Everton got back on track last night with a comfortable win at home over Sunderland. The Blues move on into the next round of the Carabao Cup now, but face an infinitely tougher challenge, with Chelsea on the horizon.
The Blues youthful look reflected in the first half as the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Nikola Vlasic impressed with their persistence and energy. DCL was involved in everything good in the Everton attack, forcing a block from Billy Jones with the first attempt of the game. A few minutes later, DCL again was causing the Black Cats defence trouble as he glided past Adam Matthews and found Vlasic, who impressively turned and volleyed at goal, but his shot was just wide of the mark.
Jonjoe Kenny made his first senior start for The Blues in the 1001st game Everton have played with an Academy graduate in the starting line up. The young wing back was more than happy to get forward, doing so on numerous occasions and causing the visitors a headache, Jones again denying DCL a goal from a Kenny cross.
Sandro Ramirez had a quiet half but he stung the palms of visiting keeper Jason Steele from a wicked curling free kick on 25 minutes. Nothing seems to have dropped yet for the promising young Spaniard and he needs a goal to really kick start his Everton career. As the first half grew on, you could sense the tension rising at Goodison, understandably so once you realised our last goal was 4 games ago, from 50 yards out in Split. Muhamed Besic didn’t help to ease these concerns as he continually squandered possession and fluffed simple passes. He has been majorly unimpressive since his return from injury and needs to find some form.
On the half hour mark Everton had their most promising chance of the half. Michael Keane drilled a ball forward towards Davy Klaassen, who intelligently stepped over the ball, allowing it to run to Vlasic. The young Croat instantly touched the ball past Matthews and was clear on the edge of the area to curl a decent effort just wide of the upright, another flash of what the young winger has to offer.
Just before the break Everton got that all important, nerve settling goal. Vlasic was the man again as he got himself some space on the left and played a ball towards Klaassen. The Dutchman failed to control it but DCL picked it up and smartly tucked the ball past Steele and gave the Blues a deserved lead. It was a hard earned goal for the young forward who, along with Vlasic, was a real bright spark in an otherwise dull first period.
Less than 10 minutes into the 2nd half and DCL doubled his tally. Sandro was released on the left and cleverly released the young front man, who took his time and buried his shot past the keeper to all but secure the win against a very poor Sunderland outfit.
Just minutes later DCL could have had a hat trick with an Andy Gray style diving header. Klaassen superbly found him in the area and he launched himself head first at the ball, connecting perfectly but he was denied by the upright, what a way that would have been to complete his first senior treble.
Sunderland looked a beaten side, devoid of ideas and morale and seeming like they were counting down the minutes until they could jump on the coach home. With 20 minutes to go they finally threatened the Everton goal as James Vaughan had two decent chances to grab a goal, back where it all started. The former Toffee was, however, off the mark with both headed attempts.
Oumar Niasse came on for his first senior side appearance in nearly 18 months, replacing two goal man DCL. It was hard to determine who received the louder cheer. The Senegalese gained plaudits from Evertonians for the way he handled his exile from first team matters and his loan move to Hull City. He handled himself with class and dignity and never once criticised club or manager, something that is equally as refreshing as it is rare in the modern game.
There wasn’t a single home fan in attendance who didn’t want him to grab a goal on his return to the side and he duly delivered with just under 10 minutes remaining. Tom Davies had time and space to loft a ball into Niasse, who under pressure brought the ball down and brilliantly half volleyed into the Gwladys Street net. Goodison was delighted but not as much as the man himself. His beaming smile was a joy to behold as he exorcised his Everton demons and scored his first Toffees goal. Maybe, just maybe that could be the first of many for Oumar Niasse and I’m sure we all hope it’s enough for the manager to seriously involve him in the Premier League.
Nikola Vlasic received a standing ovation as he was replaced by Aaron Lennon. The young Croat worked his socks off, combining well with DCL and putting in a shift on the right flank, showing signs of real talent and forcing his manager to seriously consider him for Premier League starts. There was also a warm reception for James Vaughan as he made way, a young man who has always spoken highly of Everton since departing and is remembered fondly for his tireless displays in the Royal Blue, we wish him all the best for the remainder of the season.
A routine win in the end for the Toffees and a desperately needed one coming off the back of a poor week. The youngsters given a chance tonight didn’t disappoint and their tenacious play was too much for the Visitors. Let’s not kid ourselves, this Sunderland team are in disarray and rarely threatened Maarten Stekelenburg’s goal but you can only play what’s put in front of you and from start to finish tonight Everton were in control and comfortable.
Vlasic must be involved this weekend as he looks like he could be a quality player and also adds desperately needed pace. Niasse has also shown he is ready for his shot and it would be wise to involve him against Bournemouth while he is on a high from tonight’s goal scoring cameo. The lack of pace has been alarming in recent weeks so the likes of DCL, Vlasic and Ademola Lookman will surely have a part to play as we take on Eddie Howe’s hungry and tireless Cherries side at Goodison Park this Saturday.