Nothing to see here. Sunderland’s mission to survive in the Premier League appeared to be a non-runner after another defeat to Everton at the Stadium of Light.
This extended their winless run to eight games. It was looking like mission impossible.
There are certain players that just do not seem to have luck - whether it be injuries or own goals, there are some who just always seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Richard Dunne springs to mind. Wesley Brown would be another.
The ex-Manchester United man was unfortunate in this particular game too. In the final half-hour, Roberto Martinez’s side finally began to show signs they could open up the Sunderland defence, but their goal still came almost out of nothing - at the expense of Brown.
After good work by Gerard Deulofeu down the right, Brown tried to block his pull-back at the near post but only succeeded in steering the ball past Mannone. Nine times out of ten, this ball would have gone anywhere but the goal.
Brown was out of luck - as were Sunderland.
It was symptomatic of Sunderland’s season at this point. Nothing was going for us - even when we were playing well, like we did in this game.
Gus Poyet was left bewildered and bemused. He stated prior to this game that Sunderland were going to need a miracle - even more so after this defeat:
If you need to show somebody somewhere in the world where they don’t watch Sunderland every week, you show him this game and tell him this is the story of the season and that’s it.
You don’t need to show anything else because that’s it. Something always happens and that something is always, or most of the time, against us.
I don’t have a word because it’s not one feeling, really. It hurts, it hurts because it doesn’t matter what we do, something happens. And it’s not an excuse, I don’t really believe in luck.
In the game itself, Sunderland certainly held their own. Everton were high flying under Roberto Martinez but the Black Cats held their own. They made it a grind. It was attritional.
Chances were at a premium for both teams, and Everton probably shaded the better of them through their creative players, such as Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulfeou.
Their first two chances – both spurned by Steven Naismith – were highly inviting and of the variety rarely missed by the visiting midfielder.
They weren’t having it all their own way, however. Gus Poyet had suggested pre-game that Sunderland would go back to basics for this game, and it appeared to be having the desired effect.
By half-time John Stones had cleared off the line from Fabio Borini, and Connor Wickham’s excellent hold-up play was offering Poyet reasons for cautious optimism. Wickham’s reintroduction to the squad was offering the team something different.
Unfortunately, this was as good as it got for the home side. As the game progressed, Everton turned the screw. Barkley and current Sunderland midfielder Aiden McGeady were brought on. Their impact was felt.
With fifteen minutes to go, Everton got the goal they desired. Other than Deulofeu, they looked to be playing burdened by a little fear of dropping points. Cutting in from the right, the Spaniard dodged Marcos Alonso before unleashing a cross-shot that, in deflecting off Brown and rolling beyond Mannone, confirmed that Poyet and Martínez remain on dramatically divergent paths.
This result left Sunderland seven points adrift with six games to go. It was looking increasingly difficult for them. With Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United all to come away from home, surely Sunderland couldn’t stay up... could they?
Sunderland: Mannone: Bardsley, O’Shea, Brown, Alonso, Cattermole, Colback Larsson 70’), Ki, Johnson, Borini, Wickham
Everton: Howard, Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines, Osman (Barkley 58’), Barry, McCarthy, Deulofeu (McGeady 78’), Naismith, Lukaku