Emmanuel Adebayor boosted Tottenham’s bid to qualify for the Champions League as the Togo striker’s clinical finish sealed a vital 1-0 win over Everton on Sunday.
Tim Sherwood’s side moved two points clear of Everton into fifth place and within three points of fourth placed Liverpool thanks to Adebayor’s second half strike at White Hart Lane.
Adebayor had spent much of the season in exile after falling out with former boss Andre Villas-Boas following a training ground row that featured the striker telling his then manager why his tactics weren’t going to work.
But Sherwood has brought Adebayor in from the cold and the former Arsenal star has repaid that faith with seven goals in 11 appearances since Villas-Boas’s sacking.
His latest heroics gave Spurs their first win in three matches and kept them firmly in the hunt for a lucrative place in Europe’s elite club competition.
Yet Adebayor’s winner was harsh on Roberto Martinez’s Everton, who dropped to sixth place despite being the superior force for long periods.
Everton didn’t take long to test Hugo Lloris for the first time when Steven Naismith alertly hooked a pass towards Leon Osman, whose fierce strike brought a fine stop from the Spurs goalkeeper.
Sherwood’s team had conceded five against Manchester City in their last home game and again they were sloppy at the back when Naismith hassled Danny Rose and Jan Vertonghen out of possession far too easily.
Naismith slipped a pass to Osman in a good position just inside the Spurs area, but the Everton midfielder’s weak shot was straight at Lloris.
Tottenham finally showed signs of life when Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen fired a free-kick just the crossbar.
Even then there was still a sense of uncertainty at the heart of Tottenham’s defence that threatened to cost them dearly.
A mix-up between Lloris and Spurs captain Michael Dawson almost let in Everton again before the danger was finally averted via a slapstick sequence of miscued clearances.
That narrow escape brought the always animated Sherwood to his feet in frustration, but his plea for more composure seemed to fall on deaf ears.
Everton, sharper in thought and deed than their leaden-footed opponents, were doing most of their damage in the areas between Tottenham’s defence and midfield, and Seamus Coleman galloped through unchecked to drive in a low shot that was easily held by Lloris.
Kevin Mirallas was next to breeze past the Spurs rearguard, leaving Dawson trailing in his wake, but the forward’s wild shot was an anti-climactic end to a scintillating run.
Sherwood remained just as agitated in the second half and it wasn’t long before a misplaced pass from Paulinho prompted him to boot a bag of energy drinks in frustration, with the resulting spray flying towards Martinez, who looked nonplussed before accepting his counterpart’s apology.
While Sherwood simmered on the touchline, his players were at last forcing their way back into the match and Adebayor was just off target with a glancing header.
With Spurs starting to push Everton into a more cautious approach, Sherwood sent on England winger Andros Townsend, back after seven weeks out with a hamstring injury, in place of Eriksen with just over half an hour to play.
For all Everton’s neat build-up play, they lacked a cutting edge and Spurs made them pay as they snatched the lead in the 65th minute.
It was a simple but devastatingly effective move as Kyle Walker’s quick free-kick caught Everton off guard.
Walker’s long pass picked out Adebayor, who adroitly controlled on his chest before holding off Coleman and smashing a low shot past Tim Howard at his near post to seal the points.