Saturday 09 March 2013
Everton kept their UEFA Champions League aspirations alive thanks to a second-half winner by Andy Johnson.
Depleted by injuries to Nuno Valente, Leon Osman, James Vaughan and Manuel Fernandes – which meant Moyes had to use the 16-year-old midfielder Jack Rodwell as a second-half substitute – the visitors took the lead through Johnson’s header 10 minutes after the interval and held out with defensive resolve for a narrow away victory.
Though Sunderland were flirting with relegation, Roy Keane’s side had developed an impressive run of results at the Stadium of Light, winning their previous four matches.
It was a particularly important victory for Moyes’s’ side, who just two days earlier had returned from Italy having suffered the setback of a 2-0 UEFA Europa League round-of-16 defeat at Fiorentina.
"You keep being told that you don't win games when you get back from Europe but we've had a couple of excellent results this season,” said Moyes. “We have wonderful team spirit and, while we were very disappointed with the result and performance against Fiorentina, I did not need to beat them up because they have done well this season and they have responded superbly here."
The win took Everton level with their Merseyside rivals Liverpool in fourth place as the race for the final spot, while Sunderland were left hovering just two points above the drop zone.
"There are six or seven teams in the relegation battle and we are one of them,” said Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn. “We're disappointed and the players are down but we have to keep believing. The spirit of the players is good and I'm still confident we will be in the Premier League next season."
Everton would not sustain their challenge, however, as they won just two of their remaining nine matches, while Liverpool, who beat their city neighbours during that run-in, claimed the final Champions League slot, finishing nine points above the fifth-placed Toffees after seven victories from their last 10 matches.
It would prove Johnson’s final season at Goodison Park as five months later, after scoring 17 goals in 71 Barclays Premier League appearances for the Blues, he joined Fulham on a four-year deal.
Sunderland, meanwhile, avoided the drop by winning four of their last nine matches to finish 15th, three points above relegated Reading, Birmingham City and Derby County.