Everton v Sunderland

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FA Carling Premiership 96/97 - Game 15
Saturday 30 November 1996; Goodison Park, Merseyside

Result: Everton (0) 1 - Sunderland (0) 3
Ferguson(64); Russell(54), Bridges(74, 87) (Stuart missed a penalty).

Everton: Southall; Barrett, Watson, Unsworth, Hinchcliffe (80 Short); Kanchelskis (Branch, 62), Parkinson, Grant (Ferguson, 52), Speed; Stuart, Barmby.
Booked: Grant.
Subs Not Used: Gerrard, Hottiger.. Unavailable: Rideout (injured), Ebbrell (recovering), Jackson (on loan)

Sunderland: Perez, Hall, Ball, Scott, Melville, Kubicki, Bracewell, Smith (Gray, 76), Russell (Bridges, 70), Rae (Agnew, 82), Kelly.
Subs Not Used: Preece, Aiston. Booked: Bracewell, Ball, Gray.

Ref: P Jones Att: 40, 087 League Position: 8th Results and League Table

Previous Match: Leicester City v Everton -- Next Match: Chelsea v Everton

Match Summary

SoccerNet (Tony Lanigan, Mail on Sunday): Young Michael Bridges came off the bench to produce the shock victory of the day for Sunderland. The lanky 18-year-old, dubbed a future Alan Shearer by Jack Hixon, the man who discovered them both, scored twice in the closing stages to inflict a shock defeat on Everton who were beginning to believe they were realistic title contenders.

Bridges had been on the pitch only three minutes when he headed his first over the scrambling Neville Southall to make it 2-1 and as Everton committed themselves forward in search of an equaliser Sunderland broke clear. After Southall had made two brilliant stops, the ball fell to Bridges and he made no mistake.

The three points were no more than Peter Reid's side deserved as they tore into Everton from the first whistle and totally knocked them out of their stride. Joe Royle's men were unrecognisable from the side that trounced Southampton 7-1 in their last home game and struggled to find any momentum. They could have been two goals behind at the break but then had the chance to take the lead. Graham Stuart, however, missed the penalty he had won and then Everton fell behind when their defence was all over the place in the 54th minute.

Craig Russell's downward header gave Southall no chance for Sunderland's first away goal since August. But their joy was short-lived as Duncan Ferguson, just on as a substitute, produced a stunning header for the equaliser. Most of the 40,000 must have thought that Everton would go on and win it as probably the home banker of the day. But Sunderland continued to show the greater will to win the game and got their reward.

Martin Smith started the move, former Everton favourite Paul Bracewell carried it on, and Bridges nodded the ball high into the far corner of the net as Everton's defence scrambled in despair. Their misery was not complete, as Reid's three substitutes combined to seal the victory with just three minutes left.

Steve Agnew broke clear, but Southall came out to block his shot. The ball rebounded to Michael Gray - but again the goalkeeper parried his effort brilliantly before Bridges followed up to hammer the ball high into the empty net. The away goal that had eluded Sunderland for so long should really have come much earlier as the visitors, with a tenacious five-man midfield, took a tight grip on the game early on and created the best chances of the first half.

Alex Rae got clear, but was foiled by Southall. The ball rebounded to Kevin Ball and the Sunderland skipper appeared to have scored as the ball went under the keeper's body. Enough sting, though, was taken out of it for Southall to scramble back and grab the ball before it crossed the line.

Everton were creating little and their only real chance of the half came when Nick Barmby robbed Andy Melville in the box only for Ball to clear. But they then got the penalty award seconds after the break when Scott tripped Stuart. But Lionel Perez, impressive throughout, saved the striker's spot kick.

Hands on heads all round

Guy McEvoy: Messrs. Reid and Bracewell have been architects of many a famous victory at Goodison, this though is one that we could well have done without.

Joe took the brave decision that contribution on the pitch and not reputation should pick the team and so, baring in mind performances at Leicester, Ferguson started the game on the bench, the team chosen being that which demolished Southampton -- Andrei now back from that bug.

First Half

The game started off much as the recent Liverpool game had. A battle for the dominance of midfield with both teams closing down fast trying to ensure the other couldn't play ball. Out of the early melee it was Sunderland who had the more convincing chances, a wide shot from Bracewell and then a good save from Southall.

Everton's first moment of real promise came when Tony Grant showed off his twinkle toes. He danced his way through all in the Sunderland box but the square ball he played just didn't quite have the legs to stop it being cut out. After this though the attention paid to Tony all got a little too close. He received brutal tackle after brutal tackle. Of course when he finally managed a less than honest challenge himself the referee suddenly found his book.

