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Adam Johnson became the second Sunderland player to score in the Premier League this season, but Everton struck twice in the space of two minutes late in the second half to extend their unbeaten run in the competition to eight games and consolidate fourth place in the table.
Martin O'Neill's team finally ended a goal drought that stretched back eight hours and 55 minutes, which was deserved reward for an improved performance, but they were undone when Marouane Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic transformed Everton's deficit into profit in the 77th and 79th minutes. Improved or not, Sunderland have now won once in 10 attempts in the Premier League this season.
In personal terms, this was a meeting of two of the best managers never to have had a club big enough to challenge for the title. Form is transitory, class permanent, but, at the moment, David Moyes is ahead on points, literally and metaphorically. With Everton he has done wonders on a pauper's budget, mastering the alchemist's art to keep his charges competitive while selling top players, such as Jack Rodwell, who left for £12m before the season started.
His eye for a bargain is typified by Jelavic, who – bought from Rangers for a modest £5.5m in January – was an immediate hit in England, with nine goals in his first 13 league appearances last season and five in 10 this time. The versatile, endlessly influential Fellaini has been an even better buy and has six goals in his past 10 games.
O'Neill's reputation is such that an immediate transformation was expected when he replaced Steve Bruce at Sunderland 12 months ago. It has not been forthcoming and, a year into his tenure, the revivalist Ulsterman finds himself at the wrong end of the table, his team averaging less than a point per game, which is relegation form.
Their problem is easy to identify. Before Saturday, only Steven Fletcher had scored in the league and his five goals have been nowhere near sufficient. No team has scored fewer goals or had fewer shots.
Sunderland had the better start and Fletcher ought to have scored after seven minutes, but he shot wide across the face of the goal, from left to right. Substituted later with hamstring trouble, he is expected to miss Scotland's friendly against Luxembourg on Wednesday. Stéphane Sessègnon also had a decent early chance and O'Neill felt his team should have been 2-0 up after 10 minutes and "out of sight" by half-time.
For Everton, Steven Pienaar, Jelavic, and Phil Neville tried their luck in the first half to no avail. Sunderland, meanwhile, were assembling one of their best performances of the season and, as the first half went into added time, they took the lead after a corner from Sebastian Larsson that Everton failed to clear. Craig Gardner was therefore allowed to set up Johnson, who beat the advancing keeper, Tim Howard, to the ball to slot it into the vacated net.
Early in the second half, Johnson added to his notable contribution with a goalline clearance from John Heitinga.
Their passing triangles having got them nowhere, Everton decided to try the longer ball, to no avail until Fellaini, the man of the match, drilled a low shot into the right-hand corner of Simon Mignolet's goal.
For Everton's winner, Jelavic hit the Sunderland net from six yards out after Fellaini had flicked through a pass from Leon Osman.
Moyes said: "I thought it was going to be one of those days, and Sunderland were going to win 1-0, but we kept at it, and in the end defeat would have been an injustice given all the possession we had. Their resilience made it hard for us to score and we were a bit stodgy at times. It didn't look like it was coming, but maybe the amount of pressure we had in the second half paid off."
Unsurprisingly, O'Neill saw it differently. "Our play in the first half was exhilarating and we should have been out of sight at half-time," he said. "We had two clear chances before the goal and, instead of 1-0, we should have been three up.
"Obviously I'm very disappointed that we didn't see it through, but it was a good performance against a side with a great chance of being in the Champions League next season. The players are encouraged and we'll be back."
EVERTON’S 2013 charity calendar features a near-naked Tim Howard as Mr March wearing just a scowl and a towel.
But the real pin-ups in this clash were goal kings Marouane Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic.
Goals for Sunderland have been as rare as finding a vegetarian in the I’m A Celebrity jungle – a fact that boss Marin O’Neill has found difficult to stomach.
But when Adam Johnson scored his first goal since his £10million arrival from Manchester City, the monkey was off O’Neill’s back.
Johnson became the first Sunderland player to find the back of the net in eight hours and 55 minutes.
And his strike came in his 150th Premier League game to make it a double delight for the winger discarded by City and England.
But the celebrations belonged to Everton with boss David Moyes enjoying his 400th league match in charge at Goodison.
Moyes, cursing the loss of Kevin Mirallas on the half-hour with a hamstring injury, said: “He looked the most likely to score and create opportunities. We were a bit stodgy after that.
“I thought it was going to be one of those days. It looked like a one-nil for Sunderland but we kept knocking on the door and creating chances. We got what we deserved because we kept at it.
