Christian Eriksen snatches draw against Everton but Spurs finish fourth

Tottenham were determined to look up rather than over their shoulders and, after the dramatic manner of their surge into next month’s Champions League final against Liverpool, who could blame them? As such, their target for the final day of the Premier League season was to wrest third place from Chelsea because the mathematics of making sure of fourth ahead of Arsenal were overwhelmingly in their favour.

They could not manage it. Everton were the better team and they took charge in the second half with goals from the former Arsenal winger, Theo Walcott, and Cenk Tosun. Christian Eriksen’s rasping low free-kick earned Spurs a draw but they had needed to better Chelsea’s result at Leicester – and that would also finish in a draw.

Still, there were no tears from Mauricio Pochettino and his players – on the contrary. Their struggles this season have been well documented, taking in the lack of signings and the delay in moving into their new stadium. But they can now reflect with pride on a fourth top-four finish in succession. Pochettino called it the best of his five at the club.

“It is difficult to assess now but in time the people will realise what we achieve,” the manager said. “We have made history by reaching the Champions League final and, if we can win, we will write history and change the perception of this amazing club.”

The attention now turns to the showpiece with Liverpool on 1 June. It promises to be the longest of waits, during which the players will have to maintain physical and mental sharpness. Pochettino said he would give them two days off before the preparations begin in earnest.

The positive side of the delay is that the squad’s injured players – chief among them Harry Kane and Harry Winks – ought to have time to recover fitness. Pochettino substituted Dele Alli at half-time because the attacking midfielder felt jaded. He can recharge.

A celebratory tone underscored the afternoon, from the moment before kick-off when the home crowd bellowed their appreciation for Lucas Moura, whose hat-trick had destroyed Ajax to take the club to their first European Cup final. After the game the on-pitch announcer enjoyed saying that Arsenal would compete in next season’s Europa League, although that would not be true if they were to win this season’s edition of the tournament. Virtually every fan stayed for the squad’s lap of appreciation, which reflected the overall happiness.

No one at Spurs had given a thought to the outlandish eight-goal swing with regards to Arsenal to relegate them from the Champions League places, least of all Daniel Levy, who wrote in his programme notes: “Securing a top-four spot to give us Champions League football for a fourth successive season is in itself something of which to be immensely proud.”

The chairman did not hold back on the hyperbole. “Even before the incredible events of Wednesday night in Amsterdam, this campaign has been one of the most epic in the club’s history,” he said. “Moments we could only dream of have become reality. We dare to dream and we want nothing more than to bring the Champions League trophy to north London.”

Spurs scored early when Eric Dier lashed home following a corner and, pretty soon, the minds of many fans, particularly those on the Everton side, had begun to drift to matches elsewhere – namely in Brighton and Liverpool.

When the news filtered through that Manchester City had gone 2-1 up at Brighton in the 38th minute, the cheers rang out in the away enclosure. Some Everton fans had sung Blue Moon on the trains to the stadium and fraternity was the order of the afternoon. “We’ll all be having a party, when Tottenham win the cup,” chanted the Everton fans, with a nod to the Champions League final.

Everton knew they could not finish higher than eighth and, as such, Europa League qualification was beyond them. They stabilised after a poor start and had a clutch of chances to equalise. The best one came for Michael Keane, following a 10th-minute free-kick, but he sent a free header straight at Hugo Lloris.

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The visitors finally got what they deserved when Walcott took a pass from Gylfi Sigurdsson, cut inside and threaded a left-footed shot into the bottom corner . It was Walcott’s fifth goal in his last 10 league appearances against Spurs.

The travelling fans had erupted to acclaim City’s fourth goal at Brighton and, seconds later, they could acclaim another of their own when Tosun scrambled home after Lloris had pushed out Keane’s header from a corner. The last word went to Eriksen, whose free-kick fizzed beyond the grasp of Jordan Pickford.