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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
Premier League
 Saturday 9 May 2015; 12:45pm
Everton 
0 2
 Sunderland
 
Half Time: 0 - 0
Graham (53')
Defoe (85')  
Attendance: 38,246
Fixture 36
Referee: Lee Probert

Match Report

Outside of some uncharacteristically impressive performances in Europe and the demolition of Manchester United a fortnight ago, there has been precious little to enjoy about this season, so you could forgive anyone of a Blue persuasion for just wanting it to end as soon as it was apparent we were safe from relegation.

If we have to be subjected to the last few meaningless matches, though, you'd think the least we could expect is to see some signs of progress, something to ignite hope for next season, some evidence that this Everton team can once again scale the heights of Roberto Martinez's first season in charge.

Instead, in the last three games we have seen a microcosm of Everton under the Spaniard impregnable defence and irrepressible counter-attacking on one hand; disorganised or frustrating impotence going forward and susceptibility at the back on the other. This defeat to Sunderland, the second to a team battling relegation in the space of seven days, may have owed as much to luck as the Blues' own inability to get their act together in the box long enough to win it, but there was an annoying air of inevitability about it not least Danny Graham's first goal since 2013.

Dick Advocaat came to Goodison Park with a plan for this one but, thanks to two wicked deflections, his team was rewarded for their execution of that plan with two more points than the Dutchman was probably expecting. And yet the Black Cats were far from the most stubborn or impregnable team that Everton have faced this season. They put men behind the ball, suffocated Romelu Lukaku at times with two, sometimes three, red-and-white jerseys around him but, with a bit more sharpness about him, the Belgian would surely have scored.

Twice he was foiled by Costel Pantilimon in the first half as the Romanian goalkeeper acted quickly to close him down and smother chances at his feet but you felt that, with one of the chances at least, the "Europa League" Lukaku arguably the one arena where he has looked the part his 28m price tag demands this season might not have elected to take it around the keeper but tucked the ball past him with an earlier shot. That version of the 21-year-old might also have buried the free header he was served up in the second half but which bounced harmlessly off his shoulder and into the Gwladys Street stand.

Had that 51st-minute chance gone in, you sense that the outcome would have been very different. Everton had been dominant in the first half, enjoying almost three quarters of the possession, but had failed to work the goalkeeper sufficiently with shots on target. Leon Osman, inventive and incisive in the early going on his return to the starting XI at the expense of Kevin Mirallas, had curled a shot just beyond the far post and had a goalbound shot turned away by the 'keeper's foot. Ross Barkley had seen a shot blocked after Sebastin Coates had slid in to cut out the lively Seamus Coleman's cutback.

The visitors, meanwhile, had been restricted to just one genuine shot at goal in the first 45 minutes by Jermaine Defoe that careened off his own player, Conor Wickham, and behind. They scored, however, at the end of the first real spell of pressure in the game after surviving a barrage of typically ineffective corners from Everton, only one of which had forced a save from Pantilimon where he batted Phil Jagielka's header behind.

Graham prodded a Sebastian Larsson cross narrowly over in the 52nd minute but he was in the inadvertent scorer of the opener just two minutes later. Gareth Barry, labouring through a second sub-standard display in the space of a week, could only glance another Larsson cross straight to Jordi Gomez in oceans of space outside the Everton penalty area and his wayward low drive took a heavy deflection off Graham's leg and looped beyond Tim Howard inside the far post.

In contrast to last week at Villa Park, Martinez acted fairly swiftly in response, withdrawing Barry in favour of Mirallas in the 62nd minute and there was an immediate increase in urgency about the Blues, one that almost produced an equaliser via the boot of Coleman. One drive with the outside of his boot was charged down while he dragged another just wide at the end of an excellent exhibition of ball-juggling just inside the Sunderland area.

Coleman and Mirallas both saw further shots blocked as the Black Cats dug in before James McCarthy hammered a shot agonisingly off the post and fired over at the end of an impressive run through the heart of the opposition defence. But the equaliser wouldn't come. Instead, after Defoe appeared to escape both the concession of a penalty and a second yellow card for clipping Coleman's heels as he was about to attempt to volley home Lukaku's cross from the left, Advocaat's men killed the game with a second bout of fortune with five minutes left.

John Stones was caught dithering on the ball inside his own half and it was worked forward to Steven Fletcher who was allowed to carry it across the home defence before he lost his footing and appeared to take Stones with him with a flailing arm. That left Adam Johnson free on the left side of the area to drive a shot goalwards that struck first Coleman and then Defoe before ending up in the back of the net. That sparked delirium in the away end and deepening frustration among the home supporters at a first home defeat since Boxing Day but a second loss on the bounce.

Once again, it was a case of a Martinez side having two or three lions' share of the possession but failing to actually score the goals that their territorial superiority deserved. It was the kind of performance that, while not poor, suggests the manager's problems run deeper than just "two or three" additions this summer.