“The goals were really good. Fellaini scored one and was involved in the second. He’s got great chest control and lovely soft feet. He’s really important for us.”
For 76 minutes his opposite number had thought he would be the one raising a glass to victory and O’Neill said: “We should have been out of sight at half-time.
“We were exhilarating against a side who have a great chance of being in the Champions League next season.
“It was a good performance from Johnson and Stephane Sessegnon was outstanding. I’m disappointed we didn’t see it through for any of the points.”
Sunderland showed menace in the opening exchanges and posed a real goal threat, when finding the net this season had been mission impossible.
Sessegnon got the better of Everton defender Seamus Coleman and fired straight at Howard.
Then Steven Fletcher rolled agonisingly wide of the post.
The non-stop action stirred Everton into life and Steven Pienaar embarked on a lovely run which ended with a thunderbolt blocked by keeper Simon Mignolet.
Jelavic bundled an effort past the upright as the pressure mounted.
But back came Sunderland with Jack Colback finding himself in the clear only to shoot weakly at Howard before Phil Neville responded with a 30-yarder.
And then the Black Cats broke the deadlock in the first minute of added time to signal wild celebrations.
Sebastian Larsson’s corner was only cleared as far as Craig Gardner who hooked back in and Johnson struck the sweetest of left-footers beyond Howard.
If Johnson’s back was reddened with many slaps of congratulations in the dressing room, he was the hero again four minutes after the break when he cleared John Heitinga’s header off the line.
Sunderland infuriated the home fans with their go-slow approach. But who could blame them for not taking goal-kicks and free-kicks in a hurry after that precious goal?
Substitute Apostolos Vellios thought he had equalised but his header plopped into Mignolet’s hands to the resulting groans of the Everton faithful.
But their heartbreak was over in the 76th minute when Fellaini equalised.
Leon Osman, celebrating his England call-up, threaded through to Fellaini and the big Belgian battered a low shot past fellow countryman Mignolet.
Two minutes later, Osman was at the centre of the build-up to the winner. He again found Fellaini and his backheel fed Jelavic who screwed his shot beyond Mignolet.
The season may be only four months old, but it is a fair assumption that when the Footballer of the Year is being decided Goodison Park will be the destination of choice.
Marouane Fellaini was not at his imposing best on Saturday, but his influence still proved decisive, first with the equaliser, then the clever flick leading to Nikica Jelavic’s winner on 78 minutes.
Fellaini’s notoriety once had more to do with his haircut than his performances. Not anymore. No player in the division has had greater impact over the first 11 games.
“He has great qualities, great chest control, a soft touch and he scored a great goal,” said Moyes, celebrating his 400th game as Everton manager.
“When you need him to he can drop deep and have an impact, which we needed him to. It looked like it was going to be one of those days, but we deserved it.”
The host’s goals came within three minutes of each other, assisting Moyes’ increasingly credible top four aspirations and ensuring one of his side’s more subdued performances still ended in a triumphant fist clench.
That was despite an unusual occurrence in the 45th minute — a sight so rare everyone was forced to double check it actually happened. For the first time this season a Sunderland player other than Steven Fletcher scored in the Premier League.
Adam Johnson belatedly introduced himself to his new club following an inauspicious start since his £10 million arrival in August with a well-taken opening goal. But he did not do much else. Johnson’s should have been the third goal of a strange first half in which Martin O’Neill’s men did most of the chasing, and yet still could — and should — have scored three times.
Stéphane Sessègnon missed a sitter in the fourth minute, shooting woefully at
Tim Howard’s legs after Fletcher’s clever pass. The favour was returned when the same duo combined on eight minutes, this time the Scottish striker’s angled shot unluckily drifted an inch wide.
“An exhilarating first half performance,” said O’Neill, slightly overegging the pudding.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t see it through. With 14 minutes left it looked like we would get three points, then we don’t get any. We should have been out of sight at half-time.”
Everton appeared to have heeded the early warnings, dominating possession thanks to Leighton Baines, Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas. But when the Belgian winger pulled up holding his hamstring after 30 minutes, there was an audible groan of foreboding.
The concern proved justified when Craig Gardner’s well-intended but hopeful looping ball landed on the toes of Johnson in first-half injury time.
But the momentum was entirely towards Simon Mignolet’s goal after that, and when the equaliser arrived on 77 minutes, it owed plenty to Moyes’ tactical switch. John O’Shea had stifled Fellaini in his advanced role, but the Belgian found space when sent back to midfield.
