Everton 2- 0 Sunderland
As we parked a bit further down the road than we usually do we snaked up a different street towards Goodison Park and stumbled upon a little pub called The Medlock Hotel. We weren't going to go in and were instead going to abide in our more familiar surroundings on County Road, however, we changed our minds last minute and headed in. It proved to be a stellar choice. It's nice and friendly in there and doesn't get as packed as the pubs on County Road. We settled in there for a while until the time came to move on to Goodison Park.
The team remained unchanged from the bore draw at Middlesbrough prior to the enforced break. The fun quiz in the pub prior to the game was to guess how many ex-Everton players would feature in the Sunderland line-up, the answer of which turned out to be the two most recently departed – Darron Gibson and Bryan Oviedo. Joleon Lescott suffered the boos from the substitutes bench for probably one last time. It was heart warming to see Jermaine Defoe carry Bradley Lowery onto the pitch before the game. You have to feel for the poor kid and his family.
Sunderland were well backed by a noisy support but began the game woefully, Everton forcing five corners in the first four minutes - all of which were wasted. Once they did settle however they became as you thought they might - well drilled defensively and tough to break down. The wind played a factor in what was largely dross in the first half. Idrissa Gana Gueye did very well to motor into the penalty area and almost nutmeg Jordan Pickford, but otherwise, it didn't seem as though a breakthrough was forthcoming before half time.
That was until Tom Davies, perhaps accidentally, released Seamus Coleman down the right a fraction too late. He bombed down the flank and pulled a good ball back for Idrissa Gana Gueye who took aim and smashed the ball powerfully past Jordan Pickford. Given his poor, or none existent, record in front of goal in his short Everton career you'd have been forgiven for ducking for cover as he shaped to shoot, but credit to him for such a good hit.
Looking at the goal again and Darron Gibson may just rue not sliding to take the ball away from Gueye. He was just a fraction away from it with his outstretched boot and a slide definitely would have got to the ball. He had a good game did Darron. I hope Sunderland are able to get him fit on a consistent basis as he's a fine footballer and it would be a shame for that talent to go to waste. At 29 years old, it's not too late for him. Yet.
From what looked to be a stalemate we were ahead and Tom Davies was then unlucky not to double our lead with a speculative half volley which cannoned away off the outside of the post. A great effort from our exciting young gem.
At the break Tommy Wright received a standing ovation from the crowd as he was formally introduced into the Everton hall of fame. Elsewhere young Bradley Lowery stole the show with a series of high fives with supporters in the Family Enclosure and Park End. On the pitch it was nice to see Bryan Oviedo, Kevin Mirallas and Enner Valencia embrace as the players prepared to restart.
The blustery conditions continued to wreak havoc on the pitch and the game couldn't really settle. It was painful viewing at times. Romelu Lukaku forced Jordan Pickford into a decent save as he drove at goal with his right foot and we had survived a couple of handball shouts, one of which perhaps could have been given, but the real flashpoint came on around 78 minutes when Gibson, perhaps illegitimately, robbed Morgan Schneiderlin and Sunderland's break was one. Adnan Januzaj fed Jermaine Defoe who cut inside and thrashed the ball past Joel Robles, and was ever so unlucky to see the ball cannon down off the underside of the crossbar and away.
Rough luck on Sunderland and less than two minutes later things got a lot worse for them when Bryan Oviedo's botched pass was picked up by Kevin Mirrallas. Oviedo realised the gravity of his mistake instantly and sprinted back but it was too late. Mirallas played through his compatriot Romelu Lukaku, and once Romelu is away, he seldom gets caught. Fair play to Oviedo, he did his best to recover and was unlucky to see his attempted block bobble up and into the goal. Our ex-Costa Rican was flat out, gutted, on the floor for some time following the goal. Meanwhile, Romelu went to the substitutes bench to share his celebration with Duncan Ferguson – the significance being that the goal had equalled Duncan Ferguson's Everton record of 60 Premier League goals.
That was Sunderland spent. They couldn't lift themselves from this and substitute Enner Valencia almost flattered us with a third before the full-time whistle, but was denied by Jordan Pickford. Full time followed, off we trudged.
Nine games unbeaten in the Premier League then. We've quite the test to make that 10 games unbeaten next weekend.
Robles: He had little to do throughout, but six clean sheets in the nine league games during our unbeaten run tells its own story. 6
Baines: Did well. His usual consistent self. 7
Williams: He kept Jermaine Defoe in check in the main. One of his more impressive performances for us yet. 7
Funes Mori: There's always a question mark for me and I just can't let myself be convinced by him somehow. He was culpable prior to Jermaine Defoe hitting the underside of the crossbar, as he gave Morgan Schneiderlin a very loose pass but we got away with it. Conversely, six clean sheets out of nine would suggest our defence must be doing something right. 6
Coleman: Had a good game, complimented by a good assist. 7
Gueye: I thought he was a bit off colour at Middlesbrough and reckoned he might have been left out of this one. He wasn't, and it was just as well as he performed very well and will be delighted with his excellent first goal for the club. Well done Idrissa. 8
Schneiderlin: I can seldom recall too many players who have come in and hit the ground running so spectacularly. Maybe Nikica Jelavic did so but he didn't sustain it. Morgan impresses me eminently. He's a leader, a fighter, tough in the tackle and with quality on the ball. He seems to have been accepted pretty quickly by his teammates. Basically, he is the midfield general we haven't had for as long as I can remember. He's captain material. He's a star and he's going to be a big player for us for a good few years to come. My man of the match. 8
Davies: I thought he had a fairly quiet game, but when I caught up with a couple of mates who'd watch the match on TV they felt he had an excellent game so it shows what I know! 6
Barkley: Not his most effective game but he did okay. 6
Lookman: Not at the races today but you'll get this with young players. You have to let them learn. 4
Lukaku: Wasn't in sparkling form but he did a decent job of occupying the centre-backs and he scored another goal so you've got to be pleased with his contribution. 17 Premier League goals for Romelu now this season and he's joint top of the goal charts. It would be great to have the Premier League's top goalscorer wearing an Everton shirt. 7
Mirallas (for Lookman): Had a decent impact on the game and set up the second goal. 6
Valencia (for Davies): Did OK. Perhaps should have scored near the end. 6
McCarthy (for Barkley): Brought on to help see the game out. 6
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