After that we were perhaps unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when Barmby was apparently brought down in the box but even unluckier when from the consolation corner Speed had a header cleared from the line (by guess who? Bracewell!).

Still, the fact that Southall had been well tested during the half meant that the draw at half time looked fair.

Second Half

No sooner had the game re-started than Everton had a real chance to take the lead. Stuart was held in the box and the referee showed no hesitation is pointing to the spot. Graham stepped forward sent the ball low and to the left with the side of his foot, whilst Perez dived low to his left. The resulting parry bobbled kindly to Parkinson but his header went inches wide. Hands on heads all round.

After the game settled back into something of a stalemate, Joe took a gamble. He stuck on Duncan in place of Tony Grant who, for all his harassment, had still given Everton what shape they had. No sooner had he done this than it all went wrong. A good Sunderland move picked up a goal, the players running to their travelling fans and diving along the floor (what wasn't picked up by the cameras was the player whose shorts came off during this celebration). Bad was nearly worse when, minutes later, a clean Sunderland break required Neville to find just enough of a palm to get it onto the post. It could all so easily have been over there and then.

Everton though were not quite ready to give up yet. Kanchelskis made way for Branch whose first contribution was to pick the ball up in the box and find a powerful shot just deflected against the cross bar. Quickly after this we were back on level terms when Barmby crossed in and a head rose high above all others to thunder the ball home. The goal had Duncan Ferguson written all over it. He's had a rough season so far and boy, could you tell he enjoyed that one.

Football can be cruel though; no sooner had we all started again thinking about the possibility of 3 points than Sunderland cruelly snatched a second. The cross in was nothing special, the head was lucky and aimless, but the angle of the ball meant it just donkey-dropped over a helpless Southall. Gutter.

Everton rolled everyone forward now. Craig Short came on for Hinchcliffe, but all other efforts were fruitless,. The danger when you go for broke is that they'll hit you on the break and this is just what happened. The fresh legs of the three Sunderland substitutes all combined well and, despite two fine saves by Nev, were able to react first to knock the ball in. Over and out.

One word of praise has to be held for the man of the match -- Sunderland's keeper Perez. He was sensational, kept hold of everything that came his way. Hinchcliffes corners were all teasers but he just was not phased, the penalty save could hardly be taken for granted either.

You know, Everton certainly didn't play terribly in this game, (we weren't sharp, but we weren't terrible), it was a game that demanded a lot of spirit and in the end Sunderland showed more of it. It all went pear shaped when we changed formation bringing Grant off, but that move was understandable as Joe wanted to chase for the three points. Sometimes you roll the dice and your numbers just don't come in. Still, first defeat in eight -- let's not go all Man Utd and declare a crisis: footy is an unpredictable game and these set-backs happen.

Individual Performances

Depressed? You bet, -- got the flu, too. Don't write them off yet though.

Back down to earth with a bump

Robbie Newton: Today's performance showed the reality, and also proved that we all got carried away (or at least I did) with the last three performances. Again, as against Liverpool and at times against Leicester, we looked toothless up front.

I'm not going to ramble on about the game, except to say it was hugely disappointing -- and on the cards -- and that it was our worst home performance since ... West Ham. Why is our home form, generally, so poor? Why do we not seem capable of playing good football at Goodison (excluding Southampton, of course)?

There's no denying we've made progress in the past two years, but progress still needs to be made. I listened to the Footy phone in on Radio Merseyside and had to agree with one caller, Neil I think, from Wallasey. He stated that we're not going to win the league with Graham Stuart and Earl Barrett playing in the team. They've both played well recently -- but most players do when confidence is on a high.

Neil also went on to say we are still three players short -- a defender, a midfielder who can dribble past players (Grant can do this, but not consistently), and a striker who can stick the ball away. I agree. I don't think we should get carried away by today's result - we just didn't have the run of the ball - but on the other hand, we shouldn't just dismiss it as a one-off again.

Anyway, on to the player ratings:

Something that pissed me off was the Gwladys Street singing for Ferguson two minutes into the second half. That must put Graham Stuart's confidence right down. It's time this obssession with Ferguson stopped. OK, we were lacking up-front, but you have to try and get behind the players on the field, not the one's off it.

Speaking about getting behind the players ... we should get behind the team as a whole for a start! Sunderland totally out-sung us today, as did a few other teams supporter's who've played at Goodison this season. Goodison will never be a fortress unless the crowd get behind the team a bit more.

Sunderland were the better side on the day and fully deserved their three points. They had the run of the ball -- it was quite clearly not going to go our way with the amount of luck they had early on ... then Stuart's penalty miss etc.etc. Mind you, their keeper Lionel Perez was Absolutey Fabulous! Did anyone else have the feeling when Stuart stepped up that he'd miss? I just had a gut feeling that it'd happen. Who'll take them now?

