Leon Osman returns and Dan Gosling is dropped to the bench, where strikers Anichebe and Jutkiewicz are deemed not good enough to lead the line, that task nominally given to Tim Cahill once again. Phil Neville cunningly chose to attack the Gwladys St goal, which was bathed in winter sunshine.
Everton started brightly and inside the first 10 minutes, Mikel Arteta produced one of his rare direct free-kicks that benefitted from the low sun in Fulop's eyes, going through the wall, past the goalie and into the net in front of the Gwladys Street, much to the delight of the Goodison crowd. Just what the game needed to get the sell-out crowd up for it. Two minutes later, Cahill seemed to have a fantastic chance from a great Fellaini flick-on but his shot was saved and the game then called back when Styles ruled a handball offence against Timmy.
Fellaini should perhaps have done better when Sunderland were caught by a great early ball from Hibbert but he lacked pace and conviction and couldn't profit. The Big Belgian had another glorious chance when the ball broke for him off the keeper with the goal gaping but made an ungainly stumble and the chance was gone.
Play was stopped when Osman was fouled outside the area, Malbranque's name going in Rob Styles's book. From the free-kick, the ball came back off the wall and was hammered goalward again taking a big deflection that gave Arteta and Everton the vital second goal.
As Everton looked to cement their dominance, Cahill seemed certain to score with a textbook glancing header at the near post off another excellent Arteta delivery but his header flew fractionally wide of the post. They seemed to relax a little after playing some great pass-and-move football and Sunderland had come on stronger before the break.
Sunderland switched out Malbranque for Edwards after the break. The Blues laboured somewhat in the second half, failing to build on their two-goal lead, with Fellaini coming worryingly close to picking up his tenth booking. Edwards forced a foul from Jagielka that saw him booked. Osman was then replaced by Dan Gosling.
Gosling went on a great run, Tanio clipped him and his name went in the book, giving Mikel Arteta another chance but it went over the wall and over the bar. David Moyes then sensibly removed Fellaini to postpone the inevitable 10h booking for at least another week, giving Anichebe a chance for the last 20 minutes.
Both Gosling and Anichebe had half-chances before Lescott set up Gosling with a lovely diagonal pass and he finally scored confidently with a clean right-foot finish. With Everton having sealed the deal, David Moyes felt it was safe enough to chance giving Lukas Jutkiewicz a chance, replacing Tim Cahill.
A superb shot form Neville barely missed the bar from 35 yards out after some nice play from Jutkiewicz as Everton looked to finish with a flourish to secure only their second home win of the season — and Everton pass into positive goal difference territory for the fist time this season.
If Everton are making New Year's resolutions then top of the list must surely be to sort out their mystifyingly poor points return at Goodison Park. While their away form, second only in the Premier League to Chelsea, has provided the foundation for the leap into sixth place on Boxing Day, the Blues have managed just one win at home so far this season — indeed, the only thing positive about it is that that they are two points better off from the corresponding home games against Manchester United and Chelsea from last season.
Equally confounding is the fact that the team has played a better brand of football the more strikers they have lost this term. In seasons past, the loss of players up front has usually led to an increased reliance on the long ball; this time, patience, passing and possession are the watchwords — words previously not usually associated with the David Moyes era.
Much is owed to Tim Cahill who has come up with both winning goals in the past two away matches, first at Manchester City and then again at Middlesbrough and while the Aussie hasn't yet scored at Goodison so far this term, it would not be a surprise if Moyes elected to continue with his new Talisman, even if Victor Anichebe passes a fitness test on the niggling back injury that has sidelined him since starting against Aston Villa three weeks ago. Louis Saha is still ruled out with a hamstring strain.
Two days has, of course, not left much time for Moyes's injury problems to abate much further. Leon Osman remains highly doubtful with the foot injury inflicted by John Terry against Chelsea, Joseph Yobo is out with the hamstring strain he picked up in the same game and Lars Jacobsen was always pencilled in for early January anyway.
That should mean a second start for Dan Gosling who made an impressive debut at the Riverside as stand-in for Osman in midfield. With a little more luck, the former Plymouth Argyle man might have scored on his first senior appearance but his impressive outing will have pleased Moyes who needs all the squad depth he can get at the moment.
The manager will also be hoping that Marouane Fellaini can stay out of Rob Styles' notebook. The Belgian is on nine yellow cards and is one booking away from another suspension.
Sunderland will be missing Craig Gordon (ankle) and George McCartney (foot) but are hopeful that Teemu Tainio and Kieran Richardson will be passed fit for what will be Ricky Sbragia's first game in charge as permanent manager after he was confirmed as Roy Keane's successor.
The Black Cats are unbeaten since Keane walked out on the club three games ago with four-goal hauls against Hull and West Brom and the Boxing Day goalless draw with Blackburn at the Stadium of Light. They will be hoping to no doubt to avoid their fate the last time they visited Goodison last November when they were thrashed 7-1 by Moyes's boys.
The incentive for the Blues in this the last game of 2008 is that victory and an unlikely win for Portsmouth at The Emirates would leave Everton and Arsenal level on points heading into the New Year. Perhaps more pertinent in the grand scheme of the top-six is Aston Villa's visit to Hull City on Tuesday — the Villans are six points away going into this round of games so defeat for them and a win for Everton over Sunderland would bring Martin O'Neill's side back into striking distance and set up an interesting second half to the League campaign.
May appear here later
|Premier League Scores|
|Premier League Table|
|2008-09 Reports Index|
|When Skies Are Grey||Report|
|Everton fans' reports|
|Other media reports|
|4 the Game||Report|
|Fellaini (77' Anichebe)|
|Osman (73' Gosling)|
|Cahill (86' Jutkiewicz)|
|Subs not used|
|Van der Meyde|
|Whitehead (c) :76'|
|Tainio :76' (78' Yorke)|
|Malbranque :26' (46' Edwards)|
|Cisse (78' Healy)|
|Subs not used|
|Premier League Scores|
|Sunday 28 December 2008|
|Monday 29 December 2008|
|Tuesday 30 December 2008|
|Hull City||0-1||Aston Villa|
|Premier League Table|
|After 28 Dec 2008|