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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
Premier League
 Thursday, 26 December 2013; 3:00pm
Everton 
0 1
 Sunderland
 Howard (Sent off: 25')
Half Time: 0 - 1
Ki (25') 
Attendance: 39,193
Fixture 18
Referee: Lee Probert

Match Report

While his record over the first 17 games of the season has been very similar to that of his predecessor, there has unquestionably been a feeling that things are different so far under Roberto Martinez; that there is a "new Everton" emerging under the Spaniard, and not just because of the way he has the team playing.

Unfortunately, with his team in full flow, positioned nicely just two points off the top of table, and two games away from going a full calendar year without a home defeat for the first time since the Championship-winning season of 1962-63, Martinez was visited by the ghost of Everton past this Boxing Day. The one that writes a script where an opposition team sitting on the bottom of the Premier League table, without an away win all season, and which hasn't won at Goodison Park for 17 years comes and grabs all three points, albeit thanks to Everton horrendously shooting themselves in the foot.

For any Blue who has followed this team through the Premier League era where the Blues have so often scuppered themselves when things appeared to be going well, this was all just "so Everton". A routine goal kick from Tim Howard was mis-controlled by Leon Osman in front of his own penalty area, the ball was seized upon by Ki Sung-Yeung who was tripped as he tried to round the goalkeeper. Howard was sent off, Ki just beat substitute Joel Robles with the resulting penalty and Martinez's men were left with a mountain to climb.

It's no secret that Martinez's mandate to play the ball out from the back has seen Everton's rearguard playing with fire so far this season and they have ridden their luck on occasion without being punished. This time, their luck ran out. In hindsight, Howard's decision to make a short pass to Osman with his back to goal was ill-advised, the midfielder's control, while awful, was just an unfortunate slip, and the American would have been better off not challenging Ki so he could remain on the field while retaining the Blues' full complement of players. Easy to argue after the fact, but Howard has saved his defence with a last-ditch challenge before this season and it's senseless to over-analyse his split-second decision here.

That Everton almost salvaged a point from disaster is testament to their spirit and determination under the new boss; that they didn't owed much to their numerical disadvantage, gritty defending by Sunderland and a man-of-the-match display by Tito Mannone in the Black Cats' goal.

Gus Poyet's side had already set their stall out to defend doggedly and had resisted Everton's dominance in possession before the Blues' 25th-minute calamity but, as has been the case on many occasions at Goodison already this season, it was surely just a matter of time before the home team found the combination to break them down. Bryan Oviedo, starting again in the absence of Leighton Baines who wasn't quite ready to make his return from a broken toe, had had an early long-range effort saved by Mannone and Barry had headed over the bar at the back post from a deep corner, while Sunderland had only tested Howard with a low Jack Colback shot that Howard comfortably dealt with.

After the goal, the advantage to the visitors was abundantly clear the extra man was one more body that could chase, harry and close Everton down and the Blues weren't really able to reassert themselves until the second half, when the desperation of the situation, in combination with raucous backing from the Goodison crowd, spurred them on.

Their efforts before the half-time break were hampered by illness to Kevin Mirallas, the Belgian having to leave the field leaving the team two men short in the process for a few minutes and Seb Larsson had the chance to capitalise on a foul by Gareth Barry but fired his free kick over the bar. Earlier, Robles had almost lost the game completely when he spilled Ondrej Celustka's shot in front of Larsson but made amends with a terrific one-handed, point-blank save.

Mirallas did not appear for the second half and was replaced by Ross Barkley who had been omitted from the starting XI, presumably as a squad-rotation exercise given the glut of four games in 10 days over the Festive period.

Within two minutes of restart, Sunderland had the chance to double their advantage and effectively kill the game but Dia Kite's shot in front of goal was, mercifully, deflected over the crossbar.

From then on, it was more or less all Everton. The goal, though, just wouldn't come. A succession of set-pieces were pumped into the opposition area but,when the Blues got the delivery right, which they didn't always manage to do, they couldn't find a way past Mannone or his defenders. The 'keeper denied Phil Jagielka's 55th-minute header, the rebound eluding Romelu Lukaku.

Thanks in part to the red and white wall in front of them and, perhaps, some impatience and desperation on Everton's part, Martinez's side were largely restricted to long-range shots and most of these were comfortably dealt with by Mannone, but the Sundeland' 'keeper had to be at his best on a number of occasions, too. He turned excellent shots by Barkley and Oviedo around the post to keep the Blues at bay and was fortunate to see another fine effort by the former flash two feet past his post.

That moment of individual magic that might have come from Gerard Deulofeu, had he been available, or Mirallas, had he been on the field, remained elusive, though, and as the game moved into the last 10 minutes, Barkley had resorted to shooting on sight, eschewing options inside the area in front of him.