Not all Gloom and Doom

Gordon Baxter: It was nice to see Paul Bracewell get such a good ovation when the teams were announced immediately before the kick off.

We lost the game in midfield, because they hustled us out of it. Parkinson looked out of his depth, because after he'd won the ball, he isn't good enough to distribute it quickly and accurately. I think he needs a rest. Having said that, I don't think anyone played particularly well, and the crowd didn't help. I remember the mid-80's when it wasn't a worry when we went a goal down, because I knew we'd still win. At the moment when we lose a goal people go mental and start screaming at anyone who makes a mistake. Worse than that they start wanting us to lump the ball forward all the time.

We had problems playing the ball through their midfield - Grant should have been given more of it, and Barmby couldn't provide the link between attack and midfield because we could never find him with passes. Having said that Barmby did well in the first half, but seemed to disappear in the second.

In every cloud there's a silver lining... we had two shots blocked on the line, we had a penalty saved, and hit the bar, so it wasn't all doom and gloom.

Barrett was probably best player again, despite what Robbie said. I was in line with the wing in the first half, he defended well, got forward well, and got crosses in. Hinchcliffe was possibly the worst. We had plenty of corners, but did little or nothing with them, and he was beaten, or out of position for too long in the second half, so it was no surprise when he was taken off.

I think we probably had more of the ball, and certainly did more attacking in the last quarter than they did (I'm struggling to remember the corner count but we were way ahead, and I can't remember them having more than one or two).

Our biggest failing is that we still don't convert pressure into goals, and we don't get enough goals from corners.

Reid exposes flaws

Dave Shepherd: It was a 40,000-crowd day on the back of an 8-game unbeaten run. It was a home-game formality against low-table whipping boys. It was an inevitable accident waiting to happen.

Peter Reid probably knows more about Everton FC than any other Premier manager (possibly even Joe Royle), and simply beat Everton at their own game without any need for niceties like having a good team.

For the full 90 minutes, we had to watch a team giving the Royal Blues a lesson in how to play midfield football. Sunderland slide-tackled every possession, and were first to so many loose balls that they made Everton's normally nippy legions look as slow as old Reid himself. Only a token residual of nasty challenges and pushes in the back reminded us that it was Sunderland who went down with an appalling discipline record fairly recently.

They marked Kanchelskis out of the game completely, keeping plenty of bodies back to prevent any quick build-ups. Long before half-time it was glaringly apparent that he should be taken off.

Meanwhile the pitiful midfield was desperately in need of the dogs-of-war formation, but only had poor old Parki, who could only do so much alone against such a well-trained midfield outfit. Fortunately as far as attack was concerned, Sunderland had only one play -- release Russell through the utterly ineffective offside line and hope he puts it in solo.

Everton had chances too, but they were all scrappy scrambles, and none produced goals or sparked any prolonged confidence or pressure. By 30 minutes, it was clear that only a half-time rethink could prevent a sorry 0-0. Luckily Neville had saved our bacon when the few away chances came.

Habitual late returnees from half-time activities have missed quite a lot recently -- this week they missed a penalty which hardly anyone in the ground appealed for. Referee Jones saw a foul as Stuart tried to wriggle free, and even though GS kept his feet and kept after the ball, there was very little disagreement from anyone that indeed it was a foul in the box -- it's just that almost no referees bother with such trivialities, and go blind as soon as fouls happen in the box unless there is an accompanying dive.

Graham himself stepped up and sidefooted a sucker shot to Perez's left. It was soft, not very wide, and two feet high - a very simple save from a penalty which could have been a tribute to Darren Southgate. The rebound bounced high straight to Parkinson, who lobbed a full stretch header over the keeper, but it just missed the far angle.

AK was released for the first time, but a defender got a deflection and the star-blessed keeper was uncommitted and could save easily. Tony Grant was still struggling, so JR threw on Duncan, which raised the fans' spirits briefly, but this was wiped out in two minutes.

For the second match running, a marked wide player left his defender for dead (this time Unsworth), was allowed to get to the line and cross for a simple headed goal.

Faced with this horrible spectre of defeat Everton tried not to lose momentum. JR made a tactical move which was clearly sensible (despite the boos of the crowd) in removing the ineffective Kanchelskis, and opting for Branch, the only midfield-improving option from a midfield-less bench which moved Stuart back. It worked, but only coincidentally.

Goal ratio apart, there is no substitute for star quality, and Dunc has it. This was heavily underlined when he was left unmarked in the heart of the box from a free kick and slammed a bullet past the increasingly impressive Perez. Because of the distance, it was one of his most spectacular ever, in the Street End goal of course, and caused an explosion of celebration of nearly derby-match proportions.

