Coming off their most impressive performance of the campaign last Sunday against Arsenal, many were expecting the Toffee’s to come back to earth somewhat in their trip to the Stadium of Light to take on bottom of the table Sunderland. The match for Everton carried significant weight, as a win would see them go 4th in the table with the aforementioned and current occupants of 4th place Arsenal not in competition due to their match against Wigan in the FA Cup. But the match carried just as much – if not more – significance for Sunderland as they continue to fight for their Premier League lives in a battle to stave off relegation. 3 points were a must for both sides.
It was an ugly performance for the most part as it took an own goal from Wes Brown in the 75th minute for Everton to finally get on the board, but fortunately, due to some stout defense, that’s all they would need.
Here are my notes from the match.
Obviously with only one goal (that wasn’t even their’s), there wasn’t a ton of offense on the day. Gerrard Deulofeu was a thorn in Sunderland’s side most of the game, winning 4 out of 6 take on’s, and was credited with the assist on Brown’s own goal. Unfortunately, earlier in the match, the youngster, after receiving a beautifully weighted pass from defender John Stones, tried to make things happen on his own on a breakaway which resulted in a weak attempt on goal. He’s supremely gifted and can clearly get past his markers most of the time, but it would’ve been nice to see him leave the ball off for a trailing Lukaku once it was obvious he wasn’t going to beat his man this time.
Missed opportunities and sloppy play were the name of the game for the offense. That was epitomized in the 13th minute when Leighton Baines played a ball in to Steven Nasmith who, after a beautiful turn, rushed what was a wide open attempt on goal from just outside the six yard box, and ended up sailing the ball into the crowd.
Lukaku, who has been so brilliant for Everton at times this year, was essentially a non-factor. He managed 1 shot on target (excluding 2 blocks) that came from outside the penalty area and never challenged the keeper. He’ll have his good days and bad days as all strikers do. This one wasn’t just on him; the offense as a whole was quite sluggish.
Defense carried the day for the Toffee’s, and while they probably let Sunderland see a little too much of the ball at times, was where they needed to be and never really let keeper Tim Howard get challenged. Sylvain Distin and John Stones continued their strong center back play, and combined to make 17 of the team’s 32 clearances.
Stones made which turned out to be the play of the day in the 30th minute as Baines mistakenly played the ball back to Howard, not noticing Fabio Borini who intercepted the pass, went around Howard who got caught in “no man’s land”, and fired a shot that surely would’ve found the back of the net if it weren’t for Stones who tracked back to block the shot, sending it out for a corner. The play took amazing awareness, as Stones immediately recognized the danger his keeper was suddenly in and darted for the near post just in time to see the ball away.
Man Of The Match goes to non other than John Stones, who did a little bit of everything for the Blue’s on Saturday. He was 9/9 on clearances, completed 21/26 passes (81%) which included 1 key pass, and chipped in with 5 blocks including the potentially game-saving one he made in the first half.
With little happening on offense, most of the fantasy action took place – as expected – on defense. Howard was your leader with 10 pts from 5 saves, a clean sheet, and 90 minutes played. Distin notched 9 pts with a clean sheet, 90 minutes, and took home the bonus for player of the match. Deulofeu was the lone bright spot amongst the offensive players with 7 pts, which came from an assist and 77 minutes.
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