He drilled a shot beyond Mignolet from the edge of the box and, three minutes later, he flicked the ball into Jelavic’s path and he converted to maintain Everton’s considerable progress.
The cobra and the mongoose, the rabbit and the stoat, Sunderland and Everton. It is hard to know quite how Everton came to have such a hold on Sunderland, who had not beaten them in any kind of contest for a decade. The slow decline of the promise with which Martin O'Neill began his reign on Wearside can be dated from defeat to Everton in last season's FA Cup quarter-final.
There were 13 minutes remaining, Sunderland were one up. They had played well and defended with the kind of resilience that suggested they might hold out for their first win at Goodison since 1996. Then the home side swept away those hopes inside three minutes.
They were moments dominated by Maroaune Fellaini. It was the only time the Belgian exerted any real influence on the afternoon but it decided the match. There were three Sunderland defenders in front of him when he received the ball on the edge of the area but he feinted one way and then the other and drilled a shot into the corner of Simon Mignolet's net so surgically that the goalkeeper barely moved.
Then came the visitors' execution. Fellaini's back-heel went through John O'Shea's legs and was intercepted by Nikica Jelavic whose run and finish were irresistible.
"I think Jela needed a goal put on a plate for him at the moment," said Everton's manager David Moyes, who celebrated his 400th Premier League game with his 12th victory over Sunderland.
"He finished it well but this was as close to being put on a plate as any player could possibly have wanted." Sunderland could have expected nothing from this match. In the battle for Premier League points they were in danger of becoming conscientious objectors.
Luis Suarez alone had produced twice as many shots on goal as O'Neill's entire team this season. Sunderland's only victory had come against a Wigan side reduced to 10 men for most of the second half.
They had faced Newcastle for 70 minutes with a man advantage and still did not manage a shot of their own on target. Another encounter with Everton was in truth not a meeting between cobra and mongoose, more hedgehog and lorry.
And yet Sunderland performed so well that their manager could say with some justice that they should have been "out of sight by half-time". O'Neill even described the display as "exhilarating".
Sunderland might have scored twice in the first 10 minute. Steven Fletcher, who hitherto had been the only Sunderland player to have scored in the league, slipped through Stéphane Sessègnon, whose shot struck Tim Howard's splayed legs. Moments later, Fletcher slid his shot inches past Howard's post.
Everton's grip on proceedings slackened further with the loss of Kevin Mirallas due to a hamstring injury. "We were a bit stodgy after he came off," Moyes reflected. "We didn't flow quite as nicely as we have done."
Since his move from Manchester City, Adam Johnson has barely flowed at all but yesterday he showed why bringing him back to the North East was considered such a coup by O'Neill. It was not just his goal but his general play, which included a clearance off the line, that would have encouraged his supporters.
His goal, though, was well taken. Sebastian Larsson's corner was headed out by Jelavic and Craig Gardner lobbed it back into space that created a race between Leon Osman, who has been chosen by England to face Sweden, and Johnson who had not. The race was won by the outcast.
Sunderland said that their midfielder, James McClean, made a personal decision not to wear a shirt with a poppy. He was the only player on either side not to start with one. McClean grew up in a nationalist area of Derry and received death threats after opting to play for the Republic of Ireland.
Everton boss David Moyes sent scouts to watch Sporting Lisbon right-back Cedric Soares last weekend.
It was the second time Goodison spies had watched the 21-year-old Portugal youth international in 15 days as Moyes looks for more options at right-back with Tony Hibbert the wrong side of 30.
Chelsea will make a sensational £30million move for Everton talisman Marouane Fellaini in the January transfer window.
Blues owner Roman Abramovich has given the green light to a huge offer for the powerful Goodison hero who has been one of the major successes of the Premier League this season.
Boss Roberto di Matteo wants more strength in his side and an alternative to Fernando Torres, with fearsome Fellaini top of his wish list. And the fact Belgian Fellaini would be eligible for the Champions League is a major plus as the Londoners set up one of the biggest deals of the January market.
Fellaini scored his sixth goal of the season yesterday before setting up Nikica Jelavic for the winner in Everton’s 2-1 comeback win over Sunderland.
And he has been dropping hints he would like to move on soon – much to the annoyance of Everton boss David Moyes.
It will take a big bid to make it happen but Chelsea are happy to spend, knowing Torres cannot lead their attack on his own if they are to challenge for the title or get anywhere near retaining the Champions League.
Fellaini – who turns 25 next week – fits the bill as he can lead the line, support the main attacker or add his 6ft 4ins frame to a talented but small attacking midfield.
