Soapbox on Everton: crash, bang, wallop go Sunderland’s hopes

Jake and Sixer share the misery

For anyone who needs to know what went wrong last night, the search ends with this quite superb account by Pete Sixsmith, which Monsieur Salut humbly commends to a certain Mr O’Neill, of how Everton were able to make such light work of Sunderland and end, in disheartening style, our Wembley hopes …

If residents of the North East heard a crashing sound last night, it was our hopes of reaching an FA Cup semi-final hitting the ground with a bang equivalent to that of Billy Bunter, Hattie Jacques and Oliver Norvell Hardy all landing on the bouncy castle at the same time and deflating it.

For, deflated we were as Everton gave us a lesson in how to win important football matches and in how to treasure and revere a manager.

From start to finish, they were so much better than us and all the weaknesses that MON has managed to paper over in four tremendous months in charge were exposed for the world and his wife or civil partner to see.

Straight away, the Toffees took the initiative and had us on the back foot. Fellaini was quite imperious in the first half, running the game and swatting off irritants like Cattermole, Gardner and Sessegnon with almost casual disdain. We huffed and puffed around him, but never once were we able to catch him out or force him on to the back foot.

Our defence, which has looked steady all season, was never at ease. Turner and O’Shea is a partnership of different styles; take the Irishman out and replace him with the willing Kyrgiakos and the balance goes. He and Turner are too similar, both big men who use muscle rather than subtlety to try to wrest control.

Sixer: back to glum looks like this

We needed subtlety in spades last night as Everton played the ball on the ground and, if it went aerial, dropped it in front of the defenders. In Jelavic, they had the ideal man for the job, a centre forward who worked, ran wide and, most importantly, was there in the box when he was needed.

Compared with him, Bendtner was forced to play too deep, and his attempts to come away with the ball were foiled by a quick-tackling Everton midfield and a defence that blocked off Sessegnon and McClean every time.

Not one of our players could impose himself on the game. This was not because they are poor players or because we are tactically inept, but because Everton knew exactly what they had to do. Simple instructions: stop Sess, stop McClean and they will have no way of hurting us. They got it absolutely right.

Throughout the game, there was nowhere for our attacking players to go. Every time the likes of Gardner or Larsson looked to make a telling pass, there was an Osman or a Cahill to block it. And if it did get through, Silvan Distin was there to eat it up. He gave as good an exhibition of centre half play as I have seen in ages and never once looked as if he was going to be bettered by Bendtner or Sess.

See also: Martin’s Musings: ‘we were second best’ and Sixer’s Soapbox: ‘not remotely good enough’

By the time Jelavic stroked the first goal in, there had been several narrow escapes. Mignolet, who had yet another excellent game, had made a blistering save from the former Rangers man before he was left unmarked in the box to open the scoring. Neither Turner nor Kyrgiakos picked him up and they looked at each other as if to say “I thought YOU were marking him”.

The second half got no better. As on Saturday, O’Neill took a gamble and sent on Vaughan in the hope that we might just be able to get a foothold in midfield. Alas, within two minutes, the Welshman gave away a comical own goal by kicking the ball against his own leg and guiding it over the line to wrap up Everton’s win.

The rest of the game consisted of our frantic and unsuccessful attempts to salvage something from yet another disappointing night for Sunderland fans. But we never troubled Tim Howard and we had to sit back and listen to the Everton support extol their manager and Jelavic. It was not an enjoyable experience.

Back to the drawing board?

So where did we go wrong? With hindsight, the Cattermole/Gardner combination did not work. The lack of a creative player in the centre of the park was glaringly obvious and Fellaini was allowed to strut his stuff without being challenged. When he plays like he did last night, he is quite magnificent and is the kind of player that most PL clubs would love to have. We have/had nobody to challenge him.

The back four looked rickety and the distribution was poor. Bridge did well enough, but Bardsley had a disappointing game and reminded us that effort and determination are not really substitutes for quality.