There was a short period where Everton tried to press the momentum, but it fizzled out rapidly as the stripy midfield refused to stop being first to everything, even though their borderline-lunatic support had been cowed into silence. They also replaced their scorer with a young striker -- hopefully they were going to settle for the point and concede a late one.

Things were thus set up for an exciting & dramatic last 20 minutes. There was a good chance of a come-from-behind win, to bolster the whispers of championship challenges, but the axe could also fall at any time if Sunderland were allowed too many chances. The excitement of the drama was however only enjoyed by the team who wanted it most, who deserved it most, and who carved out two horribly scrappy but sickenly easily capitulated goals.

The first on 74 was a melee at the Park End which drove any organised Everton defence into panic mode, and prompted the remark 'what kind of a soft goal was that?'. (Bridges scoring).

The second, though 6 minutes from time, caused an embarrassing and almost instant evacuation of a huge percentage of the home sections, including up to half of the Park End. Those who remained saw Duncan Ferguson trying 2-3 times to release his speedy partners with flick-ons, but the ball just wouldn't run and the tanned, long-haired French keeper with the Spanish name was seeing out either the game of his life, or what will inevitably be the first of a publicity campaign that will take him to a very expensive move within 3 years.

Short had been sent on for Hinchcliffe -- presumably for his height since he spent more time forward than back, but the plot was hopelessly lost long before the Whitley Bay homegrown product Bridges got his second to annoy Branch fans even more.

Every Blue shirt except Barmby slunk off without even a glance at the sympathetic applause (rather than hostile boos!), and Blue fans generously applauded a team who had got a deserved, if maddenly unwelcome win.

Tactically, it was a disaster. Few teams will have Sunderland's dogs-of-war midfield, but the option to win back a midfield so pitiful was absent. The game cried out for Ebbrell, (and Horne too). Unless Speed or Stuart can learn to contribute fully to the ball-winning parts of the game, Everton have problems which cannot be overcome by the multi-attacking midfielder formation. Hopefully the stiff lessons will not have to be learned twice.

TEAM PERFORMANCE 6 No-one can be blamed for not trying... everyone tried hard for 90 minutes, but they were clueless as to go about grabbing hold of a game clearly running away from them. No bite, no fight.

Ref: P Jones (Leicestershire) Fairly good game, and only slightly too fussy with the cards. Missed some pushes, but brave enough to give a penalty without requiring a dive after the foul.

101 Mackems

Richard Marland: As serious students of Everton Football Club, we really should have seen this one coming. A few good performances to build up the optimism and expectancy levels and then, Wallop! -- let's bring everyone back down to earth with a bump.

The parallels with the first four games of the season are quite striking:

As comparisons go, let's hope it ends there as we all know where our last dip in form led us.

This was a game in which we never got going, or perhaps more to the point, Sunderland never allowed us to. They chased, harried and closed us down all afternoon. Invariably we were second to the ball and Sunderland deserved their win.

My only complaint against Sunderland was the treatment they meted out to Tony Grant. They had obviously identified his importance to us as a playmaker and within 15 minutes he had been dumped on the floor 4 times by Bracewell and Ball and was hobbling. He remained on the field but his performance was undoubtedly compromised.

As to where the referee and linesman were whilst all this was going on, who can say? Certainly they didn't offer the protection the new application of the rules are supposed to give flair players like Tony Grant. Insult was added to injury when Tony was booked for taking some less than subtle retribution on Bracewell. (It's very galling to watch two old lags like Bracewell and Ball with the craftiness to, largely, get away with their late challenges, and then the inexperienced Grant naively clobbers one of them right in front of the ref.)

Sunderland's tactics and our inability to find a way to nullify them meant that the first half wasn't too much of a spectacle. There were a few chances at either end, Sunderland having the better of them with Nev pulling off a few good saves, but in the cold light of day there wasn't too much to report. Probably the most memorable moment was Tony Grant picking his way through a crowded Sunderland rearguard with a marvellous display of skill, poise and balance. Unfortunately, a Sunderland player was first to his eventual pull-back. Yet another little indicator of what Grant has in his armoury.

At the start of the second half, Everton were undoubtedly playing with more purpose and we soon had some reward when Stuart was clearly impeded in the area as he was trying to manoeuvre an opening for himself. At last, we thought, an opportunity to gain some control of the game.

Stuart himself took the penalty but failed to find the back of the net, his poorly taken penalty was too weak and too close to the keeper. The excellent Perez saved quite comfortably as he dived to his left. Oh well I thought, not to worry, the last time we had a penalty and missed it (against Sheffield Wednesday) we still went on to win.

