Everton 2- 0 Sunderland
Another home game, another victory. Goodison Park is becoming a fortress again after last season’s miserable record on home turf.
This may have not have been the most pulse-racing of the games that the faithful have witnessed in the League so far this calendar year but it was, nevertheless, a solid home win secured on the back of another clean sheet — admittedly, by a matter of inches!
It was notable, too, for landmarks achieved by Romelu Lukaku and Leighton Baines, the former drawing level with Duncan Ferguson on 60 Premier League goals for Everton and the latter making his 300th appearance for the Blues in that competition.
As a performance, however, it was gloriously illustrative of the mouth-watering midfield options that are now open to Koeman following the arrival of Morgan Schneiderlin to add to last summer’s acquisition of Idrissa Gueye.
The Senegalese midfielder had been criticised by his manager for his somewhat rusty display at Middlesbrough a fortnight ago, his first since returning from Africa Cup of Nations duty, but he was back to his brilliant best this afternoon and capped a fine individual showing with his first goal.
While that personal achievement and that of Lukaku grabbed the headlines, it says something of Schneiderlin that the Frenchman was arguably the man of the match. The January recruit was simply majestic in Everton’s midfield, equal parts conductor, metronome and joint enforcer as he stroked the ball across midfield and tackled anything within proximity to regularly thwart David Moyes’s struggling Sunderland side’s forays forward.
Certainly, watching him ooze class and run the game from the centre of the park, it was hard to imagine how he was only granted 11 minutes of Premier League action under Jose Mourinho before the Portuguese sanctioned his sale last month. Evertonians are already thanking their lucky stars that he was unable to see what Koeman clearly did during the one season they spent together at Southampton in 2014-15.
It was Schneiderlin’s near faultless performance that allowed the likes of Tom Davies and Ross Barkley to provide the attacking drive that helped establish a vice-like grip on the match for the first half an hour. It might also have helped usher a bit more balance to the Blues going forward, as both Gueye and Baines appeared to be given greater license to push up on the left side than has been the case for much of a season characterised by a bias towards the right flank and Seamus Coleman.
In the first telling instance, it was Baines who picked out Ademola Lookman with a low cross in the sixth minute that the 19-year-old almost side-footed home via Jordan Pickford’s inability to hold it but the Sunderland ‘keeper was able to pounce before the ball spun over the goal line.
Gueye’s greater sense of adventure then saw him pop up near the byline in the 20th minute where he tried to fire through goalkeeper’s legs but Pickford slammed the door well at his near post.
Despite some nice passing moves and their clear territorial superiority that offset some highly disappointing deliveries from set-pieces, Everton then lost their impetus a bit as Moyes’s outfit began to ask a few more questions of their hosts’ back line. But apart from Fabio Borini’s wayward effort and a couple of free kicks in dangerous areas, the Black Cats lacked teeth.
Instead it was Everton who belatedly found their cutting edge to establish a lead heading towards half time. Davies raked a beautiful ball into plenty of space for Coleman to retrieve and his cut-back met the run of the onrushing Gueye who swept a controlled side-foot shot past Pickford to open the scoring.
Davies almost padded the lead with a sumptuous effort that arced off the outside of his boot but while the curl took the ball away from the ‘keeper’s dive, it also steered it onto the post and then away to safety from the away side’s perspective.
Though it had been set up for Everton to add to their tally and put Sunderland to the sword, the second period was, for the most part, a disappointing affair in which Koeman’s men took almost 15 minutes to really get going again. In that time, the visitors enjoyed perhaps their best spell and had penalty claims for a handball by the otherwise excellent Ashley Williams waved away by referee Stuart Atwell, saw a Jermaine Defoe shot blocked and avoided trouble when Billy Jones’s header dropped wide of the post from a corner.
Sensing that a change was needed, Koeman withdrew Lookman in favour of Kevin Mirallas — very little had come off for the young winger on the day but what a luxury to be able to give him valuable time to adjust and grow with plenty of first-team minutes — and the Belgian screwed a shot a yard or so wide soon afterwards.
The first chance to put the game to bed was spurned by Barkley when he made a mess of Coleman’s whipped cross in the 73rd minute while Pickford beat away a powerful shot from Lukaku as Everton began to exert some pressure but the pivotal couple of minutes in the match began 12 minutes from the end of the regulation 90.
