Sunderland vs Everton match report: Referee Lee Mason's errors benefit Sunderland as Leighton Baines secures point for Everton

Sunderland 1 Everton 1: Gomez and Wickham played on for the home side when they could have been dismissed

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The Independent Football

The jeers came from just about every corner of the ground. Lee Mason had blown his whistle for the final time on Sunday and that was the signal for a cacophony of catcalls to tumble down from the stands.

Mason gave Everton a penalty and did not punish their goalkeeper, Tim Howard, for what was perceived by Sunderland’s supporters as a handball outside his area. Sunderland were ahead before the penalty was awarded and converted, just, by Leighton Baines. That was the case for the prosecution and Mason was guilty.

That the balance of Mason’s errors was actually to the advantage of Gus Poyet and his side was lost amid the noise. Sunderland could easily have finished with nine men. The two big calls went for them. Howard was lying on the ball, not to the referee.

Sunderland got lucky but the narrative at most football grounds is to scream blue murder at the referee. Mason made mistakes, but they were missed or overlooked by the irate fans, an irony that was not lost on Roberto Martinez.

It was Martinez who brought Jordi Gomez to these shores in 2008 when he was at Swansea City. Gomez’s challenge on Gareth Barry in the 13th minute led to the former England midfielder being carried off. He was in hospital last night having his tibia assessed. It could be broken. Gomez was booked for the challenge but Martinez exonerated him from blame. What irked the Everton manager came just before the half-hour.

Gomez, running into the visitors’ penalty area, went over without a touch as Phil Jagielka came in for the challenge. Mason put his whistle to his mouth and it appeared Gomez, who had been booked for the Barry tackle, was facing a second yellow card for simulation. What changed Mason’s mind is unclear, but he waved his arms and the game went on.

“I don’t want players sent off but those are the rules,” said Martinez. “Jordi had a yellow card and he got caught simulating by the referee and he was going to blow the whistle and decided against it; they are big moments. Sometimes they go in your favour and sometimes they don’t. Today they didn’t.”

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Sebastian Larsson celebrates putting Sunderland in the lead against Everton

 

Sunderland’s lead came in the 67th minute. Again it was all about the jeers. Poyet had brought Will Buckley on three minutes earlier, and the home crowd voiced its disapproval that it was Adam Johnson he replaced. Buckley then won a free-kick 25 yards from the Everton goal and Seb Larsson curled in a fine strike.

The player the fans would perhaps rather have seen substituted was Connor Wickham. In the 76th minute, the excellent Seamus Coleman cut across the Sunderland penalty area and behind their defence. In fairness to Wickham, it is not a good place for a centre-forward to be, as Martinez pointed out; the challenge was clumsy and rightly produced a penalty. It was also without question a goalscoring opportunity; Wickham should have been dismissed, yet somehow he did not even receive a yellow card.

 

“I was very surprised Connor Wickham didn’t get sent off,” said Martinez. “It is a clear decision. There is no intention, it is a striker trying to get the ball late in the box; once you have given the penalty away it is a red card. I don’t agree with the rule but that is not the debate. I felt that would have been a major, major moment in the game.”

They were huge calls and they were wrong and Poyet, in his reluctance to offer an alternative view, seemed to concur. “It was tough for the referee,” he said. Not that most really knew why.

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