The team is crying out for real quality and a genuine match-winning influence in the side like the old Mikel Arteta and the younger Steven Pienaar who were among the architects of a 7-1 destruction of Sunderland 7 years ago. It was hoped that that would be Barkley but, whether it's an issue of coaching, man-management or his own psychology, his development has clearly plateaued, even regressed this season, as he continues to play within himself. You sense that next season is going to be crucial for him if he is to fulfill his undoubted potential but Martinez can no longer bank on that happening.

It was also a day when you questioned the wisdom of spending precious funds on another tryer like Aaron Lennon who has been a valuable addition on loan but whose lack of end product and natural skill lets him down when he has an off-day like today. There again, you would think that Martinez could find better, more persistent quality elsewhere, and you would hope he has identified a clutch of players who can make a genuine impact to a side that still struggles to beat teams from the bottom end of the Premier League.

Even then, with questionable man-management at times and no obvious signs that he is close to resolving this inability to break down poor sides, you suspect it won't come down to just a matter of signing players.

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Summary

The penultimate game of the season at Goodison Park and Roberto Martinez named a strong side with Osman and Barkley back in the starting XI. It was something of a scrappy start as Everton looked to kick off with the required intensity, a number of players trying to get forward passes in play, but it was Sunderland who almost got behind the blues when Stones failed to clear on the stretch.

Sunderland were determined to defend solidly and the Blues needed to be inventive to create their first chance, Osman curling his shot just wide in a crowded area. In the next attack, Defoe fouled Baines wide left and the Everton player curled in the set piece to the far post but with too much pace and height for Stones.

The next free kick, awarded for a foul on Barkley saw McCarthy play it out to Coleman who whipped in a good cross that forced a corner which Cattermole easily repelled.

A lovely ball over the top from Osman seemed to fall perfectly for Lukaku but the big man maddeningly failed to attack the ball allowing Pantilimon to intercept it. Osman followed up with a weaker shot that went wide.

Everton were dominating possession and eventually got behind Sunderland when McCarthy played a great ball for Coleman to run on to but the cross did not find Lukaku who had three defenders in attendance and Barkley could not strike the follow-up properly.

A lot of midfield possession and slow build-up saw Osman finally cross after a sequence of intricate passing but again the ball evaded any Blue shirts and Sunderland had a spell of attacking that saw Defoe lash in a shot which flew off Wickham. Off a throw-in, it was Wickham who turned and fired well wide of Howard's far post with little pressure on him from the Everton defenders.

Some slick passing down the right on the half-hour produced Everton's second corner that was delivered in nicely to Barry who was well marked by Graham. Then, a lovely move featuring Lennon should have been another corner as Osman's shot was blocked wide.

Sunderland were defending deep, and making it as difficult as they could for Everton to structure an attack that would produce anything like a decent chance for the increasingly frustrated Blues. Osman almost got the ball through to Lennon but the space was quickly closed down.

Coleman won another corner down the right that Baines flicked off the first defender to the far post but it was too crowded for a clean header. Another corner from the other side but this one also found a defender and was cleared.

After some very patient passing around, Osman saw an opportunity to play in Lukaku who once again could not dominate a glorious opportunity, playing his first touch just too far ahead and Osman, set up with a brilliant chance to power home, fired in a shot that was slightly deflected straight to Pantilimon. Brown was carded for his foul in the move.

Barkley found Lukaku in the are but Jones was too tight on him for for the turn and the big man could not dig it out, summing up Everton's frustration in a first half they dominated with some good if at times too patient build-up play against the Sunderland parked bus.

Barclay's annoying tendency to return forward balls straight back put Everton under early and unwanted pressure early in the second half but Coleman took the ball in the right direction, to win a corner that Osman tried to get to Barry, winning another corner. This one headed in by Jagielka and Lukau redirected it wide when it seemed easier to score. Jagielka headed the next one in, but it was deflected just beyond the angle. Five corners in all before Everton mounted a more conventional attack that... won yet another corner. This one picked out Lukaku perfectly but a dreadful attempt to head it saw the ball fly off his shoulder.

At the other end, Graham could not control a hard ball driven in by Larsson, but in the next lively attack, Sunderland plundered the ugliest goal imaginable, Gomez powering in a shot and Graham sticking out a leg that caught the ball and sent it careening off the ground, up beyond Howard and in off the post. Unbelievable, and yet almost too predictable.

Cattermole took out McCarthy as Mirallas was readied to come on, Baines curling in a good delivery that Osman headed wide with Lukaku failing to get a second bite of the cherry. Barry gave way for Mirallas.

The Blue shirts seemed to be getting better penetration in into the Sunderland area but strange decision-making and a lack of ideas to penetrate some obdurate defending, with the corner count getting into double figures without end product saw the Blues continually frustrated. Coleman did some clever keepie uppies to create a shot that flew wide with almost every attempt blocked or deflected.

When Everton broke from Sunderland's first corner, McCarthy's ball to Lennon was too high and hard for him to control and the chance was gone.

Yet another Everton corner, taken by Mirallas, came to nothing. McCarthy then lashed in a great shot that finally got through the forest of red and white shirts but smacked off the face of the post. Luke Garbutt came on to replace Baines, who had picked up a knock.