Referee Atwell ignored what looked to be a foul on Schneiderlin in midfield, Sunderland quickly worked it to Defoe in the box and he rattled a deflected snapshot off the crossbar, one that bounced heart-stoppingly close to the line before Coleman headed the resulting hooked ball back in behind for a corner.
From that set piece, the ball fell to Mirallas just outside his own area and almost instinctively he pinged the ball down the channel for Lukaku to race onto and, with former team-mate Bryan Oviedo in virtually vain pursuit he tore towards goal and found the net via the Costa Rican’s legs to make it 2-0.
Lukaku looked to have laid on goal number three for substitute Enner Valencia in the 87th minute but Pickford came out the victor in a one-on-one duel with the Ecuadorian.
The top six clubs remain, for now, elusive but there are very encouraging signs that Koeman is getting his arms around his Everton “project” and that even if his team aren’t able to catch those above them, the building blocks of a serious tilt at the top four next season continue to be laid in preparation.
An unbeaten start to 2017 in the Premier League, including four successive home wins, and nine games without defeat stretching back to Boxing Day is indicative of that, as was the fairly routine nature of this victory over a team that will do well to beat the drop this time.
Tougher tests await Everton — their next three away games take them to White Hart Lane, Anfield and Old Trafford, while the visit of West Bromwich Albion, the tail in eighth place that the Blues just can’t seem to shake, won’t be an easy proposition at Goodison on 11th March — but they seem to be settling into an encouraging pattern of strong defending, increasing assuredness in possession, and moments of attacking brilliance that could be the platform for great things.
Reader Comments (29)
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1 Posted 26/02/2017 at 06:44:30
Having watched it several times, I am highly suspicious that Davies's "beautiful" ball was in fact intended for Lukaku and accidentally (and fortunately) tailed away into the path of Coleman. I'm also unconvinced that Coleman was trying to pick out Gueye... I think his true target may also have been Lukaku. But the goal was so lovely, why quibble?
Finally, credit to Gueye for starting the second goal with a fine tackle and a quick interception... and even a bit of credit for our old friend Oviedo, who maintained pace with Lukaku stride-for-stride and in fact got his tackle in cleanly in front of him, only to deflect the ball in.
2 Posted 26/02/2017 at 08:26:59
I thought Lookman looked a bit short of confidence . However pleased with the win and the clean sheet.
This game also reinforced my view that Valencia is never going to cut it. I'm glad it was West Ham and not us that paid £13m for him.
3 Posted 26/02/2017 at 09:00:04
4 Posted 26/02/2017 at 09:10:26
Yesterday he was mopping up and creating and is extremely versatile. I'll settle for 100/1 for him to achieve the achievable!
5 Posted 26/02/2017 at 09:27:18
I'd start with Mirallas and rest Lookman for this one and use him as a sub for the last 20 minutes. Spurs is massive a point would be great and a win fantastic.
6 Posted 26/02/2017 at 11:09:02
This is the way to progress nothing less than 90 minutes of power, passion, energy and commitment will be accepted... love it!!
7 Posted 26/02/2017 at 11:16:37
We are no longer a soft touch at Goodison and we can now play below our best at home and win.
8 Posted 26/02/2017 at 14:05:20
This obviously won't happen in every game, but it's good to have that dimension to change things, should the situation allow.
I'd be over the moon next week if we can perform well against Spurs, and even nick a win; that's like taking 3 points off them and bolstering our own European place target.
9 Posted 26/02/2017 at 14:12:27
Don't hurt yourself reaching around to pat yourself on the back. Funny, you wait until he finally scores a goal to mention your prediction rather than after a couple of his average or worse performances. You don't have to look too far back for those by the way.
He is thus far a very good player on a limited view. He may even be one of our top players at the moment, but the best ever? I think that may be the source of the past ridicule. He has appeared some 23 times for Everton. Shall we wait a little while before erecting the monument or naming a stand after him?
10 Posted 26/02/2017 at 14:19:07
11 Posted 26/02/2017 at 15:17:32
As some posters' thoughts have already turned towards next Sunday's game, like Seamus, I'm watching the Spurs game... Even allowing for a piss-poor Stoke 1st half, next week's game will be a tad harder than v Sunderland.
