London: Dramatic goals from Steven Pienaar and Nikica Jelavic in second-half injury time earned Everton a scarcely-deserved win over Tottenham in a drab encounter at Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon.
Clint Dempsey looked to have won the game for the Londoners with a strike with 15 minutes to go, but late efforts from the Toffees duo ensured David Moyes` side earned all three points.
The meeting between two sides with Champions League ambitions looked likely to be a lively affair, but goalmouth action was at a premium on Merseyside.
The first half was a largely cagey affair, although the home side had by far the better chances and would have been disappointed to go into the break level.
The opening 10 minutes was a highlight of the afternoon, with Everton`s recalled duo of Seamus Coleman and Kevin Mirallas linking up well down the right on several occasions.
Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had to be quick off of his line to quell an attack by Jelavic after the Croatia striker evaded the visitors` offside trap.
However after that bright start, the game settled into a nervous affair with neither side able to force clear-cut opportunities - although Everton had two decent claims for penalties turned down by referee Lee Mason.
The first - an alleged handball by Dempsey - was rightly waved away, but an appeal for a similar offence by William Gallas was perhaps wrongly turned down.
Spurs were content to hit their hosts on the counter-attack for the opening period, but in the early stages of the second half they began to build more fluent attacks.
Their first real chance of the game came on 53 minutes when Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen blasted in a free-kick which stung the palms of Tim Howard as the American goalkeeper turned the ball over the crossbar.
But the second half soon settled into a familiar tale to the opening period, with neither side creating any out-and-out chances or increasing the tempo of the game.
Everton looked shorn of creativity after the half-time substitution of Kevin Mirallas, who suffered a recurrence of his recent hamstring problem.
When a goal did finally arrive, it was a moment of real quality from Spurs` summer signing Dempsey - the American received the ball just outside the Everton area, and his shot at goal took a deflection off Sylvain Distin and lofted over the helpless Howard.
The goal seemed to spark the home side into life as they adopted a more direct approach, yet Spurs who nearly doubled their lead when substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson saw his shot cannon off the crossbar with just five minutes left to play.
But minutes later there was delirium inside Goodison Park as Pienaar got his head on a cross from Seamus Coleman to earn an equaliser against his former club.
And in the 92nd minute, Jelavic pounced on a loose ball in the Tottenham area to slam home a winner for Moyes` men to send them fourth in the Premier League.
First Published: Monday, December 10, 2012, 08:50