday night the two managerial legends met in north London, in the near silence of post-pandemic football and in charge of two mediocre team contesting the dubious privilege of a boost towards a late run at the Europa League places.

Spurs came out on top, winning for only the second time in 10 games, and yet the abiding image of the game will be of captain Lloris fighting to confront his team-mate Son as the teams filed from the pitch at half-time.

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Tottenham were a goal ahead, thanks to a shot by Giovani Lo Celso which was diverted past his own goalkeeper by Michael Keane but they had switched off in the closing seconds and conceded a couple of chances.

Lloris was furious and stalked towards Son, pointing his finger and refusing to pardon his French. It seemed to be that the Spurs ‘keeper thought he ought to have made a greater effort to prevent a forward run by Richarlison.

Lo Celso managed to wedge his body between the pair and hold Lloris at bay as Eric Dier gave Son a hefty shove in the back to hasten his retreat to the dressing rooms.

It is only four months since Dier himself was wading into the crowd at White Hart Lane to defend his brother who had become embroiled in a row with a Tottenham supporter after their exit from the FA Cup on penalties at the hands of Norwich.

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This time, the infighting came with Spurs on their way towards only their second victory in 10 games and a much-needed three points which lift them into eighth place in the Premier League.

It was heavy going at times against an Everton team in good form. Certainly not a win to satisfy the Spurs purists, those convinced Mourinho is not the man to take them forward after Mauricio Pochettino.

Although, this was a night when it was all about the win. About avoiding defeat which would have seen them slide below Everton and into the bottom half of the table. And, despite lacking fluency and a goal laced with fortune, they were the better team.

They struck midway through the first half when Mason Holgate blocked a shot by Harry Kane and the ricochet fell kindly to Lo Celso, who collected the ball, twisted onto his left foot in a tight space and went for goal.

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His curling effort appeared to be going wide until it hit Keane as he tried to recover ground, deceived goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and dropped into the net.

Spurs dug in to defend which would have impressed their manager. Dier was strong alongside Toby Alderweireld who was restored at the heart of the defence, his first start since the lockdown and his first start since the rather feeble European demise in Leipzig.

Tottenham grew in confidence after going ahead. Dier swerved a free-kick over and Kane smashed one into the defensive wall after a foul on Son by Andre Gomes.

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Everton suffered a blow when they lost Holgate to injury before half-time. He appeared to come off worse as he felled Lo Celso and, although he tried to soldier on, could not continue and was replaced by Yerry Mina.

Ancelotti’s side have been in good shape since the restart, with a goalless draw in the Merseyside derby followed by victories against Norwich and Leicester. Here, however, 40 minutes had passed before they extended Lloris.

Their first glimpse of a chance came from a deep corner taken by Gylfi Sigurdsson and met at the back-post by Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who peeled away from his marker and nodded the ball down towards goal. Lloris swept the ball safely out for a corner with a hand.

Tottenham switched off again, in the fifth minute of added time at the end of the first half, when they surrendered possession cheaply on the half-way line and failed to close down. Mina carried the ball forward and gave it to Richarlison and the Brazilian striker unleashed a fierce drive which grazed a post as it flew wide.

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Lloris was still fuming as he came off the pitch and unleashed his anger in the direction of Son, who certainly looked sharper when he returned for the second half.

Son has been subdued since the restart, unable to recapture the form he had before breaking an arm in February and returning to his native South Korea to serve his military service during the lockdown.

Perhaps Lloris saw the need to fire him up. Son went close to scoring on three occasions in quick succession in the second half. Twice he forced goods saves from Pickford and was narrowly off target with another effort.

A second goal eluded Tottenham but they protected their lead. Everton improved in the second half without seriously threatening to equalise.

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Substitutes Anthony Gordon and Moise Kean tested the Spurs ‘keeper. Kean forced two saves in the closing period, first with a backheeled flick and then a powerful effort through a crowded box.

There remains plenty for Ancelotti to work on. Mourinho, too. And the managers hugged again. And Lloris gave Son a friendly squeeze after a quiet word in his ear from the Spurs press man.

And everyone smiled and insisted how this proved they cared and it was all about the passion. These things happen all the time, they say, and yet they don’t.

But this has been a most curious campaign at Tottenham. And this was one more fascinating episode for their fly-on-the-wall documentary covering the slide from the Champions League final. Chairman Daniel Levy might be on to Amazon negotiating a higher fee.

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