Everton have been denied three points at Sunderland, leaving the north east with a 1-1 draw on Boxing Day.
Substitute Jack Colback scored the opener in the first half, but a controversial Leighton Baines penalty levelled things up in the second half.
The Toffees started much the brighter of the two sides, and often looked like the home team as they knocked the ball about well. Heitinga and Neville, who bore much scorn as our midfield pairing prior to kick off, started well, with the Dutchman making several surging attacks from midfield.
The best chance of the opening salvo fell to Tim Cahill, who latched on to a hopeful ball in the right channel. However, his shot from a tight angle was well saved by Westwood.
However, it became increasingly apparent that for all Evertons possession and niceties with the ball in deeper areas, there was a glaring lack of quality up front that could capitalise on such dominance. Everton were beginning to decline as an attacking force when the Black Cats took the lead late in the first period.
Jack Colback, introduced as a substitute for Titus Bramble midway through the first half, found himself in space in the box and unleashed a low shot. The shot itself seemed covered by Tim Howard, however a nasty deflection from Sylvain Distin, attempting the block with a slide, changed the direction of the ball and it drifted into the Everton net.
Stunned by this, Everton were never the same side that the early promise suggested. Sunderland went into the half time break with their tails high and with momentum behind them.
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The second half started much the same way, with Sessegnon and Bendtner leading the charge. However, Howard Webb – much maligned for his refereeing abilities – once again stepped into the limelight but, for a change, Everton were to benefit from his ineptness.
Leon Osman had picked up the ball and tried a mazy run into the box, and as he attempted the left footed shot, he kicked the floor and went over. Webb, convinced he had been tripped by Lee Cattermole, called for the penalty, much to the disgust of the home fans.
To be fair to Leon, I donÂ´t think he meant to go down, but thereÂ´s no doubt he immediately claimed the penalty when he did. But given our run of luck of late and how often we have fell victim to poor refereeing decisions, it would have felt as if the tides had finally swung our way as Leighton Baines smashed in the penalty high into the right hand corner to level things up.
It didnÂ´t change the momentum of the game. Sunderland continued to dominate, with Moyes showing his usual reluctance to change things up. It took until the 75th minute to see the Scot make a change, and it was apparent that Everton were content with the draw away from home.
It wasnÂ´t a game for the purists, with Leighton Baines being the standout on the day amidst two sides lacking in quality and incisiveness, but overall Everton will be thankful to escape the game with a point, which will give us a grounding heading into the new year. With Landon Donovan on the way and other signings surely in the pipeline, things may be looking up for Everton.
Sunderland 1 Everton 1.
Man of the Match: Leighton Baines.