The equaliser, and with it Everton's reward for racking up over 60% of the second-half possession despite being a man down, looked to have come came six minutes from time. Nikica Jelavic, who had come on for Steven Pienaar 11 minutes earlier, was hauled down in a dangerous area by Valentin Roberge and Barkley assumed the honours for the resulting free kick, waving the Croatian away. He curled a superb shot over the wall but Mannone was there again to palm the ball behind.

From the corner, Jelavic stooped with a header that beat the 'keeper but not Fabio Borini who headed off the line with the Gwladys Street end desperately trying to suck the ball into the net. It was not to be, though, and Sunderland held out for what was a priceless win for them and a major setback for Everton given how important every point will likely be in the context of the chance for a Champions League slot.

Martinez has no option now but to rally his troops and regroup for the visit of Southampton on Sunday which offers an quick opportunity to get back to winning ways. He will be without both Barry and Howard who will be suspended and, though Mauricio Pocchetino's side are struggling for form after their great start to the season, it will be a tough assignment so soon after a gut-busting game playing with 10 men for so long.

They've demonstrated their quality many times already this season, though, and the mental aspect of the challenge could be just as important after such a disappointing loss. It was at this point last season where things started to fall away; where Everton go from here will illustrate how different things can continue to be under Martinez.

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Summary

Roberto Martinez sprung something of a Boxing Day surprise, resting Ross Barkley to the bench while Leon Osman took his place a decision that would arguably be the cause of Everton's undoing. No sign of Leighton Baines.

Everton kicked off and dominated possession, with some nice midfield passing, although Jagielka had hearts in mouths with a weak backpass that put Howard under unnecessary pressure. Borini was first to have a pop at goal, lashing it into the Gwladys Street crowd.

Dia Kite fouled Pienaar and Mirallas had a better go on the follow-up, firing in at Mannone. Dia Kite then fouled Osman wide left, Mirallas curling it in wastefully to Mannone at the near post. A good low cross in from Oviedo forced the first corner but Barry could not control his header at the far post.

Sunderland were able to repel most of Everton's attacks as they got into the away side's penalty area, and this gave them more confidence in midfield.

But a massive cock-up by Leon 'clever feet' Osman, slipping on the ball off a lame Howard goalkick, some classic pissing about at the back, allowed Ki to get in very easily and Howard tripped him as he was about to score. Red card for Howard. Everton down to 10 men. Penalty for Sunderland. Osman off to be replaced by Robles in the Everton goal. Penalty hammered home by Ki. Unbelievable.

At least it roused the crowd, who responded to the unexpected adversity with one very loud voice in an effort to inspire the 10 remaining players to climb what suddenly looked to be a rather big Boxing Day mountain.

Everton attacked but continued to be thwarted. Sunderland then pressed and Robles had to save smartly but fumbled the ball and then had to pull off a tremendous one-handed stop to deny the following shot.

Kevin Mirallas went off 5 mins before the break, disappearing down the tunnel... toilet break? He returned to see Barry booked for a late challenge and a dangerous free-kick for Sunderland, fired over by Larsson. That booking will cost him a suspension against Southampton. But Sunderland had the upper hand and pushed hard for a second before the whistle for a welcome break and perhaps a chance to regroup,

Barkley replaced Mirallas, who was ill. Akite somehow missed a chance scooping fractionally over the Park End bar and somehow wrongly winning a corner that was headed goalwards. Barkley did his best to spur Everton on, driving them forward and trying to play in Lukaku, with the crowd raucously vocal in full support, but disappointed to see a corner driven through everyone. Another Everton corner, too easily headed away by Colback.

Everton piled on the pressure, Jagielka powering in a header off an excellent Oviedo corner, Lukaku off-balanced unable to connect with the keeper's parry at close range. Lukaku then had a poke but his drive to the near post was scuffed. Barkley forced to fire from range, well over.

Everton were doing a good job of pressing Sunderland but Fletcher got in a very well struck shot that brought a good confident firm save from Robles. Barkley got in another shot that forced Mannone to parry it away, then drove one low, curling away from the near post. At the other end, a rather dubious block by Pienaar on Borini could well have been another penalty under other circumstances...

It was mostly one-way traffic, but the final link-up wasn't happening for one reason or another, Lukaku again forced to pull the trigger form the edge of the area, straight at Mannoe.More good work by Barkley spoilt by a heavy touch from Lukaku. Mannone then had to parry a fearsome shot from Oviedo.

With 15 minutes left, Martinez played his final card, Jelavic on for Pienaar. Fletcher had a chance to seal it for Sunderland but Robles came out very quickly and forced him to clip it wide of the post.

Into the final 10 mins and Everton kept plugging away against the numerical advantage, Barry with a snapshot that was scrambled away by Mannone. Jelavic won a good free-kick in a good central position, Barkley forcing another superb stretching save by Mannone. Jelavic's superb header off the corner finally beat Mannone only to be headed off the line!

