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Toffees end unbeaten run

A goal in each half secured a 2-1 victory for Everton on Wednesday night - a first defeat in 12 games for the team in their fourth game in 11 days.

A goal in each half secured a 2-1 victory for Everton on Wednesday night - a first defeat in 12 games for the team in their fourth game in 11 days.

Everton having their Boxing Day fixture postponed perhaps accounted for the little more zest in the home side who did have a bit more thrust about their play in seeking a winner in the second half after it was all-square at half-time, with Rafael van der Vaart having cancelled out Louis Saha's early strike.

Harry Redknapp made two changes to the team that beat Fulham on New Year's Day with Jermaine Jenas in for Wilson Palacios and Peter Crouch getting the nod up front. Palacios joined Roman Pavlyuchenko on the bench and Alan Hutton overcame a foot injury to start.

Just three minutes were on the clock when a lively home crowd were able to go into celebratory mode. Saha picked up the ball in a central area around 20-odd yards out and opted to try his luck with considerable success. The French striker struck low and drilled beyond the reach of the right hand of Heurelho Gomes and into the net.

Van der Vaart then got on the run and attempted and audacious lob from distance that had Tim Howard scurrying, but on 11 minutes the home crowd were silenced.

Luka Modric stylishly worked the ball out to Hutton on the right, who dispatched a measured cross onto the head of Peter Crouch. The striker, as on a number of occasions already this season, nodded into the path of the advancing van der Vaart and the ball was soon nestling in the back of the Everton net following a precise header.

Everton could have snatched the lead again when the impressive Saha backheeled in the direction of Jermaine Beckford, who was in on goal, but could not keep his effort down.

The game then became a little scruffy with little pattern as the half-time neared, neither side establishing much authority or composure in their play, with the goalkeepers unemployed for a period.

Van der Vaart went for the audacious again with a spectacular volley that flew not too far over the bar, before Crouch had the ball in the net but had drifted into an offside position awaiting a Gareth Bale cross. Van der Vaart then flashed a free-kick just over in first half stoppage time.

After the break Seamus Coleman burst into the area after a clever knock-on from Saha, with Gomes coming to the rescue by smothering the shot of the young full-back.

Bale was withdrawn on 58 minutes and replaced by Niko Kranjcar, the Welshman having sustained a number of knocks as well as having completed a relentless fixture schedule.

Van der Vaart forced Howard into a smart save after evading the attentions of Sylvain Distin, before a Saha volley at the other end had the locals gasping.

Gomes did brilliantly to foil a low Coleman cross as Everton stepped up a gear, later dropping to thwart the striker again after he was teed up by Pienaar.

Modric injected his poise into the game on 72 minutes and centred into the feet of van der Vaart in front of goal - Howard having to produce a reaction save to deny him a second of the night. Howard moments later tipped over a thumping drive from Crouch.

Everton then took the lead on the counter attack when Saha sped through and unleashed a fierce drive that Gomes parried away, but Coleman was first to latch onto the rebound and planted the ball into the net with a diving header.

Robbie Keane was added to the mix with 10 minutes left on the clock in place of Aaron Lennon, but it was Yakubu who had the best chance to settle it, the substitute thankfully fluffing his lines when confronted by Michael Dawson and Gomes in the area.

Everton (4-4-2): Howard; Neville, Distin, Heitinga, Baines; Coleman, Arteta, Fellaini, Pienaar (Osman 86); Saha (Rodwell 88), Beckford (Yakubu 77). Unused: Mucha, Hibbert, Bilyaletdinov, Anichebe.

Spurs (4-4-1-1): Gomes; Hutton, Dawson, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon (Keane 80), Modric, Jenas, Bale (Kranjcar 58); Van der Vaart; Crouch.

Goals: Everton - Saha 3, Coleman 75. Spurs - Van der Vaart 11.

Attendance: 34,124

Referee: Mr L Probert.