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Report: Everton 0-1 Sunderland - Don Vito Brings Christmas Wear Cheer

Wooooo! An away win and from the unlikeliest of venues. It's a veritable Christmas miracle as Sunderland take three points away from Goodison.

Paul Thomas

Over the years, it is no exaggeration to suggest that Sunderland fans have come to associate Goodison Park with torture. In fact, provide a random Sunderland fan with a straight choice between a lifetime of invasive rectal exams and a lifetime of enduring Everton versus Sunderland fixtures, and I'd wager some might at least think about it.

This visit to the blue half of Merseyside promised even less reason for optimism than any of the last. It was the best Everton side in a very long time, and Sunderland were rooted to the bottom of the league without an away win. Furthermore, Everton were unbeaten at home in the whole of 2013.

Let's face it, that's a home banker on anyone's coupon. But football is weird. It makes no sense. I suppose that's why we love it.

The early going was an even enough affair. Fabio Borini and Bryan Oviedo exchanged speculative long-range efforts before the game settled into a rhythm. Everton would pass the ball around and Sunderland concentrate on containing them whilst looking for scraps on the counter.

Still, chances were at a premium. Only Gareth Barry from either side really threatened the scorers, and his header from a corner sailed harmlessly over.

Then the game turned on its head, and it came out of absolutely nothing.

Tim Howard rolled the ball out to Leon Osman deep in his own half, and the Everton stalwart dallied under pressure from Ki. The Korean seized possession, rounded Howard, and was sent tumbling to the ground. Penalty, red card, goal; self-inflicted out of nothing... you know, the sort of stuff that usually happens to Sunderland, not for them. Ki tucked the penalty home himself, by the way.

There was an instant reply from the home side, who enjoyed a sustained spell of possession immediately after going down to ten men, though without any real product.

As the first half wore on, it was Sunderland who grew in confidence and started playing with swagger. Conducting it all was Ki Sung-Yueng, who was pinging the ball about with such precision that a team of engineers armed with laser-pointers and protractors would struggle to emulate his metronomic presence at the heart of the Black Cats midfield.

A big chance fell to Ondrej Celustka following a fine piece of Sunderland possession, and Seb Larsson could have, probably should have, gobbled up the rebound, but the teams went in with just the one goal separating them at the break.

If anyone was expecting Everton to surrender that home record easily, they were in for a shock after the break. The brilliant Ross Barkley was introduced from the bench and the Toffess pushed forward with vigour.

Most of their efforts were from distance, however, with the half-time substitute making a real nuisance of himself in particular.

But if Ki Sung-Yueng was the star of the first half, Vito Mannone was the crucial figure after the break. First of all the Italian denied Phil Jagielka with a smart point blank save, but that was to be just the first act of defiance.

Barkley kept the Sunderland stopper busy throughout, but the shots that the England man rained down upon Mannone's goal were interspersed with stinging efforts from his team mates. Bryan Oviedo was the first, but certainly not the last.

After Mannone did brilliantly to tip the final Barkley effort of note - a curling, dipping free kick - wide of the post, from the resulting corner he finally was beaten. Fortunately, Fabio Borini was on the line waiting to head away Nikica Jelavic's header.

It wasn't all one-way traffic, though. Everton may have had the volume of second-half chances, but Sunderland carved out the best. Giaccherini slipped Steven Fletcher through one-on-one and it looked for all the world that he would calm the nerves and provide a stress-free finale, but he skewered his shot wide of the post.

You could say that Sunderland made a meal of it having played with an extra man for 70 minutes. The how or the why isn't important here, though. It's all about the what, and what it is is three points and a massive injection of confidence.

Everyone was on a downer after the Norwich draw and with good reason. After that result it was apparent that it was going to take a colossal effort to keep the club up. That is precisely what was offered by the lads here. Let's hope it is the start of things to come.

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