First Christmas and then it will soon be that time again.
Time for Bill Kenwright to squeeze his hand down the side of the sofa, shake some shrapnel from the change jar and turn out his pockets.
Put another musical on the West End stage, have a word with those seriously minted pals of his.
More familiar than any of the storylines in his West End productions will be the exchange between David Moyes and Kenwright. It will start something like this. Can I have more, sir?
And Everton and Moyes have never needed it quite as much as they do now. Not because the team is in any sort of difficulty, not because any serious strain is showing on a numerically challenged squad, not because there are areas glaringly in need of stark improvement. But because a Champions League place is dangling in front of this club like a fat apple ready to be plucked.
Moyes knows it. He knows that in the mini-league below the big three, Everton have little to fear. Right now, Moyes and his team can fight with the likes of Spurs, Arsenal and Newcastle at a level weight.
And Moyes surely knows that buying in January – and buying wisely – could prove decisive.
This victory was deserved. Just.
But Sunderland created more chances in one game than they have since the start of the season.
There is a creeping sense of vulnerability about this Everton team that Moyes will want to disperse before it becomes an issue. Everton cannot rely on this sort of late flurry on too many occasions.
And this is the sort of position to recruit from. A position of fourth-placed strength. Everton can seriously sell the prospect of Champions League involvement to new talent.
Every transfer window is important for a club as financially constrained as Everton – the next one could be the most important in Moyes’ decade at Goodison Park.
Last year, he found yesterday’s game-winner, Nikica Jelavic – quite possibly the Premier League signing of 2012.
If Moyes could strike a similar deal in January, Everton’s Champions League hopes would be tagged realistic rather than optimistic.
It is in midfield where Moyes needs to bolster. Leon Osman will make his first appearance for England on Wednesday – a debut that is not just overdue, but too late to have any sort of significance.
In his understated, though thoroughly admirable way, he might be performing as well as he has done since making his Everton debut almost ten years ago, but Osman is not going to improve.
He will continue to be integral to Everton’s progression but central midfield – where Phil Neville laboured badly – is now the area in which Everton require a further injection of quality.
This all sounds like nit-picking after a stirring win and start to the season. But no-one will know better than Moyes that a Champions League place is there for the taking … especially if Kenwright can find another few quid.
Arsene Wenger has made Marouane Fellaini his number one target in the January window.
Belgium international Fellaini, who scored in Everton’s 2-1 win over Sunderland yesterday, signed a new five-year contract a year ago.
But he also hinted in September that he may be ready to quit when he said: “This will be one of my last seasons at Everton.”
And that has alerted Wenger, who has had the 24-year-old watched this season.
IT’S impossible to miss Marouane Fellaini.
His 6ft 4ins frame is packed with menace and muscle – and just to make sure he has a hairstyle that looks straight out of a joke shop.
But Premier League defenders are finding out to their cost this season that the moment you take your eye off Everton’s No 25 then you’re in trouble.
Sunderland were the latest team to pay the price for daring to believe they had tamed the Belgian who has become a talisman for the blue half of Merseyside.
Martin O’Neill’s men were hanging on grimly to the lead given to them by Adam Johnson in first-time injury-time.
The Black Cats defence was repelling everything that Everton could throw at them, with captain John O’Shea a giant at the back.
Then, in the space of three minutes, Fellaini scored one and set up a winner for Nikica Jelavic and Everton’s grip on a top four place was strengthened further.
“People think Fellaini has a bit of brutality about him, but that’s not the case,” said Moyes. “What he has got is great chest control and lovely soft feet. He can play up front, but if we need him to, he can play deeper as well.
“He has become a really important player for us and he is proving that this season. Fellaini has scored one and set up another. He really put the winner on a plate for Jelavic.”
Everton’s strength is collective rather than individual.
But it was a real strain for Moyes’ men until the ‘Big Fella’ made his presence felt.
With clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea hovering, it is vital that the Everton boss isn’t forced to once again cash in on his most prized asset when the transfer window reopens in the New Year.
Everton’s cause was not helped yesterday when a hamstring strain deprived them of Kevin Mirallas on the half-hour. Yet even before the Portuguese playmaker’s departure, it was Sunderland who carried most threat.
Stephane Sessegnon’s lack of confidence in front of goal was illustrated perfectly when he fired a great chance against the legs of Tim Howard in only the third minute.
Jack Colback’s lack of conviction was even more evident when he rolled a shot into the arms of the American keeper following an exchange of passes.
But Everton were labouring and it said everything about their lack of potency it needed a long-range effort from Phil Neville to eventually test Simon Mignolet.
