As the wreaths were removed from the field and the minute’s silence broken by the fans in the stands, Everton and Sunderland got set to play out an entertaining affair on a misty, drizzly day at Goodison Park.
Roberto Martinez’s Toffees were looking to build on their midweek Capital One Cup success against Norwich and they did exactly that, goals from Gerard Deulofeu, Romelu Lukaku, a hattrick from Arouna Koné and an own goal from Sebastian Coates enough–despite Jermain Defoe’s strike on the stroke of half-time, and Steven Fletcher‘s header just after—to give them 6-2 win, and all three points.
It was a bright start, a sign of things to come, from both teams, with the first chance falling to the away side. Fletcher was alert to a ball forward, winning the flick on and receiving the ball back from Adam Johnson. The Scot cut the ball nicely across the area, but Patrick van Aanholt’s shot clattered against the inside of Tim Howard’s right-hand post. The Black Cats were left bemoaning their luck—in sharp contrast to their fortunes in the 3-0 win against Newcastle United last weekend.
Chances at both ends
Sunderland, buoyed since Sam Allardyce arrived at the club, looked sharp in the early stages, Fletcher linking well with Defoe up front. However, with the game extremely open in midfield, there were chances for both teams. First, Gareth Barry streamed forward, the Sunderland players allowing him the time to carry the ball 40 yards before offloading it to Ross Barkley. His snap shot flashed just wide, but Everton were beginning to look dangerous.
The action was lively and end-to-end, Sunderland streaming forward again, trying to make the most of a strong opening 15 minutes in which they were arguably the better side. Defoe, picking the ball up on the edge of the area from a squared van Aanholt pass, managed to get his shot away, forcing a save from Howard with his feet. The rebound fell straight to Johnson, but his scuffed shot tumbled its way onto the post again, before Fletcher’s follow up was quickly smothered again by Howard—leaving Allardyce’s side wondering how they hadn’t taken the lead.
Everton take a foothold
Despite all Sunderland’s pressure, however, it was the home side that broke the deadlock on 19 minutes after some poor defending. A headed ball down in midfield found Koné, before his raking ball over the top of the back four found Deulofeu in acres of space. Keeping his composure well, the ex-Barcelona man cut inside before slotting the ball home—via a slight deflection—past Costel Pantilimon to give Everton the lead.
Just a short time later and Sunderland still hadn’t learned their lesson, Deulofeu finding himself in an almost identical position, this time holding the ball up and squaring it across the box, just missing the onrushing Lukaku. Sunderland breathed a sigh of relief and minutes later were appealing for a penalty. Fletcher’s volleyed shot from distance bounced up and hit Barry on the arm—the referee rightly turning down Sunderland’s protests.
Just after the half hour mark and Everton had doubled their lead with a delightful move. Barkley, given far too much time in midfield, slotted a ball into Koné’s feet on the edge of the area. A quick give-and-go with Lukaku inside the box—wonderfully executed—provided the chance, and Koné lashed the ball into the back of the net from close range. A great move from the Toffees and a vital second goal.
A difference to the team talk
Without warning, Sunderland’s bright start had evaporated with some slick Everton football—and all of a sudden the pressure was all on Allardyce’s side. Two goals up and in control, Everton switched the ball from side to side with ease, Sunderland struggling to get out of the own half.
Then, perhaps typical of the way the game had been played in the first half, a bit of encouragement for Sunderland against the run of play in stoppage time. Defoe, latching on well to a ball up front, brought it down nicely and got his shot away, over the reach of Howard and into the back of the net. With the last kick of the half, and out of nowhere, Defoe had given his side a way back into the game.
Just ten minutes into the second half and Defoe became the difference again—this time as the instigator rather than the goalscorer. Picking up the ball from a lumped ball forward, Defore held the ball up well before giving it to van Aanholt. His cross seemed nothing more than a hopeful punt inside the area, but Fletcher rose tallest to bully Ramiro Funes Mori and head the ball home. From looking completely out of the game, Sunderland were right back in it at 2-2.
Barely had the fans managed to catch their breath, however, before Everton once again had their noses in front. Deulofeu, minutes after having a penalty appeal rightly turned down after getting in behind the Sunderland defence, swung a teasing ball into the area towards Lukaku. The Belgian, looking like heading the ball home, forced Coates to try get a touch, and he steered the ball past his own goalkeeper. Breathless action as the Toffees took a 3-2 lead.
On the hour, Sunderland capitulated, and this time Lukaku managed to get his goal. A long ball forward by Deulofeu—-once more causing all sorts of problems—again split the Sunderland defence, and the big Belgian kept his cool to move around the goalkeeper and slot it home.
Moments later and Everton had made it five in explosive fashion, streaming forward on the counter with Barkley. Held up, James McCarthy played a lovely little reverse ball into Koné’s feet, and he added his second of the game to surely put the result beyond doubt, and end Sunderland’s resistence at 5-2.
Everton, confidence flowing as it does with a three-goal lead 25 minutes from time, started to stroke the ball around with ease – the highlight of which was a move in which 40+ passes were exchanged. Things could have been made all the worse if the referee would have spotted Koné being clattered inside the area—a definite penalty with the Ivory Coast man on a hat-trick.
Six of the best
However, he need not wait long as Everton added their sixth in 76th minute, in emphatic fashion. Lukaku, picking the ball up on the right, played an incredible outside-of-the-boot cross, in exhibition style, right onto the head of the onrushing Koné. His header crashed into the back of the net as the roof exploded from the top of Goodison Park. A short time later Lukaku was removed to standing ovation—as was Deulofeu earlier in the half, replaced by Kevin Mirallas—for fan-favourite Leon Osman.
Arguably one of the most entertaining Premier League games this season; an explosive affair with eight goals and plenty of end-to-end action. The Toffees march on with three points safely under wraps and a run of potentially good fixtures ahead.
As the fans stream out of Goodison Park this afternoon, they will know they have been given a real post-Halloween treat.