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Black Cats earn vital away win over high-flying Everton
Final Score: Everton 0 Sunderland 1
CHRISTMAS is the season of goodwill, but Everton took the level of generosity to a new level by gifting Sunderland a vital win in the fight for survival.
Black Cats boss Gus Poyet received the best Christmas present he could have wished for with his side lying bottom of the Premier League.
A combination of errors from Tim Howard and Leon Osman gifted the Black Cats their first win at Goodison Park since November 1996 when the Toffees keeper brought down Ki Sung-Yeung after Osman’s miss-control had put the midfielder clear in the 24th minute.
The South Korean kept his nerve to dispatch the spot-kick and proved to be Sunderland’s match winner for the second time in as many weeks after his last minute heroics in the Capital One Cup quarter-final win over Chelsea.
Howard was sent off by referee Lee Probert for being the last man and the Black Cats took full advantage of their extra man to earn a vital three points that was slightly tainted by wins for Crystal Palace and Fulham.
The gap to safety is down to three points for the Wearsiders but the desire they showed to see off a second half onslaught from Roberto Martinez’s side suggests there is plenty of fight left in Poyet’s men even without John O’Shea and Wes Brown.
Ki’s penalty proved the difference in the end, but a stunning display by Vito Mannone in the second half meant the Italian keeper was the real hero of the day.
He made a number of saves to deny the Toffees a way back into the game with the pick of the bunch a finger-tip save to deny Ross Barkley’s stinging long range effort before Fabio Borini made a spectacular goal line clearance to keep out Nikita Jevalic.
The result means Sunderland are now three points from safety with a crucial trip to 16th-placed Cardiff tomorrow.
Poyet made four changes to his starting-line up with the inexperienced duo Modibo Diakite and Valentin Roberge lining up at the heart of the Black Cats defence in the absence of first-choice pairing O’Shea and Brown and the pair certainly impressed despite their lack of playing time this season.
Jack Colback and Steven Fletcher also returned to Poyet’s side and the Scottish striker could have put Sunderland ahead in the second minute when he chased down a weak header from Phil Jagielka only for Howard to get to the ball first.
Roberto Martinez’s side had only been beaten once all season before yesterday and they enjoyed the bulk of possession in the opening exchanges with Bryan Oviedo and Seamus Coleman acting as wing-backs.
Oviedo cut in from the right and shot straight at Mannone in the eighth minute before Diakite, starting only his fifth game of the season, sliced a nervous clearance out for a corner.
From the resultant set-piece Kevin Miralles found Gareth Barry at the back post, but he could only direct his header over Mannone’s bar.
For all of Everton’s possession, the visitors still looked good on the break and a nice passage of play saw Fletcher combine with Seb Larsson to find Fabio Borini, who played a low ball back to Colback on the edge of the area, but he could only direct his low shot into Howard’s hands.
Since taking over from Paolo Di Canio, Poyet has encountered some awful luck but in the 23rd minute the Toffees uncharacteristically gifted the Black Cats an opportunity to take the advantage.
From a goal kick Howard passed out to Leon Osman 22 yards out but the midfielder failed to control the ball allowing Ki to nip in and round the Everton keeper, who had no choice but to bring the Sunderland man down in the area.
Referee Lee Probert didn’t hesitate to award the visitors a spot-kick and he had no chance but to send off the American keeper, who was the last man.
After a few minutes’ wait while Joel Robles came on to replace Osman, whose mistake had led to the penalty, Ki kept his nerve to put Sunderland ahead in the 25th minute.
It was the Black Cats’ first away goal since August and with a man advantage, Poyet’s men were presented with a great opportunity to win the game and close the gap to safety.
Sub keeper Robles was forced to make a quick double save from Celustka and then Larsson with Sunderland taking full advantage of their extra man.
They controlled play up until the break and moved the ball around superbly, but they were guilty of over-playing on the edge of Everton’s area instead of getting a cross or shot in.
Martinez made another change at half time in a bid to resurrect his side with Ross Barkely replacing Miralles. The Black Cats had dominated in midfield with Ki and Cattermole pulling the strings for the visitors.
Their promising performance carried over in to the second half with Diakite going close from a Larsson free-kick, before Fletcher headed straight into Robles’ hands after Cattermole had found him unmarked at the back post.
Eager to keep on the curtails of the top four the Goodison Park crowd willed their side on after the break, but they were denied an equaliser by a string of Mannone saves with the Black Cats holding out for a vital win.
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