New Everton manager Ronald Koeman, who had publicly questioned the readiness of his side for the Premier League campaign, was delighted with their display after his first competitive game in charge of the Merseyside club ended in a 1-1 draw against Tottenham.
Erik Lamela’s superb diving header midway through the first half cancelled out Ross Barkley’s early opener in what was an entertaining affair at Goodison Park, with the former Southampton managers Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino having to settle for a share of the spoils.
And Koeman, who did bemoan his side’s wastefulness in front of goal in a first half that they controlled, believes that it was a fair result, with plenty of positives to take from the opening day of the Premier League, especially given how many late goals Everton conceded under Roberto Martinez’s tutelage last term.
“I am happy with the team performance, the first 45 minutes was really excellent. We had a big, big chance close to half-time, and then it is a different game and we knew it would be difficult up until the end because they have really good players,” Koeman said.
“But overall we worked very hard. They had two big opportunities and Maarten Stekelenburg made two great saves, but at least what we showed what we like to see, and the mental resilience and the reaction of the crowd was fantastic.”
Though the team performance was particular pleasing for Koeman, the Dutchman also singled out the performances of his attacking players for individual praise, outlining the impact that Gerard Deulofeu – starting in a central role in the absence of Romelu Lukaku – while stressing that he believes Barkley must start to take more responsibility for driving Everton forward.
“Ross Barkley’s first goal is one of his qualities. I want the players to work hard and the pressing starts from the strikers,” he added.
“Romelu was not fit. If the player was okay he would start, the issue was he was not fit enough. So Deulofeu had to play there and he showed in pre-season he can play in that number nine position, and because of Tottenham’s high line and our good pressing there was a lot of space for him.
“But he got some big chances and he needs to score in positions like that. And players like him and Kevin [Mirallas], I like the players, but they need to work hard, and they did which is sometimes hard because those type of creative players are sometimes sloppy in that area.
“The same is with Ross [Barkley]. There is no question about his first touch or his skill, but he needs to take more responsibility in the team and that makes the team stronger, and he will learn that.”
Prior to the game, Koeman confirmed that first-choice right-back Seamus Coleman is set to miss “several weeks” with an ankle injury, though Lukaku should be fit to return to the squad next week.