A nice move through the middle found Lukaku well offside and he still couldn't finish. The Blues kept probing away,hoping that something would break for them. Lennon got free of Brown but could not profit as lukaku continued to demonstrate the most bizarre of first touches. He did cross in to Coleman who seemed to go down off Defoe's trip but no real penalty shout, and then fire in at Pantilimon, but given the service he ad often failed to see this season, all the big man's faults and limitations were on full display

After sustained Everton pressure for almost the entire second half, it was Keystone Cops in the Everton area, Fletcher falling over before Johnson's wayward shot came off Coleman and then Defoe to bounce behind Howard and underline a dreadful, dreadful result for Everton.

To underline the desperation, McGeady came on for Lennon, who had been less effective, to run around as Everton continued to try and score but they simply didn't have the guile to beat a thoroughly entrenched Sunderland side.

Michael Kenrick

 

Match Preview

Everton play their penultimate home match of the 2014-15 season this Saturday in the lunchtime kick-off against relegation-threatened Sunderland.

With eighth in the Premier League effectively out of reach – the Blues would need to win all three of their remaining games and hope Swansea lost all three of theirs – Roberto Martinez will be hoping his side can leapfrog over West Ham and Stoke into a respectable if unspectacular ninth-place finish over the last three games.

They will face a Black Cats team hoping to replicate their Houdini act of last season by escaping the drop to the Championship, with interim manager Dick Advocaat vowing to come to Merseyside to attack in order to secure what would be their first away win in the League since just before Christmas.

They will start the weekend in the bottom three and with the knowledge that they have a game in hand over the teams around them, although they must travel to Arsenal and Chelsea in their last two fixtures. In addition to their home clash with Leicester next weekend, Sunderland will likely view this trip to Goodison as their best hope to pick up a valuable result, particularly if they studied Everton's lethargic performance at Aston Villa last weekend.

Martinez his vowed to make amends for that display, particularly the awful first 45 minutes, and ensure that his team finish the season on a high so it will hopefully make for an entertaining encounter.

The manager will have the same squad from which to choose as he did at Villa Park last Saturday, with the addition of Luke Garbutt who has recovered from a bout of tonsilitis. Steven Pienaar is ruled out again with his latest muscle injury, joining Darron Gibson, Tony Hibbert and Bryan Oviedo – all of whom are out for the season – on the sidelines.

With Martinez intimating in his pre-match press conference that he did not see the last three games as a time for experimentation with his squad, he is likely to name a similar line-up to the one that started against Manchester United the weekend before last.

If so, that could mean a recall to the starting XI for Ross Barkley and Leon Osman, both of whom were named as substitutes last Saturday but came on to give greater purpose to the fightback that the Blues were trying to mount at 3-1 down. In that instance, Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith could make way and drop back to the bench alongside the likes of Aiden McGeady whom Martinez has suggested he wants to see get some playing time before the season is over.

Sunderland should be up for it as they look to build on an away draw at Stoke and a home win over Europe hopefuls Southampton in their last two games and Steven Fletcher's return from injury will give them a boost up front. They could be under-strength in defence, however, with both Wes Brown and John O'Shea set to undergo fitness tests on rib and knee injuries respectively.

Even given the visitors' dire need to win, a Blues side on its game should have too much for them but it remains to be seen which Everton shows up.

 

 

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Match Preview
Match Summary
Match Report
Key Links
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Match Reports
2014-15 Reports Index
< Aston Villa (A) West Ham (A) >
EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Howard
  Coleman
  Stones
  Jagielka
  Baines (Garbutt 74' )
  Barry (Mirallas 62')
  McCarthy
  Osman
  Lennon (McGeady 86')
  Barkley
  Lukaku
  Subs not used
  Robles
  Naismith
  Besic
  Kone
  Unavailable
  Gibson (injured)
  Hibbert (injured)
  Oviedo (injured)
  Pienaar (injured)
  Duffus (injured)
  Long (loan)
  Grant (loan)
SUNDERLAND (4-4-2)
  Pantillimon
  Jones
  Coates
  Brown
  Van Aanholt
  Larsson (Bridcutt 84')
  Cattermole
  Gomez
  Wickham (Fletcher 74')
  Graham (Johnson 74')
  Defoe
  Subs not used
  Reveillere
  Mannone
  Vergini
  Buckley

Premier League Scores
Saturday
Aston Villa 1-0 West Ham
C Palace 1-2 Man United
Everton 0-2 Sunderland
Hull City 0-1 Burnley
Leicester 2-0 So'hampton
Newcastle 1-1 West Brom
Stoke 3-0 Tottenham
Sunday
Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool
Man City 6-0 QPR
Monday
Arsenal 0-1 Swansea


Team Pts
1 Chelsea 84
2 Manchester City 73
3 Arsenal 70
4 Manchester United 68
5 Liverpool 62
6 Tottenham Hotspur 58
7 Southampton 57
8 Swansea City 56
9 Stoke City 50
10 West Ham United 47
11 Everton 44
12 Crystal Palace 42
13 West Bromwich Albion 41
14 Aston Villa 38
15 Leicester City 37
16 Sunderland 36
17 Newcastle United 36
18 Hull City 34
19 Burnley 29
20 Queens Park Rangers 27

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