Beckford brace adds to Sunderland misery

Everton 2 Sunderland 0

Jermaine Beckford struck twice as Sunderland suffered yet more misery at Everton this afternoon.

The former Leeds striker found the net twice in the first half to lift Everton further away from Barclays Premier League relegation danger and send Sunderland home from Goodison Park empty-handed again.

The Black Cats, without a league win at the ground since 1996, went close when Tim Howard saved well from Stephane Sessegnon but Beckford's second just before the interval blunted their threat.

Steve Bruce's side created little after the break and surrendered to a fourth successive loss that could have been more emphatic.

It was another dent in their push for Europe but Everton, winning for only the second time in six league games, could still make a late charge.

Beckford's double took his tally after slow start to his Everton career to eight and emphasised that the Merseysiders still have much to play for after their stunning FA Cup win at Chelsea last week.

Beckford stole the limelight from strike partner Louis Saha, who scored four goals against Blackpool three weeks ago but had been out since with a hamstring injury.

Saha took the place of Tim Cahill, who started on the bench after being a slight injury doubt, in the only change to the side which won memorably at Stamford Bridge.

Sunderland goalkeeper Craig Gordon, recently troubled by a knee injury, also had to make do with a place on the bench as Simon Mignolet took his place.

The visitors almost claimed an early lead but Kieran Richardson, playing in an advanced role, spurned a glorious chance after just three minutes.

The former Manchester United midfielder raced onto a fine ball from Sessegnon and was allowed a clear run at goal as Everton mistakenly stopped in anticipation of an offside flag.

Howard managed to force him wide but Richardson should still have done better than to drag a shot across the face of goal.

Sunderland paid for that miss as Everton claimed the lead four minutes later.

Leon Osman found space on the edge of the box and looked to have slipped Saha in but the Frenchman allowed Beckford to sneak through and fire in a shot which Titus Bramble diverted in.

Sunderland were denied an equaliser as Howard produced a brilliant fingertip save to turn a fierce Sessegnon drive from the edge of the box onto the bar.

Everton continued to drive forward themselves with Saha skipping around a challenge from Anton Ferdinand in the area only to be denied by a fine Sulley Muntari tackle.

Saha had another promising opportunity after being fed by Mikel Arteta but slipped as he shaped to shoot.

Everton doubled their advantage six minutes before the break after Arteta beat Ferdinand and John Mensah to pull back for Beckford in front of goal.

The former Leeds striker scuffed his left-foot shot but the ball still had enough power to creep into the bottom corner.

The only downside for Everton was the loss of Marouane Fellaini just before the interval with an ankle injury suffered in a challenge with Sessegnon. Jack Rodwell took his place.

Everton could have had a third soon after the restart when Saha flicked a Phil Neville throw into the danger area but Osman shot wide on the half-volley.

The Toffees thought they had earned their first penalty in 29 league games when Beckford went down under a Mensah challenge after a powerful run from Seamus Coleman but the flag was raised.

Mignolet then came to Sunderland's rescue by saving with his feet in quick succession from Saha and Coleman after the defence had failed to clear.

Osman tried his luck again from the edge of the box after a Bramble header fell into his path but, despite having time to take aim, the otherwise excellent midfielder again put it wide.

Coleman brought another good save out of Mignolet with a well-struck first-time shot from the right which looked to be creeping inside the near post.

Substitute Diniyar Bilyaletdinov skewed another attempt over the bar as Everton pressed until the end.

Osman should have added a third in injury time when he took the ball round Mignolet but Ahmed Elmohamady headed off the line.

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