It wasn’t always pretty, but Everton got the job done at Goodison Park on Saturday as they topped Sunderland 2-0. Idrissa Gueye but the Blues up 1-0 in the first half, and Romelu Lukaku sealed things in the game’s final minutes. Everton are now undefeated in nine straight league matches.
The story coming into the game was David Moyes’ return to Merseyside with a gaggle of former Everton players. Only the two newest additions, Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson, ended up featuring. Gibson was largely ineffective while Oviedo had a bright moment or two, but was also barreled over during Lukaku’s goal. Shocking, right? Two players that weren’t good enough to get game time with Everton also didn’t play well in a match against Everton.
Much of the opening half was dominated by the Toffees. They kept over 70 percent possession and had a handful of chances and an almost never-ending barrage of corner kicks and other set pieces. However, they had to deal with Jordan Pickford in goal. The 22-year-old was impressive between the sticks and made a number of saves to frustrate the Everton attack.
Late in the half, it seemed as though the Blues had lost their edge. Sunderland were growing into the game, going forward and having a few chances of their own. But then, against the run of play, Tom Davies played a beauty of a long ball to Seamus Coleman on the right wing. Coleman put a lovely ground cross into the box. It’s unclear whether it was intended for Ross Barkley or Idrissa Gueye. Either way, Gueye ended up on the other side of it and absolutely crushed it into the net. The goal is his first in an Everton shirt after blowing a few good chances early in the season.
The second 45 minutes of the match were much more even. The Black Cats come out on fire while Everton seemed a bit lethargic. Against a better side, the Blues likely would have conceded in those opening minutes. This is a regular problem that this team has, especially against lesser competition. They can’t pull away. They lack a killer instinct.
Eventually, Sunderland nearly leveled things when Jermain Defoe had the ball at the top of the box. He shimmied and shook Coleman out of his shoes and got a laser shot off. It looked to be destined for the net. Instead, it hit the underside of the bar and bounced away to maintain Everton’s one-goal advantage.
Moments later, Lukaku scored the team’s second; on the counter attack. He had only Oviedo to beat. The big Belgian out-muscled the minuscule Costa Rican. Oviedo slid in as a last-ditch effort, but may have ended up helping Lukaku. The shot deflected off the left back and over Pickford to effectively end the game.
This performance gives Lukaku 60 goals in 129 Premier League appearances for Everton. That ties him with Duncan Ferguson for the most Everton goals in the Premier League-era. However, Rom reached this milestone in 110 fewer games.
To sum it up, this was not Everton’s finest day. They were poor on set pieces. They let their foot off the gas at certain points in the second half. And they were not clinical enough in the first half. That said, they got three points and remain almost unbeatable at Goodison Park. This is a fun team to watch. The squad they have now is just a skeleton of the one they hope to build over the summer. A sixth-place finish is still within reach. Keep pushing, lads!