I'd like to see Lookman replaced by either Holgate and go with 3 at the back, or keep the flat back 4 and put McCarthy in. Some people may say that there's too many central midfielders and that they'll get in the way of each other, but what they demonstrated yesterday is how fluid they were, and we would have energy all over the park.
It will be interesting how Lukaku does with probably the best pair of centre-backs in the Premier League. If we get something from WHL, we're onto something.
12 Posted 26/02/2017 at 15:34:33
How on earth he managed just 11 minutes for Mourinho mystifies me.
However their loss is our gain.
13 Posted 26/02/2017 at 15:57:19
I made a prediction and stated it a couple of months ago, simply based on his performances Vis a vis his teammates, who were turning out nightmares. His goal was no surprise.
I have been supporting EFC now for 50 years. And in the last 20 years there has only been (IMO), Rooney and Arxeta that could have achieved that success.
As I said, my statement is only an opinion or a hunch. People often feel the need to state or back their hunch. Stranger things have happened...
What odds would you have got on Shergar getting Kidnapped, Leicester winning the title, Ranieri getting sacked 6 months into the season (especially 2 weeks after getting the boards undying loyalty statement of support!?
A black president of the USA? A billionaire reality TV contestant becoming president? Nick Lesson becoming Manager of Galway United?
14 Posted 26/02/2017 at 20:09:11
Main facts: Everton all time top league goal scorer is Dixie Dean with 349 goals (Young second on 113 and Sharpe third with 111). Ferguson and Lukaku, with their 60 goals a piece, don't even make the clubs top 10 (yet) – for which Lukaku will need 84 (which he will likely make if he stays for another season or two – which is a big IF at the moment).
Both Ferguson and Lukaku are joint 32nd on the all-time list btw – a long long way for Rom still to go!
It's like Sky are constantly trying to wipe out all pre-1992 football history with the whole 'x stat in the Premier League era'. Very disrespectful imho to the thousands of top flight pros who played over the last 150 odd years!
Don't get me wrong, 60 league goals in 3.5 seasons is a great achievement by Lukaku but it hardly puts him at Everton legend status yet.
15 Posted 26/02/2017 at 21:32:32
Maybe it's our system or maybe it is our players, but when Rom works hard and gets hold of the ball, we do look like a lot better team.
16 Posted 26/02/2017 at 22:26:08
Surely a nondescript outfit as the Black Cats should have been taken apart in an exercise to improve our goal analysis, with perhaps 3 or 4 or 5 goals scored???
To comment that our 2nd half performance was disappointing was obvious to allthe 30,000+ supporters but it should have been remedied by him (IMO), at the half-time "chat", with some faster build-up play, more forward commitment... and goals scored!!!
17 Posted 26/02/2017 at 22:53:33
Totally agree about Mirallas and Lookman. Had exactly the same thought after the game, including the 20 minutes.
A note about Davies. Goes quiet at times but he's the one player in the middle who can suddenly pull out a match-winning pass or move. He's done it three or four times now. Great vision.
18 Posted 26/02/2017 at 23:06:22
19 Posted 26/02/2017 at 23:09:44
20 Posted 27/02/2017 at 01:09:58
He absolutely has room to improve, but to come off of a game where Koeman rightly said he underperformed, to get a very good goal and play so well in the middle of the park, that's a fantastic response.
The thing I think we have to hope is, other than continue to win matches and finish as high up the table as possible this season, is that a couple of our players make big strides next season. In Lookman, I think we need to hope we have a player like a Sterling or Hazard. We need him to progress into a player who is quick, dangerous with the ball at his feet, and provides goals.
We need Davies to continue to progress as the box-to-box midfielder that Koeman seems to believe he is. He's been given the free role, to get forward but also get back in support. He's not afraid of the moment, that's for sure. If he continues to progress into next season with Gana and Schneiderlin behind him, very good for us.
Then we absolutely must keep Lukaku. He's a fantastic goal scorer who has made a big step forward this season. He was slammed for his hold-up play in past seasons. He's done quite well this year. He wins aerial challenges.
He can bulldoze through a defender when given the chance and we can all see how many goals he scores. It should never be taken for granted, he's a star. And if we can have him and Barkley up top, along with Lookman if he progresses into a Sterling type player, we have something very special at this club.
