Wey, we’ve only gone and beaten Everton away. Perhaps we didn’t do it with much panache and we certainly rode our luck throughout the second half – but for once this ride on the fickle lady didn’t end before full time. A win made even more gargantuan by Palace and Fulham’s irritating away victories, but we are just three points away from safety.
It seemed an uphill task early in the first half, a new centre back pairing in Modibo Diakite and Valentin Roberge were working hard to repel early dominance from the hosts. Our midfield looked lightweight yet continued to press hard to try and fend off the Toffees and it was this pressing which led to the deciding moment in the game.
A simple, short goal kick was played to Leon Osman, who tried to collect the ball whilst turning swiftly only leaving himself off balance as he failed to control the easy pass. Ki Sung-Yeung was right behind Osman to steal the ball in opportunist fashion before showcasing his very evident composure, rounding Tim Howard. The Everton keeper’s desperate lung just clipped Ki – penalty correctly given, which the South Korean duly dispatched after Howard received a red card for the foul. Amateurs. One up, a man to the good, Sunderland were in control and from nowhere.
The first half played out rather pleasingly, with the Toffees struggling to cope with their man disadvantage despite not ever seeming out of the contest. Ki was instrumental in that dominant spell – 100% pass completion for the whole match if you didn’t already know, incredible. It was a case of Deja-vu for us though as Ondrej Celustka, Seb Larsson and perhaps more than those Diakite (early in the second half) were all guilty of missing glorious opportunities.
This inability to kill the match reinvigorated Everton who took complete control of the second half, despite their man disadvantage. Make of that what you will, seeing as this is on the back of a huge victory I am inclined to put that down to the Blues’ class more so than our lack of it. We couldn’t handle their wing play as our fullbacks were often left exposed or players drawn out of position to repel that, which made it difficult for us to keep possession
It was agonising to watch, but step forward Vito Mannone. The Italian who was ridiculed by many in and outside of Wearside when arriving in the summer, proved once more what a revelation he is. Okay, he isn’t Simon Mignolet, but more than capable of filling his boots. Excellent save after excellent save as we just couldn’t keep the home side away from our goal. He commanded the area superbly and it really is tough to describe it as anything else but a match winning, flawless goalkeeping performance. There is fight left in these cats yet.
What They Said:
"Many people have asked what I wanted for Christmas – I was very clear, three points would be the best present for me!"
"You never know what is going to happen in football, you have to be organised and take advantage of mistakes and we did that today.
"It was very hard work - even up against 10 men, Everton were very tough to play against. We need to take this result and do something similar on Saturday."
"It's the law of the game. It's a clear opportunity to score and that's a red card. That's probably something to debate, if that rule could be changed or not - it's a double punishment, losing a player and giving away a penalty - but we've got no complaints about it. We made a wrong decision, and it cost us."
"But I thought the second-half performance was exactly what we needed. The scoreline doesn't reflect what happened in the game, but today I'm happier probably than on other days when we won because we learned a lot from our squad and internally, and that's going to help us for the future."