Soon after this, Joe Royle decided that it was time for a change, bringing on Ferguson for the struggling Grant with Stuart dropping back into midfield. However, it was Sunderland who managed to break the stalemate. The otherwise impeccable Unsworth got badly beaten at the bye-line and bad marking allowed Russell to nod in past the helpless Southall.

We continued to press for an equaliser without really looking like we were going to get one. Fortunately, Dunc decided to intervene, meeting a Hinchcliffe corner somewhere near the penalty spot and scoring with a bullet header. Classic Dunc and his goal celebrations in the direction of the Everton bench seemed to me to be implying that he thought he should have been on from the start.

At this stage, I really thought that we would go on and win the game. Unfortunately Sunderland had other ideas, retaking the lead with a slightly fortuitous looping header from Michael Bridges, which eluded Nev and dropped into the far corner. Joe decided that another change was called for, bringing on Michael Branch for Andrei (I can only assume that Andrei was still feeling the effects of his flu). Branch immediately impressed with his speed and energy, being unlucky not to score with a deflected shot that grazed the top of the crossbar.

Still we pressed without looking entirely convincing. Sunderland were showing no signs of tiring and were still keeping up their prodigous work rate. It wasn't a great surprise when we were caught out on the break, Nev made a great double save, but on both occasions Sunderland players were first to the ball and eventually Michael Bridges found the net again. This was the goal that encapsulated all our failings, we were carved up down the middle and then on two occasions we were second to the ball. This goal prompted a mass exodus from Goodison and the remaining time passed off without incident.

So, what went wrong? I personally think that our defeat was due to a few factors:

  1. First and most importantly, we didn't match Sunderland for commitment, effort and work rate. Without that platform it's difficult to make your technical superiority count.
  2. We also didn't have the wit to break Sunderland's shackles. I remain unconvinced about our ability to pass out from defence; it looks very nice when we are given the time and space that Southampton gave us but, when we are closed down as efficiently as Sunderland did, we look distinctly uneasy.
  3. Finally, there's probably a strong case for arguing that the team is starting to believe the hype currently surrounding them. There's a saying that gets bandied around that says you have to earn the right to play football, today we didn't earn that right.


Team 6 A big disappointment after the run we had been on. Bettered in most facets of the game by what were, on the whole, a group of journeymen professionals.

The luck runs out

Michael Barker: I have a confession to make, I was at Goodison with my Aston Villa supporting girlfriend, she has yet to see Everton win in 4 games and is clearly a jinx. I apologize for taking her and won't do it again.

First half was dire, both sides failed to put anything useful together, KK had one greedy chance which he belted high & wide. Sunderland had one chance saved by Southall at the second go.

Second half, we had a pen given for obstruction I think, the Sunderland player wouldn't release the ball on the ground... or do you get an indirect for that I don't know, anyhow... we got a pen, Stuart struck it tamely to the right of the keeper at just the right height for him to save it.

They scored a scrambled goal. 0-1

Joe brought on Dunc for Grant who was a no-mark all afternoon. Dunc was the only one of our players who looked like scoring, which he did after a few minutes, cracking header, it must have been about 8.5-9 feet off the ground when he headed it 8 yards out, great stuff. 1-1 We should have tonked them after that and for 5 minutes it looked like we would, we were in a different class to them.

They scored a scrambled goal. 1-2.

Our heads dropped slightly although we still looked like we might get an equaliser, but we didn't have the determination to come back like we did when we went 0-1 down.

I think it was at this point when the ball was played to Barmby in their area, about 6 yards out in front of the net. Instead of getting the ball and scoring (the easy option) decided to be a flash bastard and dummy it, so he and run over the ball allowing it to run harmlessly to the 4 Sunderland defenders waiting behind him. T**T! He can't have heard anyone tell him to let it run 'cos there wasn't anyone there. On this performance Barmby was a bigger waste of money than Speed, and believe me, on Speed's form today that was hard going.

They scored a scrambled goal. 1-3

Everyone's heads dropped except Dunc's. He kept on trying till the final whistle looking rather pissed off at the lack of effort from his team mates. By then Goodison was half empty from a crowd of just over 40,000 the players were booed at the final whistle (not by me, honest Guv!)

Never mind, better luck next time. This will lull Chelsea into thinking we are crap, -- the problem is that we were.

[Ed: This report produced a storm of protest from other Evertonians... Read a typical response from Lol Scragg next]

Wake Up and Smell The Coffee!

Lol Scragg: It would appear that some Everton fans are so fickle! One minute they are giving praise (Barmby this, Kanchelskis that) and the next they are all cr*p.

WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE... I don't know which match you watched today, Mr Barker, but the one I watched went along the following lines....

Sunderland had a game-plan which they stuck to -- pack the midfield and tackle HARD. The tackling took its toll on Grant with three in as many minutes and I was surprised he stayed on. Up till this point, Grant was looking VERY useful indeed with his pinpoint passing and some terrier like tackling.

AK seemed not to have shaken off the effects of the flu and also as he had three people marking him all game, he never had a chance. He never skied the chance wide and high, he took a shot that went about 2 feet over the bar - that's it.... In addition, nobody else was in a good position for him to pass to..

As for Barmby, I could forgive the first two comments but saying that Barmby was a waste of money defies all logic. Were you watching the game Mr Barker or listening on the radio 'cos if you were watching the game then you must either be blind, bevvied, or plain ignorant. Once again, Barmby looked the most lively Blue on the pitch, closing down defenders and chasing everything. I will agree that he might well have taken a shot instead of dummying but if the rest of the team were keeping up then we would have had a goal.

On the other hand, we lost the game due to a lack of bite in midfield and also to the inadequacy of Stuart. Enough is enough IMHO as Stuart's workrate CANNOT be faulted but his form in front of goal and his distribution is woeful (and I don't just say this cos of the penalty).

We got beat when upon another day we would have had five -- remember that we had three cleared off the line and also their keeper, a M Perez, was outstanding and caught everything he came for (and that was nearly everything!)

Sunderland were hard in the tackle, won the loose ball and finished far better but for scrambled goals - I think not ...

We were beaten .. end of .. lets look forward instead of blaming the Toffee girl and everyone else .....

I hope I have straightened out some of the over-the-top points that Mr Barker posted ... By the way, I am still as depressed as anyone about the result ....

Reid returns in triumph

Deryk Brown, Sunday Times: PETER REID, whose name is synonymous with Everton's golden days of the 1980s, returned to claim a famous victory. On paper, his side were no-hopers, yet they outpaced and outfought the form team of the Premier League and killed them off with sharp finishing.

Two Geordie lads scored Sunderland's goals in a second half that was in exciting contrast to the grey, goalless 45 minutes that had preceded it. Craig Russell, in only his second start at this level, had run and harried whippet-like before he headed the opener. And when Everton had the temerity to equalise, Russell's replacement Michael Bridges, only 18 years old, came off the bench to grab two more.

One Sunderland hero, however, hails from afar. He is Lionel Perez, a goalkeeper signed for £200,000 from Bordeaux, who stepped into the side when Tony Coton became one of Sunderland's long-term injuries. Not only did Perez save Graham Stuart's penalty in the 46th minute when the score was 0-0, he also caught everything, even Andy Hinchcliffe's wicked inswingers.

Reid was not alone on his sentimental journey. His coach Paul Bracewell was, of course, his contemporary at Goodison and another favourite. At 34 Bracewell may not be the player he was, but he was useful enough here, as Sunderland often put nine behind the ball early on, refused to panic and broke neatly to support Russell.

In midfield Bracewell has to take second billing behind Alex Rae, who has struggled to establish himself at Roker. Rae boobed when he failed to beat Neville Southall in a one-on-one, but he showed quick feet and quick vision as the midfielder who was designated to break in support of Russell. While Sunderland were busy making things happen, Everton were unrecognisable from the side that sweet-passed its way past Leicester City seven days earlier.

Everton could have fielded their four most expensive signings, costing £19m, as a forward line. Instead, Joe Royle dropped Duncan Ferguson and brought back Andrei Kanchelskis after flu. It was a mistake. Ferguson came off the bench, after only 53 minutes, and he scored the equaliser. Later Kanchelskis, who had been poor, came off. Amid it all, Nick Barmby was lost. So Royle is no nearer to knowing how best to deploy his array of talent. He has to decide on personnel and formation quickly if Everton are to challenge near the top.

At the start Reid was given an ovation by the 40,000-plus crowd, Bracewell only marginally less so. Bracewell, however, lost favour with the Evertonians when he was cautioned for a late tackle on Tony Grant.

The first half was a letdown, although Sunderland did warn of what was to come, first when Kevin Ball almost squeezed a close-range shot under Southall, then when Rae failed to beat the goalkeeper. Dave Watson especially defended well in that first-half but goodness knows where he and his fellows were later on. A minute into the second-half and Stuart was held in the area for a penalty which he himself hit, too gently. Perez saved.

But a goal came and, glory be, it was Sunderland who scored away from home for the first time since August, when they hit four at Nottingham Forest. Rae was the provider with a whipped-in cross, and Russell arched his frame to wrong-foot Southall.

