One week on from the famous 3-0 victory at St James’ Park, Sunderland were back in action at the Stadium of Light against an Everton side managed by David Moyes, and who had Champions League ambitions of their own.
Now managed by the eccentric Paolo Di Canio, we needed the win to build some momentum.
The Italian had certainly solidified us at the back and he also seemed to find a creative spark that was missing from the team. Indeed, during his first two games against Chelsea and Newcastle, Di Canio had got his main attacking threat, Stephane Sessegnon, playing some outstanding football.
The Benin international was a key player and he’d surely be central to any upturn in our form.
Naturally, the Stadium of Light was rocking after the result the previous week with fans displaying their joy through T-shirts after a memorable result at our biggest rivals.
“The home fans were clearly still on a high from last week’s 3-0 derby win at Newcastle, with some commemorating that result by arriving at the Stadium of Light in T-shirts displaying a cartoon image of a celebrating Di Canio.”
On the day, we played like a team who’d taken massive confidence from that win, as we started with an urgency and a determination to get on the scoresheet early.
New signing Danny Graham still had not scored for his new team but he went close early on with a powerful effort from just inside the area, and he also forced a good save from Tim Howard before Sebastian Larsson sent a free kick whistling just over the crossbar.
Everton were typically gritty but were failing to create anything clear cut in and around our penalty area.
Their best opportunity came from winger Kevin Mirallas when he dribbled his way into the box, only for his shot to be deflected wide.
The way the game was going, it was going to be defined by one or two moments, and the biggest one arrived on the stroke of half time which gave us the lead.
“A mistake by Leighton Baines allowed Sunderland to snatch the lead in added time.”
“The full back carelessly passed the ball to Sunderland’s Larsson, who then sent Sessegnon racing towards goal and the Beninese forward’s low shot bobbled just under Howard’s outstretched arm and into the net.”
The Stadium of Light went wild and with the goal coming on the half time whistle, the momentum was certainly with us.
Everton, meanwhile, had to go for it.
They were seeking Champions League qualification and with that in mind, Moyes brought on striker Nikica Jelavic, who headed wide just after the hour before the Croatian striker flicked Marouane Fellaini’s low shot straight at Simon Mignolet.
Hearts were in mouths late on, when Larsson inexplicably attempted an extravagant backpass which caught Mignolet unawares. The Belgian had to grab the ball to prevent it from sailing into the net, and the trouble didn’t end there.
Everton were subsequently awarded a free kick eight yards from goal and Mignolet was booked, but Baines’ low effort was blocked and eventually cleared.
As the block was cleared, the sigh of relief was palpable and we held on for a famous win against a real bogey team.
Di Canio couldn’t contain his delight when he did a lap of the pitch applauding the Sunderland faithful, who were more than happy to lap up the Italian’s overzealous ways.
After the game, he praised his players for their performance.
“I’m very emotional - it was great to have the chance to celebrate together once again.”
The fans can be very proud of the players today. They were very disciplined and dedicated and used every last drop of energy out there on the field. I can’t ask any more of them; they showed great desire throughout.”
“We know what [Stephane] Sessegnon can do with the ball; it was another great goal from him. The whole team were very organised and Sess played a great role in the team’s shape. He did a very good job today.”
“There were some moments I didn’t enjoy, when Everton won the ball too easily, but we are working hard to stop these things and working hard to perfect ourselves.”
“Yes, there was pressure from Everton but that’s typical in the Premier League, you have to expect that from teams.”
“We have to keep going, the main job is not done yet but this result is a very big step in getting it done.”