There is no reason for us to have to sell. If a massive club comes in for Lukaku I know what the result will be. But if we can get one more season with the strength that we've built, and a few real quality additions, we should be aiming for the top next season.
And I truly believe that, aim for the top. It wouldn't be a Leicester type miracle. If we come up short, we could live with it. But we have something growing here that if we do it right, add the right pieces while keeping the ones we have, and get a few of the young stars to progress the way they need to, we could be on the cusp of finally getting out of this almost 30-year funk of just existing. And we as supporters must be pushing for exactly that.
21 Posted 27/02/2017 at 03:08:08
"The ball fell to Mirallas just outside his own area and almost instinctively he pinged the ball down the channel for Lukaku to race onto."
I noticed that also. In my view, Mirallas knew exactly where his team mate was before he received the ball and despatched it straight away a beautiful pass. What is more, that is the second time in our last two home games Mirallas has done that. Well done, Kev.
Also Mike Gaynes ( #1) good shout on Oviedo sticking with Lukaku all the way into the penalty box and getting in his tackle. He was very unlucky to see it bounce off him into the net (I'm not complaining). He certainly did a much better job than Wes Morgan did against Lukaku in exactly the same circumstances some weeks ago.
Good footballer, Brian Oviedo.
22 Posted 27/02/2017 at 11:36:12
Surely he means Kante is the nearest thing he has seen to Idrissa Gueye.
23 Posted 27/02/2017 at 12:39:22
"Raiola has previously claimed the deal is 99.9% done, and appeared on TalkSport earlier this morning to confirm that remains the case. Asked if Lukaku still intends to sign the deal, he said: 'Yes' and then when pressed further about whether it is done, he added: “99.99999999%!"
Not sure what Raiola (who really does look a picture of sweaty grasping meffness - Link ) meant by that, but that percentage suggests the pen ran out of ink at ROMELU LUKAK
24 Posted 27/02/2017 at 12:39:40
I have kept saying on here that you have to buy better players than you already have to keep on improving.
Morgan is a classic example.
25 Posted 27/02/2017 at 12:57:27
Dixie who? Never heard of him. Ah but that Peter Crouch is some player though isn't he. 100 Premier League goals. If only we'd had a player like that in the 80s hey Imagine what a wannabe team like Everton could have achieved.
26 Posted 27/02/2017 at 13:33:53
We are Everton and we are coming to get you ! !
27 Posted 27/02/2017 at 16:58:07
I'm looking at our manager in his press confernces and thinking "Bloody hell! That was undiluted!"
I see this feller called "Ross Barkley", same jersey as a lad we had last season similar name, just different class.
I see this scraggly blonde haired teenager turning defence into searing attacks.
I see this big 'keeper... ordering his defence into place, taking responsibilty and keeping the sheets clean.
I see an unsung hero who is (always) there faster than Clark Kent can emerge from a phonebox, intercepts and then move the ball ALWAYS to a teammate.
I see this unsung hero who (apparently) never scores then he scores a goal with such ease... a considered touch.
I see this unsung hero celebrate scoring with some crap, choreographed, ball-ache embarassment. No, he hugged the assistant manager.
I see a defensive midfielder, move the ball with comfort to any of his midfield colleagues or rampaging wingbacks.
I see a striker who can run 60 yards and put the keeper on the deck and rip the onion bag.
Still feels like Everton, to me, but in me guts I'm still pit pony.... Blinking.... Blinking at the prospect of light.
Don't send me back into that damp, miserable, filthy place.
Where Davey MacMisery trades dignity for obediance.
The place where 'hope' is a dirty word.
I see change and I hope.
I just need a bit of time to catch up.
28 Posted 27/02/2017 at 23:57:19
They will be coming to Goodison to keep things tight and then throw the kitchen sink at us on set pieces. Robles, Williams and Funes Mori had better bring their A game that day!
29 Posted 28/02/2017 at 19:10:55
Strangely I thought eventually it would be Gana that picked the ball up off the back 4.
But I can see good sense in Scheiderlin being there. Splitting the CBs and his range of passing is good. Never looks hurried, it releases Gana to rampage about the pitch.
The Frenchman is now, even in a short space of time, the first name down, clearly the leader in the side, without a doubt looks a good shout for captain next term.
Koeman gets a pat on the back for his hissy fit in January about this one.
Proper player, this fella.
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