Coleman tried another pile driver but sliced it away from goal as the minutes ticked away. Jelavic tried a bicycle kick that missed completely, and was desperate too score as the game entered 3 mins of added time.

but Jelavic could not turn it in at the far post and it was just not happening for Everton. So, the most predictable of home bankers against the bottom club ends in the most ignominious of defeats as Everton, with everything to play for, contrived to shoot themselves in both feet at a crucial point in the season, stalling in the penultimate home game to go unbeaten at Goodison Park in the Premier League for a full Calendar Year.

Michael Kenrick

 

Match Preview

Everton are home for Christmas again coming off the back of another stirring result on the road, this time a 2-1 win over Swansea City that positions the Blues nicely just two points off the top of the table coming into the Boxing Day programme.

They face the Premier League's bottom club, Sunderland, the team they have met more than any other over the past 10 years on this date and who they memorably thrashed 5-0 on 26th December 1999.

A repeat of that latter result would, of course, make a superb Christmas present for the Goodison faithful who are in good heart as the team enjoys a run that is up to 10 matches now without defeat and, with back-to-back home games, presents Roberto Martinez's men with an opportunity to extend it further heading into the New Year.

The Spaniard is expected to be boosted by the return to fitness of Leighton Baines who has been out for a month with a broken toe. His deputy, Bryan Oviedo, has performed superbly in his absence, though, and Martinez has admitted that the England international's recovery makes for a selection headache, albeit the right kind. Dropping Oviedo would be harsh on the Costa Rican but it would not be surprising to see him start as a substitute and then be used as an attacking option off the bench if needed in the second half.

Everton are likely to be otherwise unchanged. Steven Pienaar suffered no lasting effects from the bruised hip he suffered towards the end of Sunday's win at the Liberty Stadium and is expected to start. Gerard Deulofeu is, of course, out until the end of January but Nikica Jelavic should be available again after recovering from flu.

As was the case versus Fulham in the last game at Goodison, it is imperative that Everton remain focused and do not allow sloppiness and complacency to creep in they did in that match against the Cottagers. They certainly need to ensure they perform better than the last time they faced the club on the bottom of the pile – the goalless draw at Crystal Palace now represents one of those missed opportunities that arguably kept the Blues off top spot over Christmas.

Gus Poyet's Black Cats have been struggling for goals and points but it's unlikley they will lack effort and determination as they look to try and launch an escape from the relegation zone. They're likely to be weakened defensively by the loss of Wes Brown who is banned for three matches while John O'Shea is a doubt with a shoulder injury. Carlos Cuellar (hip) and Keiren Westwood are definitely ruled out.

Based on the two team's respective records so far, this is a match where Everton just need to keep doing what they have been doing at the back and up front and the three points should follow. Sunderland are yet to pick up an away win so far this season and have just three points on their travels while the Blues are in a rich vein of form that could take them top, for a few hours at least, should they win and other results fall their way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Match Preview
Match Summary
Match Report
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Match Reports
2013-14 Reports Index
< Swansea (A) So'hampton (H) >
EVERTON (4-2-3-1)
  Howard :25'
  Coleman
  Jagielka
  Distin
  Oviedo
  McCarthy
  Barry :30'
  Mirallas (46' Barkley)
  Osman (26' Robles)
  Pienaar (76' Jelavic)
  Lukaku
  Subs not used
  Heitinga
  Stones
  Alcaraz
  Naismith
  Unavailable
  Deulofeu (injured)
  Gibson (injured)
  Kone (injured)
  McAleny (injured)
  Duffy (loan)
  Garbutt (loan)
  Junior (loan)
  Lundstram (loan)
SUNDERLAND (4-4-2)
 

Mannone

  Celustka
  Bardsley
  Diakite
  Roberge
  Cattermole
  Ki
  Colback (70' Giaccherini)
  Larsson
  Borini
  Fletcher (87' Altidore)
  Subs not used
  Dossena
  Cabral
  Johnson
  Pickford
  Ba

Premier League Scores
Thursday
Aston Villa 0 - 1 C Palace
Cardiff 0 - 3 So'hampton
Chelsea 1 - 0 Swansea
Everton 0 - 1 Sunderland
Hull City 2 - 3 Man United
Man City 2 - 1 Liverpool
Newcastle 5 - 1 Stoke
Norwich 1 - 2 Fulham
Tottenham 1 - 1 West Brom
West Ham 1 - 3 Arsenal


Team Pts
1 Liverpool 36
2 Arsenal 36
3 Manchester City 35
4 Chelsea 34
5 Everton 34
6 Newcastle United 30
7 Tottenham Hotspur 30
8 Manchester United 28
9 Southampton 24
10 Stoke City 21
11 Swansea City 20
12 Hull City 20
13 Aston Villa 19
14 Norwich City 19
15 Cardiff City 17
16 West Bromwich Albion 16
17 West Ham United 14
18 Crystal Palace 13
19 Fulham 13
20 Sunderland 10
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