Our lack of creativity was exposed in midfield as both wide players were marked out of the game. McClean will have learned that not all full backs are as accommodating as Luke Young and that when you come up against a wily old campaigner like Phil Neville, you have to think a wee bit more.

It leaves us with eight league games to play, all of which, apart from the trips to Villa and Fulham, will have an impact on the title, Champions League qualification or relegation.

On Saturday, we visit Eastlands/Etihad. Abu Dhabi Rovers have won every game there this season. The manager’s powers of persuasion and his ability to install a modicum of self believe into his players will be severely tested after last night: not the night of glory we expected, but yet another in the long chapter of Great Sunderland Missed Opportunities.

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32 thoughts on “Soapbox on Everton: crash, bang, wallop go Sunderland’s hopes”

  1. As a lifelong Everton fan , 1st ame 42 years ago , obviously I’m delighted with our victory but I must admit to holding a bit of affection for your team for a long time .. probably going back to 1973 and Bob Stokoe’s celebration and Jim Montgomery’s wonder-saves plus Peter Reid is one of my all time favourite players …. and who can forget the ‘ Beach Ball ‘ goal 🙂
    I can definitely say you are now a far better team than the one that started the season and one thing that really impresses me is your magnificent stadium… I wonder if we could do a swap .. SOL for Tony Hibbert ?

    Best of luck for the rest of the season

    • Jarty,
      Yes, your ground does leave a bit to be desired,Bob Murray would get you one done cheap,don’t think he has much on at the minute.

      Good luck in the cup,hope you win it now,should be a bye against Liverpool, the way they are playing, and if you play like you did against us the FA cup is yours to take.

  2. As the old addage goes ‘you learn more from a defeat than a victory’ and MON will have by now seen the full gambit of Sunderland’s current playing squad positives and negatives.

    MON has had to use what was at his disposal and has done it well, getting above ability performances from some players in the process. However he should now have a very good idea of our weaknesses and strengths in the playing staff and be planning for next season. This season was really about survival in the premier league after the mess that our previous ‘manager’ left us in.

    The cup run was just an added bonus and shows us what might be acheivable in the future. Next season is the one that excites me when MON has had a chance to tweak the playing staff to his own particular standards, that for me is when MON reign really starts.

    It was a very disappointing night, not least as the players did not do themselves justice, and it will be the last chance for some of them to be involved in SAFC cup run.

    Good luck to Everton I hope they go on to win it.

  3. Everton fan here – unlucky last night lads, just felt the pressure got your lads a bit. Best I have seen us play in a while, Moyse actually had a real go from the off.

    Would love to see you press on and come one place below us in the league and one above the shite 🙂
    Sunderland and Everton are both ‘proper’ clubs that still have their soul and both have terrific fans.

  4. Vince. I am going to defend Bardsley because he backtracked when the pass to him was underhit. He realised that he wasn’t going to get the ball, so back pedalled as the next best option, which was the best thing to do. He then did the same thing again; which was the right thing to do in the circumstances as had he committed to the tackle we were done for. Kyrgiakos on the other hand actually ran away from Jelavic. There is no defence for his culpability in the goal which to be frank was only one incident in a calamitous performance from the Greek.

    • Jeremy

      Ok I havent seen the replay(cant bear to watch it tbh)Just my instinct on watching it was that Bradsley was too hesitant,which he never is normally,That said I dont want to stick too much balme on any one player it was a team failure after all

      .Kyrgakos has played OK so far for me,yes, he is not the 1st choice or even 2nd or even 3rd, but he does what he can so whats the point of slagging him?

      We were beaten up all over the park so I feel more let down by the team than the poor Greek fella who at least didnt trip over his feet and stick the ball in his own net.

  5. There are many apposite comments above but let us not forget that last season, our best for 10 years, we finished with 47 points and a GD of -11. The season before that, 44 points and a GD of -8. And before that, with 36 points and -20, we stayed up only because of the last day incompetence of other teams. Had they gained points we’d have been down – maybe out.