Then came the moment that Wearsiders have waited 43 days for – a Sunderland player scoring a goal. A total of 534 minutes had passed since Steven Fletcher found the target against Wigan.
But when Craig Gardner returned Seb Larsson’s partially-cleared corner with interest, Johnson swooped to sweep a controlled half-volley past Howard. It was the £10million winger’s first goal for the Black Cats. And Johnson was in the right place again after the restart clearing John Heitinga’s header off the line.
Everton pressed and Moyes sent on Greek striker Apostolos Vellios for Neville. But with 14 minutes left it seemed there could only be one winner – and it wasn’t Everton.
Then England hopeful Leon Osman found Fellaini lurking on the edge of the Sunderland penalty area.
For once, O’Shea was slow detecting the danger and the Belgian turned to ram his sixth goal of the season into the bottom corner.
Three minutes later, Osman combined with Fellaini again. But this time the Belgian threaded a first-time flick through O’Shea’s leg and Jelavic finished well.
“We should have been out of sight by half-time,” moaned O’Neill. “We scored one great goal but should have scored three. With 14 minutes left we looked like winners and we’ve come away with nothing.
“We knew we would come under pressure because Everton are a team that has a great chance of being in the Champions League.
“Their second goal epitomised their luck and our misfortune.”
Marouane Fellaini is not going to make it easy for Everton to keep hold of him.
The big-haired Belgian is on fire at present and turning in the kind of performances that will get the biggest clubs in Europe chasing his signature and manager David Moyes knows his club cannot afford to turn down offers of £20million-plus.
Without the 6ft 4in Goodison midfielder, Sunderland would have beaten their bogey manager Moyes for the first time in 18 attempts.
They led through Adam Johnson's first goal for the club and looked comfortable until they were 'Fellainied'.
He drilled in a 76th-minute equaliser for his sixth goal of the season.
And two minutes later, for an encore, he produced a backheel that fortuitously squeezed through the legs of John O'Shea to set up Nikica Jelavic's joyous winner.
It stretched Everton's Premier League run to just one defeat in 20 games and while the odds are still stacked against them maintaining their current fourth place, you would not bet against it.
For Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill, it is a different story. Although they can at last claim an outfield goalscorer other than Steven Fletcher and their first goal from anyone in nearly nine hours, defeat leaves them perilously close to the relegation zone.
They must be thankful that Reading, Southampton and QPR cannot muster a win among them. 'Fellaini is a really important player for us,' said Moyes.
'He has great chest control, soft feet and when we needed him to drop back in with 15 minutes to go. He can play deeper as well.
'He might have got a bit lucky with his flick going through John O'Shea's legs but Jela needed one put on a plate for him at the moment. The players showed great character to come from a goal behind.'
O'Neill, who was left without skipper Lee Cattermole, seemed unable to comprehend his side were beaten despite a first-half display he called 'exhilarating'.
'We should have been out of sight at half-time. Instead of being one up, we should have been three up,' he said.
'It was a great performance by our players. We knew we would be under pressure in the second half. Their second goal epitomised that bit of misfortune.
'I am disappointed we didn't see it through. With 14 minutes left it looked as if we would get three points; we didn't get any. We were playing against a team who have a great chance of playing in the Champions League.'
Moyes would not have enjoyed the first 45 minutes of his 400th Premier League game in charge. Everton allowed Stephane Sessegnon and Fletcher early chances while, at the other end, things were so bleak Phil Neville tried his luck from 30 yards.
Simon Mignolet palmed it away. Sunderland struck with the last attack of the half. Seb Larsson's corner was half-cleared to Craig Gardner and when he played the ball back in, Johnson burst ahead of a static Leon Osman to tuck a first-time finish past Tim Howard.
Johnson celebrated the strike with the natural glee of a £10m signing who has struggled since leaving Manchester City.
He was left out of Roy Hodgson's England party for this week's friendly against Sweden, while Osman is in the squad. Everton, who had lost Kevin Mirallas with a hamstring pull after 30 minutes, were lacklustre in their attempts to draw level.
Their best two efforts were from Johnny Heitinga, the second of which was hoofed off the line by Johnson. But Fellaini turned the match on its head in the final quarter.
He was given time in the Sunderland area to turn and shoot home Steven Naismith's pass after Jelavic had dragged Carlos Cuellar out the way.
Two minutes later, Osman redeemed himself with a clever pass in to Fellaini's feet, he backheeled to Jelavic and the Croat finished for his sixth goal of the season.