Everton equalised by their most likely route: Hinchcliffe's corner, Ferguson's forehead. From there, logic suggested Everton would go on to win. They were unbeaten in eight, while Sunderland are hit by both suspension and injury.

Sunderland, however, kept counter-attacking, and their tiny knot of supporters went wild when Bridges made it 2-1 four minutes after coming on. Bracewell lofted in, and Bridges out-jumped his marker. Then, unbelievably, Bridges scored again, rifling the ball in high and handsome after Southall have bravely blocked two Sunderland shots.

So Reid, a part of Everton's last championship in 1987, made them rethink any hopes they might have of winning the title again. He was downbeat about it all. "I was going to enjoy this, win, lose or draw," he mused. "No, that's not right, I hate losing. To win this was superb, and we finished with 11 men this time, not 10, or nine..."

Report Copyright The Sunday Times

Sunderland flush out Royle's weaknesses

David Maddock, The Times: TO THE disgust of the home support, Sunderland's understandably chuffed gaggle of followers, crammed together in a small nook of Goodison Park, struck up an ironic chorus of You'll Never Walk Alone at the end of an indomitable performance from their side. It might have been an ironic statement on the match itself.

Rarely did a Sunderland player walk alone throughout a 90-minute exhibition of the team ethic. So frequently did Everton's players find themselves isolated that they might have been clouds, blown this way and that by the icy breath of winter. Here was the match decided.

Sunderland do not possess great quality among their modest playing staff. They do have immense team spirit, epitomised by Kevin Ball, the captain, who displayed a work-rate that suggested he is particularly fond of spinach. Everton do have quality; maybe not as much as Joe Royle, the manager, suggested when he said last week that his side was capable of joining the coat-tails of those teams contesting the FA Carling Premiership, but still enough to deal with Sunderland's spirited opposition.

Yet Royle was forced to concede, after a thumping defeat: "Their goalkeeper played well, but our goalkeeper played even better." He was right. While Perez made a crucial save from Stuart's carelessly directed penalty a minute after the interval, Southall produced stops in the first half from Ball, Rae, Russell and Ball again that got better with each plunge to the turf.

In the second half he improved again, bravely denying Russell and then managing a deflection onto the left-hand post from the same player that was the save of the match. So why did Everton play so badly after an unbeaten run of eight league games? It was not Royle, or Southall, or any of the senior players who provided the answer, but 18-year-old Tony Grant, who could have been forgiven for not knowing.

"It seemed that everyone thought we would win the game even before we went out onto the pitch," he said. "Maybe we believed our own publicity. We did not play well, and what makes it worse is that the defeat has cost us the chance of going into the top six."

There is no room for complacency in the Premiership, especially when, like Everton, you still need at least two more players of quality to hold serious title aspirations. They were exposed at the back, and the goals that Sunderland scored underlined a need for more strength in the centre of defence.

The first, after 55 minutes, was a simple move down the right, completed when Rae turned Unsworth and crossed for Russell to head classically into the net. He was unmarked, as was Bridges, the exciting young substitute, when he looped a header over Southall after a volleyed cross from Bracewell in the 75th minute.

In between, the introduction of Ferguson briefly served as an inspiration to Everton. The blood was pumping as he climbed to send a header into the roof of the net through Perez's scorched fingers, but even then Bracewell, with his immaculate passing and intelligent positioning, was in charge of midfield, ably supported by Ball.

Everton clearly need someone of Bracewell's intelligence in the centre of their midfield, and that fact must have been as sweet for the former Everton veteran as it was for Peter Reid, his manager. They formed part of the last outstanding Everton midfield, and they could not hide their delight afterwards.

Bridges had confirmed Sunderland's superiority by stroking a loose ball home on the final whistle after Southall had produced a wonderful double save from Agnew and Gray.

"It's a smashing day, it's a wonderful place to come and I am just happy we have left with a result," Reid said. "Mind you, we're not a bad side when we finish with 11 players," a comment on recent dismissals.

Report Copyright The Times

Sunderland bridge the gap at Goodison

Derek Potter, Electronic Telegraph: PETER REID, one of the less expressive managers, had every right to smile after a happy return to his former club as manager of Sunderland. A second goal for Michael Bridges in the 87th minute embellished Sunderland's first away success since the win at Forest on the opening day.

After scything through Southampton to score five times in one 22-minute burst two weeks earlier, Everton faced more disciplined and compact opponents. The "form" team with five wins and three draws behind them were, in fact, twice close to conceding a first-half lead against a Sunderland side with only two goals to their credit in their previous seven League games. However, Neville Southall was on hand to make two ungainly and unorthodox saves.

