Maybe Everton’s post-Europa League fatigue was to blame? Perhaps Adam Johnson’s enduring struggle to recapture his form should be held partly responsible? Or might it simply have been a case of Romelu Lukaku leaving his shooting boots back on Merseyside?
For whatever reason, it took a pair of set pieces, expertly dispatched by Sebastian Larsson and Leighton Baines, to ensure the afternoon did not end goalless. It all began in deceptively promising fashion, but everyone, and Gareth Barry especially, could have done without the interruption prompted when Jordi Gómez tripped Barry and then seemed to, accidentally, tread on his ankle.
Minutes passed before the Everton defensive midfielder was carried off on a stretcher, his injured leg in a brace, and taken straight to hospital.
Overall though Everton saw more of the ball and generally manipulated it better, leaving Gus Poyet's players looking distinctly nervous whenever Aiden McGeady and Ross Barkley, in particular, ran at them.
Poyet’s withdrawal of Johnson brought an instant impact. Will Buckley had barely stepped onto the pitch before he sashayed forward only to be brought down by Leighton Baines. Sebastian Larsson stepped forward to take the resultant free kick and reminded everyone of his dead-ball expertise, finding the bottom left-hand corner.
A crowd of close on 44,000 wondered if they were about to witness the rare experience of seeing Sunderland win two straight league games buttheir optimism soon evaporated.
When Eto’o slipped a neat pass to Coleman in the area, Wickham sent the Everton right-back crashing to earth. Baines converted the penalty and the spoils were shared. Guardian Service