When Danny Welbeck latched on to Ashley Cole's wayward backpass to complete the 3-0 demolition of the Premier League champions in their own manor the Sunday before last, the travelling fans broke into a chant of "Outclassed by the Sunderland." When the 19-year-old headed Sunderland into a 71st-minute lead at the Stadium of Light last night, there was no such crowing.
For one thing, unlike Chelsea, this time the boys in blue in the opposition ranks were far from outclassed by the Sunderland. For another, they proceeded to prove it, Mikel Arteta earning a draw for Everton with an equaliser seven minutes from time. The Spaniard's shot took what for Sunderland was a wicked deflection on its way past Craig Gordon. Not that it was a fluke of a draw for Everton. Far from it.
Had it not been for two goal-line clearances, Tim Cahill would have had a hat-trick, instead of just the one goal. David Moyes' men would also have had a victory to celebrate had Jermaine Beckford not blazed a sitter of a chance over Gordon's crossbar four minutes into injury-time. "That was a great chance, and to be fair he normally puts them away," the Everton manager reflected. "It could have been three points."
Chelsea had hardly troubled Gordon at Stamford Bridge nine days ago but with a little over five minutes on the clock last night the Scotland goalkeeper was picking the ball out of his net. Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, cut a despairing figure on the apron of the pitch as he watched Leighton Baines unstitch the right flank of his defence, the full-back playing a simple one-two with Steven Pienaar before clipping a cross to the unmarked Cahill, who planted a firm header past Gordon from a range of seven yards – the native Sydneysider's sixth goal for Everton against Sunderland.
It took the pussyfooting Black Cats a while to gain their poise but in the 24th minute Boudewijn Zenden, a three-time judo champion of Limburg, floored the Everton defence with a zig-zagging run down the right. The Dutchman's low ball into the penalty area was an invitation that Welbeck could not refuse, the teenager turning a first-time shot past Tim Howard. All of a sudden Sunderland looked like champion-beaters. Kieran Richardson might have given them the lead had his 20 yard drive been struck with a little better direction. Still, the Black Cats had Jordan Henderson to thank for denying Cahill a second headed goal 12 minutes before the interval, the new England midfielder using his own head to block the on the line.
Nine minutes into the second-half, it was Michael Turner who came to the rescue, when Cahill beat Gordon to a speculative punt up the right and flicked a shot over the Sunderland keeper. Turner managed to hack the ball out of the goalmouth, clattering into one of the posts for his trouble. Thankfully for Sunderland – with Titus Bramble missing, and facing the possibility of knee surgery – the central defender suffered no serious damage.
It took the home side until the 71st minute to get in front but they did so in style, the rangy Welbeck rising on the edge of the six yard box to head home a cross from the right by Richardson. Arteta's deflected shot restored parity and the contest ended fair and square, Welbeck dragging a shot across the face of the Everton goal before Beckford squandered his injury-time sitter.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Gordon; Onuoha, Ferdinand, Turner, Bardsley; Richardson, Henderson (Al-Muhammadi 85), Cattermole, Zenden (Malbranque 69); Welbeck, Bent. Substitutes not used: Mignolet, Angeleri, Da Silva, Riveros, Adams
Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Neville, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Coleman, Rodwell, Arteta, Pienaar; Cahill; Saha. Substitutes not used: Mucha, Hibbert, Bilyaletdinov, Beckford, Gueye, Yakubu, Rodwell.
Referee: P Walton (Northants)
Booked: Everton Heitinga, Rodwell.
Possession: Sunderland 45% Everton 55%
Shots on target: Sunderland 8 Everton 8
Man of the match: Cahill Match rating: 7/10.