Alex Rae cut in from the left and Southall scrambled the ball away from the feet of Kevin Ball in the first flutter for a capacity crowd. Southall's second escape again involved Rae after Martin Smith's pass had questioned the backbone of Everton.

Paul Bracewell was warmly welcomed on his return to Goodison Park where he and Reid were such influential figures in Everton's elegant and successful team of the mid-1980s. Bracewell might easily have been cast as an early villain, drilling a 20-yard shot just a yard wide after 90 seconds -- an early indication that Sunderland were not without attacking ambitions despite their poor scoring rate.

Some darting runs by Andrei Kanchelskis, two vicious dipping corners by Andy Hinchcliffe and one dazzling solo run by Gary Speed in the goal area failed to ruffle a resolute Sunderland. Even a penalty a minute into the second half was wasted by Everton, an unforgivable lapse in the circumstances. Graham Stuart crumpled under pressure from several defenders, Martin Scott applying the offending tackle.

Lionel Perez dived to his left to punch Stuart's modestly driven spot kick and a follow-up header by Joe Parkinson floated harmlessly off target. The miss was soon punished, as Craig Russell made no such mistake in the 54th minute when his header gave Southall no chance of repeating his earlier saves.

Rae set up the spur for Sunderland. He sped past England's Hinchcliffe and crossed with encouraging accuracy for Russell, replacing the suspended Paul Stewart.

Duncan Ferguson was pitched on to a great ovation in the 52nd minute to replace the injured Tony Grant and he equalised 11 minutes later with a header of daunting power. The tall Scot's third goal of his disjointed season followed another teasing corner by Hinchcliffe.

Russell was inches off a second goal for Sunderland when his shot hit an upright and Michael Branch -- who came on as a substitute for Kanchelskis -- responded with a dipping drive that scudded against the crossbar.

Sunderland, amazingly, struck back in the 74th minute with a messy goal, with substitute Bridges' looping header somehow creeping in past Southall at the far post and three minutes from time Bridges stunned the home supporters when he scored a second goal following a three-man breakaway.

Report Copyright The Electronic Telegraph

Results and League Table

Monday, 2 December 1996

                                Thomas(43) MacMannaman(49)

Sunday, 1 December 1996

LEEDS UNITED            2-0     CHELSEA                   32,671 
Deane(8) Rush(10)

Saturday, 30 November 1996

ASTON VILLA             1-0     MIDDLESBROUGH             39,053  
Yorke(pen 39)
BLACKBURN ROVERS        2-1     SOUTHAMPTON               23,018  
Sherwood(27) Sutton(87)         Ostenstad(61)
DERBY COUNTY            2-1     COVENTRY CITY             18,042  
Asanovic(pen 12) Ward (79)      Dublin (43)
EVERTON                 1-3     SUNDERLAND                40,087  
Ferguson(64)                    Russell(54) Bridges(74, 87)
MANCHESTER UNITED       3-1     LEICESTER CITY            55,196  
Butt(75,87) Solskjaer(85)       Lennon (90)
NEWCASTLE UNITED        1-2     ARSENAL                   36,565  
Shearer(21)                     Dixon(11) Wright(60)
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY     0-0     WEST HAM UNITED           22,321  

WIMBLEDON               1-0     NOTTINGHAM FOREST         12,608  

Table after 2 December 1996

Club                        Pld    W    D    L   GF   GA   GD  Pts
Arsenal                      15    9    4    2   29   13   16   31
Liverpool                    15    9    4    2   26   13   13   31
Newcastle United             15    9    2    4   26   16   10   29
Wimbledon                    15    8    4    3   26   16   10   28
Manchester United            15    7    5    3   29   22    7   26
Aston Villa                  15    7    3    5   19   15    4   24
Chelsea                      15    6    6    3   23   21    2   24
$$$EVERTON***                15    6    5    4   23   18    5   23
Derby County                 15    5    6    4   17   17    0   21
Sheffield Wednesday          15    5    6    4   16   18   -2   21
Tottenham Hotspur            15    6    2    7   15   16   -1   20
Leeds United                 15    6    1    8   15   20   -5   19
West Ham United              15    4    5    6   13   18   -5   17
Sunderland                   15    4    5    6   13   18   -5   17
Leicester City               15    5    2    8   14   21   -7   17
Middlesbrough                15    3    5    7   20   26   -6   14
Southampton                  15    3    4    8   23   28   -5   13
Blackburn Rovers             15    2    6    7   14   20   -6   12
Coventry City                15    1    7    7    9   21  -12   10
Nottingham Forest            15    1    6    8   12   25  -13    9


This League Table Update provided by Lawrence "Leagueman" Breakey

This Match Report Compilation was prepared by Michael Kenrick for Marko Poutiainen. 2 Dec 1996.