Sunderland were the first to declare in the general election and theirs was the first result in now. It was almost as surprising as the one on Thursday night. If you had tried to judge the result by raw statistics, it would have been as off as the opinion polls. Everton had 15 corners to one, they had 73 per cent possession and aimed 22 shots at Costel Pantilimon’s goal. Sunderland won 2-0.
Neither of their goalscorers knew much about how they had put the ball in the net – both were deflections. But to a club in the relegation zone and whose final two matches happen to be against Arsenal and Chelsea away, it scarcely mattered.
When the second went in off Jermain Defoe, the Sunderland supporters spilled out of the Bullens Road Stand. After two improbable victories, they were not just out of the relegation zone, they were, however, temporarily, clear of the bottom six. On the concourses of St James’ Park, where the game was being broadcast live, the goals would have been met by expressions of naked horror.
The expression on Dick Advocaat’s face on the final whistle was one of bemused joy. “We were very lucky today, Everton outplayed us but at the end we have three points,” said the Sunderland manager. “It was not a great game for our side but the result was very effective. ”
Advocaat added that, although Sunderland had been overrun especially in midfield, there were some performances that were both gritty and surprising. Lee Cattermole fell into the first category, Danny Graham, the second.
Graham joined Sunderland in January 2013. He had played 27 matches under four different managers and he had yet to score. Those statistics might not have mattered too much had Martin O’Neill not signed him as a centre-forward.
This was the day he scored for Sunderland. Jordi Gomez shot from the edge of the area; the ball seemed to strike Graham on the calf, changed direction and left Tim Howard hopelessly stranded. Hitherto, Everton had dominated without looking like they would break through. Now, things became serious. Seamus Coleman juggled with the ball as if he had grown up on the Copacabana rather than the fishing port of Killybegs and drove just wide. James McCarthy sent another on to the foot of Pantilimon’s post.
Everton forced five successive corners and, in the BBC commentary position, John Murray remarked that if Sunderland defended any deeper, their back four would be standing halfway up the Gwladys End. Then Sunderland went two up.
Steven Fletcher ran into the area and promptly slipped but as John Stones went to clear, he, too, fell, allowing Adam Johnson a right-footed drive which hammered into Defoe’s thigh, brushed his hand and went past Howard. As the final whistle neared, Sunderland supporters launched into “Wise Men Say” intermingling with “The Red Flag” in a ground situated in Liverpool Walton, the safest Labour constituency in the country.
Everton: (4-2-3-1) Howard; Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Baines (Garbutt, 74); McCarthy, Barry (Mirallas, 62); Lennon, Barkley, Osman; Lukaku
Sunderland: (4-3-3) Pantilimon; Jones, Coates, Brown, Van Aanholt; Larsson (Bridcutt, 83), Cattermole, Gomez; Defoe, Graham (Johnson, 74), Wickham (Fletcher, 83)
Referee: Lee Probert
Man of the match: Cattermole (Sunderland)
Match rating: 6/10
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