    But, with 8 games to go we have 40 points and a GD of +5 (Only 8 PL teans have a +ve GD and we’re one of them, can you believe that?). We’ve had a decent cup run, possibly as much as could have been expected by a team looking to rebuild under a new manager, which makes a pleasant change. I’m not saying this loss doesn’t hurt it does – but I see it as a reality check and I’m looking forward to next season

  6. Whole team was a let down to be honesty,I feel it is unfair that Kyrgiakos seems to be getting alot of the blame.Bardsley backdpeddled from a tackle that allowed the ball to come swinging down the right flank for the first goal and so must take some blame too,and MON made the worst substitution in living memory bringing on Vaughn for the Greek and putting Bardsley as centre back and Gardner at full back…(the back 4 didn’tt have a clue where they were after that) when he had Kilgallon on the bench anbd could hav emade a staright swap?????

    Inevitably we conceded the 2nd shortly after.

    Players and manager had an off night,but what a night to do it,maybe the pressure got to everyone a bit.Everton were outstanding though,a very difficult team to play when they are in that mood.

    That off my chest,I am still a happy camper with the season bearing in mind what could have been had MON not arrived,so lets not get too downhearted.

  7. Phil Neville is one of the best in the league when it comes down to stopping a pacy winger trying to take him on the outside….just ask Gareth Bale! With this in mind, was I the only one hoping to see McClean and Larsson change wings, and give the Everton defence something different to think about?

  8. That’s right! I was speculating that it was the same Alan Sleeman that I knew back in the mid-60s when I was on the Evening Gazette and he was on the Sunday Sun (both Thomson papers in those days) before moving to the tabloid Sun.

  9. My memory’s not what it was but I don’t think I put a comment up on that particular post. But Phil’s right – there was a comment from Pete there for a while, following up on what Phil said. And now it’s gone.

    • Hi Bill,

      Your comment followed on from P.S.’s and referred to Alan Sleeman with the addition (quite rightly) that this had been mentioned, on this blog, before.

      I know that was correct because I had!

  10. Make no mistake, we were woeful.

    However, I find the over reaction on some other sites to be pathetic and (maybe) reflects the age of their members.

    Can people not see the improvements, under MO’N, in all aspects – professionalism, workrate, tactics and MOST IMPORTANTLY league position?

    Some, though, seem to not be able to understand that he has, not yet, determined his own squad and is working with what he inherited.

    Would they wish for the return of SB?

    I don’t think so – enough said!

    As an aside, can M. Salute please explain why comments (from P.S. & Bill Taylor) were removed from this thread:

    And, why comments were not allowed on another?

    I didn’t/don’t understand, so any reasoning would be most welcome.

    • Phil

      I can find no “disallowed” or “removed” comments and – apart from one or two idiots after the derby game – cannot recall zapping anyone for quite some time, Can you be specific?

  11. I agree with Tom that we can feel very upbeat today, going this far in the cup was a bonus. With the focus now only on the league, the chance to finish above Liverpool and Everton is one that would be rewarding for us to take; As long as that isn’t insurmountable after the next 3 games; Onwards and upwards all the way for me.

  12. Tom Lynn said “the distinctly un-mobile Kyriagos, could have done better on the first goal by Jelavic.”

    I assume that what you mean here Tom is that he shouldn’t have actually run away from Jelavic, which is exactly what he did.

  13. Time difference is the last thing on my mind today, Eric!

    But I’ll see if my techno abilities match up to the task of making the change. In other words, don’t hold your breath.

  14. A mate of mine said this morning “You came second – and you were lucky to get that”! FA Cup dreams over for another season. HOWEVER, back in August if someone had suggested we would finish joint 5th in the FA Cup, possibly equal our best ever placing in the Premiership era and have a top class manager on board many of us would have settled for that.

