Well, what on earth was that all about? Looking sort of canny after 45 minutes of a more than decent game of football, Sunderland lost their way when Everton changed things around at the break and ended up with a reverse of last season’s emphatic victory.
I don’t think we were being overly optimistic in expecting a win from this one. We’d done well at Southampton, and should really have held out for the three points, and we’d secured the services of a couple of players since then, so why not?
As it was, we chose to keep our record signing on the bench (how these professionals fail to keep “match fit” is beyond me) alongside Khazri, who was done no favours by the white tracky top that would make Micky Bridges look chunky. No sign of Pienaar, no sign of Anichebe.
Manquillo Kone Papy PVA
Gooch Januzaj Watmore
Kicking South, as is only right, Watmore ran, as only he can, in support of Defoe, at the Everton defence. With Williams and Jagielka at their heart, hardly spring chickens, that was the obvious thing to do. There was plenty of intent and forward movement, but not that much in the way of actual efforts on goal. Januzaj was the most influential of our players, showing great footwork several times to almost but not quite turn the visiting defence inside out – lovely to watch. He worked the space for a shot that was blocked but fell in front of Defoe – but our captain was beaten by the bounce and could only shin it over the top. I blame his dodgy haircut, and the fact that he shouldn’t be captain –he’s in the wrong place, and he’s a rotten moaner.
Despite continuing the effective job we’d done on Lukaku last time, he managed a good header that drew an even better save from Pickford. Kone and Papy had done well otherwise to negate any attacking threat from Everton. Watmore ran at their defence as only he can, but when he looked to be crowded out and went down, he was booked for simulation. We howled our displeasure at the ref, but the magic of the internet showed that he had could probably have stayed on his feet, the silly boy. Having said that, the officials did have a generally poor half, not repeating the simulation card when an Everton player hoyed himself to the ground and giving a few baffling decisions in the visitors’ favour.
Gooch, who’d been his usual tenacious self, did really well to work some space just inside the box, and Stekelenberg (check spelling if you like) had to stretch to tip the shot away from his top left corner. The single added minute brought nothing for either side, and we handed round the half-time ket in fairly decent spirits, justifiably expecting us to up our game enough to win it.
That worked well, didn’t it?
They replaced Barkley, fast changing from the future of the national team to an ineffective show-pony, with Delofeu (check the spelling if you like) as Koeman conceded that we’d bossed central midlfield in the first half. Basically, they gave up that part of the field and stretched it wide. Papy had to be alert to prevent us going behind, then Pickford produced another fine save to show he’s not just about distribution. Any more passing and Man City might sign him in place of that clown they’ve bought to pass from the back and make the occasional catch. When we won a corner, Kone was on it in Hurley/Watson fashion, but the header went straight into the keeper’s hands. Rodwell played in
Defoe with a lovely pass, but there was no room allowed for the turn and shot. Gooch, rather surprisingly, made way for Khazri on 57 when we’d been tipping Watmore for the first go at the Radox.
That’s when the trouble started. 59 minutes gone, and we won another corner. After Coleman had shot wide, we built a decent attack and won a corner. Kirchoff, sauntering about near the back post, headed it back across, but Everton headed it clear and it fell (more by luck than judgement, it has to be said) at the feet of a Blue player, and they were away. Gueye (surely an optical ailment) sprinted down their right and found Lukaku at the back post. The header left Pickford helpless and we were behind. From completely playing him out of the game in May, we were now letting him run riot after a first half in which we’d kept him under control, and he smacked a shot off the bar a couple of minutes later. Not to worry, Toffees, we allowed Bolasie to break down our right at cross to the far post – and guess what? There was Lukaku, unmarked again, to nod in. That was the game gone.
Definitely gone a couple of minutes later, when we contrived to leave Mirallas with ages to pick a pass through the middle and Lukaku was away - no chance for Pickford as the ball was clipped past him for the third. Watmore made way for Ndong, then Denayer replaced the tiring Kirchoff, who’d faded out of the game when Everton decided that they’d play it wide and forget central midfield.
Everton passed it around, as you would to run the clock down, and even managed to get Gareth Barry through 90 minutes without a booking. Four added minutes did nothing but add to our misery, and that was that, with the large visiting contingent (where were they in May?) going home happy.
Man of the Match? Probably young Bradley Lowery, whose name was sung by both sets of fans, and to whose aid £200,000 was donated by Everton – a fantastic gesture by a proper football club.
On the field? Nowt wrong with Pickford, despite him hoofing a clearance/killer pass straight into the back of an Everton forward in the second half. Manquillo, like everyone else, struggled after the break, and PVA was faced with two blue shirts in the second half. Kone and Papy had a great first hour, then got caught out – poor concentration. Gooch ran and ran, and tackled, while Kirchoff did what he always does – great for an hour, finding space and time without breaking sweat, then getting a bit puffed. Rodwell produced a couple of blindingly good passes, but nowhere near enough of them and a Lad his size should be making mincemeat of old knackers like Barry. Watmore still struggles to find the right time to release the ball, while still being a real nuisance with his direct running. Defoe is not captain material, and seemed to forsake his natural predatory game for one of moaning, inefficiently, at the officials and generally looking like the world was on his shoulders. Centre forward of his type are not in the right part of the field to be captain, and how can a ref take him seriously with that haircut?
For me, Januzaj was our top performer as he drifted in and around the Everton defence – couldn’t produce the killer blow, but at least he was nice to look at.
A bad, bad night at the office, and Mr Moyes, despite his post-match proclamations that we’re still looking for a formation and style that suits our players (Haway man David, that’s what pre-season is for) should have the tactical nous to deal with what proved to be the decisive tactical switch by Everton.
Keep the Faith
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