A second-half penalty from Leighton Baines secured a 1-1 Barclays Premier League draw for Everton at Sunderland on Sunday.
Sebastian Larsson brought the Stadium of Light to its feet with a fine 67th-minute free-kick but England full-back Baines made no mistake from 12 yards nine minutes later after Connor Wickham had brought down Seamus Coleman.
Everton's Samuel Eto'o passed up an early opening, while Sunderland's Jordi Gomez and Everton's Romelu Lukaku came closest to breaking the deadlock before Larsson struck. Baines missed a penalty in last month's 2-1 defeat at Manchester United but Roberto Martinez's team are now unbeaten over six matches in all competitions since that reverse. But Everton were grateful for the efforts of James McCarthy, who cleared a goalbound header from Wes Brown off the line in stoppage time.
Liam Bridcutt came in for suspended midfielder Lee Cattermole as Sunderland made four changes to the team that won 3-1 at Crystal Palace on Monday night. An Everton side fresh from a 3-0 UEFA Europa League win over Lille was bolstered by Coleman, Eto'o and Ross Barkley.
The visitors quickly settled into a fluid passing rhythm and Eto'o linked smoothly with fellow forward Lukaku to blast wide. Wickham won a fifth-minute corner and the Sunderland forward's header from Larsson's resulting delivery brushed the roof of the net.
Everton Gareth Barry suffered an early end to his afternoon on a stretcher when Gomez caught his right ankle with a late tackle, aggravating a problem the midfielder carried into the match. Sunderland were growing in confidence by the time Sylvain Distin hacked a Gomez cross out of the goalmouth, while Aiden McGeady offered Everton's response by sending a rasping drive narrowly over the top corner.
Barkley and McGeady exchanged passes to force a fine block from Bridcutt in the 35th minute before an error from Barry's replacement Darron Gibson saw Gomez force a fine save from Tim Howard. Bridcutt largely impressed during the opening exchanges of the second half but the former Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder underhit a backpass, but his blushes spared as Costel Pantilimon rushed from his goal to deny Lukaku.
Larsson then stepped up to curl a trademark effort beyond Howard, aided by a disorganised Everton wall, but Sunderland's lead proved short-lived. Wickham lunged in to bring down Coleman, who dashed into the area on the end of a wonderful Eto'o pass, and Baines crashed home from the spot.
Sunderland edge three points clear of the relegation zone, although they might have been better off as Brown saw an injury-time header cleared off the line by McCarthy.
Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet: “You need to take the point when you try and analyse football in a fair way. The opposition were very good on the ball and they controlled the tempo of the game so you need to adapt and be good when you get the ball.
“We created enough to win it but Everton also had their chances so overall it was one of them games – it was so tight that it could go either way so a draw was alright for everybody.”
“The defensive was the key. Everybody looks at the crosses you put into the box, the chances you create and the passes you make, but football is becoming more and more about how you defend and how much you care about defending. The team was practically perfect apart from a couple of actions and everybody needed to stand up, but we are working very hard at this point to show that we are back in business.”
Everton manager Roberto Martinez: “I am disappointed to have dropped two points but pleased with the way we reacted once we went 1-0 down. We started really well. We had a real intent and we controlled the game with ease for long spells. But we didn’t use that control to create clear cut opportunities. Sometimes the final ball wasn’t there, or it was the wrong run, and it didn’t allow us to score the first goal that I felt we needed today.
“We played a well-organised Sunderland side and that first goal was going to be decisive. Once they get it, I was extremely pleased with the reaction we had. The character we showed, the understanding, the know-how was great. We didn’t panic and we ended up having a full-back in the box earning the penalty.”
|29 Nov 2014||v Chelsea (H)|
|22 Nov 2014||v Leicester (A)|
|03 Dec 2014||v Man City (H)|
|21 Dec 2014||v Newcastle (A)|
|13 Dec 2014||v West Ham (H)|
|06 Dec 2014||v Liverpool (A)|