Fellaini gets Toffees out of sticky situation

Sunderland 1 Everton 1
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The Independent Football

For Sunderland, no win in six now, just one win in 10. For Everton, no win in seven, one win in 12. The Black Cats and the Toffees are stuck on a run of relegation form. Or so it would seem.

In Everton's case, this afternoon's home game against Burnley looks like a corner that is there for the turning. David Moyes' men might still be three points worse off in the table than Steve Bruce's mob but they finished with all of the momentum on Saturday, Marouane Fellaini earning them a fourth successive draw with his crashing right-foot shot five minutes from time.

"I thought the way we played today was similar to how we played at our best last year," Moyes ventured to suggest. "We're beginning to show signs of it, with players coming back. We're starting to click."

There were promising signs for the Merseysiders in the opening quarter of an hour, with Fellaini prompting from central midfield, Steven Pienaar and Leon Osman also prompting and Louis Saha looking to pull the trigger at every opportunity. Osman curled a shot against the outside of a post and Saha fired a couple of efforts just wide.

Then Sunderland struck out of the blue, Phil Bardsley hoisting a ball from deep and Darren Bent nodding it out to Kenwyne Jones on the right before racing into the Everton box to head home a peach of a cross from his striking partner. For a while, the home side were flushed with the poise and purpose of the team that outclassed Liverpool at home and came within a whisker of winning at Old Trafford in October. Sadly for most of the bumper 46,990 crowd, it did not last very long.

Once Leighton Baines had cleared another Bent effort, Sunderland went into a defensive shell. Paulo da Silva, their Paraguayan defender, did force a fine save from Tim Howard midway through the second half, but as Bruce admitted afterwards: "There was an inevitability that Everton would score."

The only surprise was it took them until the 85th minute to do so, the outstanding Fellaini burying a first-time shot after Tony Hibbert delivered a cross on the overlap on the right. Cue the booing at the final whistle. Instead of a corner turned, for Sunderland it was another lead squandered.

They go to Blackburn today on a run of five successive away defeats, and with Ghanaian defender John Mensah having been added to a mounting injury list. "We're going through one of those spells," Bruce lamented. "We all have to start earning our money now."

Sunderland (4-4-2): Fulop; Bardlsey, Mensah (Nosworthy, 72), Da Silva, McCartney; Malbranque (Zenden, 57), Cana, Henderson, Reid; Bent, Jones. Substitutes not used: Carson (gk), Meyler, Healy, Murphy, Campbell.

Everton(4-4-1-1 ): Howard; Hibbert, Neill, Hetinga, Baines; Bilyaletdinov, Fellaini, Osman (Yakubu, 68), Pienaar; Cahill; Saha. Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Neville, Coleman, Duffy, Baxter.

Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).

Booked: Sunderland Mensah; Everton Saha, Cahill, Bilyaletdinov.

Man of the match: Fellaini.

Attendance: 46,990.