  15. what’s all this taking off full backs business when we are behind about? I would have thought it best to get the defence right first,
    Kyri off and the naturally left sided Killa on. Then the midfield, Gardiner off Vaughan on. However we get Vaughan coming on and instead of him being able to get stuck in , in midfield he goes to Lb. Larsson who was dreadful throughout should have given way to Campbell rather than Bridge. We did the same thing at West Brom, IT DOESN’T WORK Martin!
    Also we are 2 down yet a third sub sits unchanged, try anything but just try something! I feel sure the taller quicker Meyler would have put some pressure on Fellani.

  16. Spot on Tom, as always. He has had a good look at the players at his disposal and I imagine that games like last nights tell him a lot more than the canter against QPR.
    It will be interesting to see what he does against Abu Dhabi Rovers on Saturday. Does he give fringe players a game or does he go for experience? O’Shea will be a big miss so maybe Kilgallon, who he seemed to favour in January, will be re-called.
    There will be players who have done well so far who will be moved on in the summer and he will be able to fashion a team in his own manner. Just so disappointing………..

  17. Playing borderline injury victim O’Shea against QPR backfired badly as not only was he a huge miss against Everton, but Turner looks only half the player without the experienced Irishman alongside him and his replacement, the distinctly un-mobile Kyriagos, could have done better on the first goal by Jelavic. A lack of creativity in central midfield was glaringly obvious and our lack of striking options [especially a natural goalscorer a la Bent] has ultimately cost us dear.
    In all this, however, we must remember that our once struggling club has been resurrected by a manager yet to complete his first permanent transfer deal and in truth when he first arrived only a handful of months ago we were so poor that most supporters thought that simply retaining our top flight status would equate to a massive achievement. Yet we currently sit an almost miraculous and creditable eighth in the league table and on another day with the likes of O’Shea, Brown, Colback and Richardson to call upon could have defeated a well organised and competititive Everton team, as recent wins over Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool under O’Neill underline that on our day we can give anyone a game.
    As fans we need to keep backing O’Neill who represents our best chance of success for many decades. Some of the hysteria I have read on certain message boards from supposed fans about the Everton game deserves the contempt that their ignorance warrants. SAFC as a club is progressing superbly on and off the pitch and a sense of realism is needed in all the obvious heartache we feel today, having been a whisker away from a Wembley appearance. The one positive from last night is that it will undoubtedly harden MON’s resolve to give some of the best fans in world football a semblance of success that their loyalty during many let downs over several decades-including last night-deserves. We are Sunderland.

  18. I think Kyriagos was a weak link, but I also think Everton were just too experienced and thus slightly more mentally strong when it came to a big game.
    Maybe the occasion got to us?

  19. Turner and Kyrgiakos were questionable against Blackburn, untroubled by a very poor QPR and were terrible last night. Turner insisted on heading the ball back into the middle of the pitch, allowing Everton to pick up pieces and come at us again; Gardner’s poor run of form continued with a complete inability to pass to a colleague; Sess had to come deeper and deeper to get the ball and Bendtner has all the control in the world, but spent the game avoiding the Everton defenders after getting a fairly unpleasant knock in the first half. 2nd best all night.
    One final question: how does Phil Neville manage to stay on the pitch for 90 minutes? 2 games in which he kicked, pushed and thumped anyone who came near him. And people call Cattermole a ‘thug’.
    Revenge on Easter Monday? Roll away the stone of Premier League history, Martin, and give us a victory over them!

  20. Excellent article. As an Everton fan it was a pleasure to see us play so well against a team that are very much like us and one I wish to see do a similar job to us in the Premier League and bring a few of the big boys down to earth.

    Sorry its not us meeting in the final. Have a good run the rest of the season and see u in the Prem next year.

    • “Sorry its not us meeting in the final. Have a good run the rest of the season and see u in the Prem next year.”

      Next month!!

  21. Possibly the biggest difference between the 2 clubs (apart from the performance last night) is that Moyes has been there for 10 years and O’Neill with us for 4 months. The future looks great and I can’t wait to see where we are in 2 or 3 seasons.

    In the meantime – c’mon Everton – win the Cup – you deserve some success

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