Everton took the early sting out of a rampant Sunderland in the first half through a disciplined and competent holding game until right before the break, when a shocking Baines giveaway let Sessegnon in to score. Jelavic replaced the ineffective (injured?) Gibson but the second half was a dismal affair with no decent effort on goal that ends any dreams of 4th place.
Everton took on a lively Sunderland side at a packed Stadium of Light, bouncing after their 3-0 defeat of Newcastle last week, but Everton have a pretty impressive record over the last 11 years. Phil Jagielka is out injured, replaced by Johnny Heitinga at the back, but Leon Osman returns with Ross Barkley back on the bench, with Jelavic, Naismith and Neville.
Sunderland kicked off with the Mackems excited to welcome new manager Di Canio but they got themselves offside early on. An early corner won by Mirallas was swung over by Baines, but caught well by Mignolet. Heitinga almost let them in at the other end as Howard hesitated and then blocked away the danger.
A Baines cross won a second corner that Fellaini looked to have headed behind but Mirallas got three bites of the cherry, the last played short and forcing a stretch from Mignolet. It needed good defending at the other end from Baines, then Distin, then Fellaini, who gave Sunderland their first corner. Fellaini then blocked to give away a dangerous free-kick that Larsson blasted over.
Everton were resisting the early enthusiasm from the home side and finally got some decent passing going, without threatening the Sunderland goal. Mirallas won another corner Baines curled in, Mignolet punching. The next corner was less effective.
McClean didn't like the attention from Everton's Belgian pair and could have been called for kicking out at Kevin Mirallas. Osman had been working hard but allowed Larsson to dispossess him and Fellaini picked up his final warning for rough play from Phil Dowd.
Howard did very well to fist away a good Sunderland corner that had the Makems screaming when Heitinga and Larsson tumbled. Everton kept trying to play in Anichebe, who was the lone outlet up front, but the ball wasn't really sticking for him while the Sunderland marking limited his space effectively.
Mirallas got in a good run through the right channel and his deflected shot won another corner but still no breakthrough, as the Blues mixed it up with some long balls, one Fellaini almost came close to converting. Some odd decisions included a free-kick called against Coleman for a non-handball, Seb Larsson coming very close with the free-kick, just an inch or two past the angle.
Heitinga got the first card when Dowd adjudged that he had blocked Rose, giving Larsson another free-kick chance, this time finally on target but Howard watched it all the way. But just before the break they did get the goal, a dreadful Baines giveaway that Sessegnon ran onto and fired low, it dribbling past Howard after he could not take the power out of it.
A free-kick for Baines at the other end came to nothing and all the hard defensive work of the half lay in taters. Jelavic replaced Gibson (presumably unfit) and the Blues attacked with renewed vigour after the break, Moyes realizing that goals must be scored, but with not much improvement in chances created.
Anichebe got a good run in down the left and Jelavic almost scored from the corner but Dowd signalled a foul on Mignolet, with little going Everton's way. Johnson made Baines statuesque as they threatened to extend the lead.
Baines did get a cross in for Jelavic but his header was a little lame and bounced wide. Jelavic then came close to flicking on a Fellaini shot after Anichebe's first decent attempt at holding the ball up.Jelavic was key in the next attack, on a great crossfield ball from Mirallas but Anichebe's hurried shot was poor.
Anichebe looked better, turning Rose but the Sunderland player recovered to deny him. Coleman won another corner but again Mignolet had it covered. Another corner, played short by Mirallas, then clipped in long, no-one at the far post....
The Blues needed something and that would be Ross Barkley and Steven Naismith in place of Osman and Anichebe. Naismith then forced a crazy backpass that Mignolet had to catch, getting a yellow card an indirect free-kick inside the Sunderland area. But Baines could not power it home and nothing came of the frantic follow-up ding-dong.
Everton were getting more balls into the Sunderland area but nothing would fall right while Howard had to save big from Johnson at the other end.
The clock ticked away on Everton's final weak efforts to preserve their interest in the Champions League but it was never going to happen. A really poor second half performance that lacked a single worthwhile effort on goal, despite the Blues dominating the possession stats.
With their European propsects diminished somewhat by the draw at Arsenal on Tuesday, Everton's latest "cup final" with respect to unlikely Champions League qualification takes place at the Stadium of Light this weekend.
The Blues face a Sunderland side hoping that the nascent tenure of Paolo di Canio and their surprise 3-0 win in the Tyne-and-Wear derby last weekend marks the beginning of a resurgence in their fortunes.
Despite Everton's impressive record against them in recent seasons, the Black Cats will no doubt be buoyed by that result and looking to build on it as they try and push away from relegation danger — though they sit in 15th place, Sunderland are just three points above Wigan in 18th.
Leon Osman is again doubtful with a groin strain and David Moyes indicated that though the midfielder is on the mend, this game could come too soon for him to be passed fit.
It presents the manager with the oppotunity of naming an unchanged starting line-up from the one that pushed the Gunners all the way to grind out a goalles draw
That would, of course, mean another starting berth for Ross Barkley who showed genuine promise in his more natural role behind the striker at the Emirates, and Marouane Fellaini continuing in what his preferred position in central midfield.
It would also mean another week on the bench for Nikica Jelavic, the player who was the Talisman of what was one of the Blues' most memorable performances last season, the FA Cup quarter final replay on this same ground.
That display, in the middle of that explosive return of 11 goals in 17 games, seems a world away given the Croatian's alarming loss of form and goals this season and it's unlikely he'll get the chance to reprise that star turn at the Stadium of Light while Victor Anichebe retains his fitness and form leading the line.
|Premier League Scores|
|Premier League Table|
|2012-13 Reports Index|
|Everton fans' reports|
|Larsson (80' Vaughan)|
|Sessegnon (90+1' Mangane)|
|Subs not used|
|8||West Bromwich Albion||45|
|10||West Ham United||42|
|19||Queens Park Rangers||24|