A goal a-piece forced a swarming finish, but nobody could find a winner at the Stadium of Light as Everton’s post-Europa League woes continue.
Seb Larsson broke the scoreless deadlock with a free kick through a crumbling wall, but Connor Wickham brought down Seamus Coleman in the area and Leighton Baines finished it off for a 1-1 draw.
An early booking for Jordi Gomez inside 10 minutes brought a forced change by Everton, as Gareth Barry needed a stretcher to bring him off in favor of Darren Gibson. That could have been important later on as Gomez appeared to dive under a slight challenge from Phil Jagielka on the edge of the box later in the half, but instead no second yellow was given, and instead James McCarthy was booked for dissent after the play.
Samuel Eto’o had the best chances of the first half, with a couple of headed opportunities dotting the landscape of the first half but otherwise there was little in it for those watching.
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As the first half neared, Ross Barkley traversed the length of the pitch and had a chance to put Everton in front, but Liam Bridcutt pulled out a quality block. Then on the other end, Aalapse in concentration by substitute Gibson nearly proved costly as he was dispossessed in his own box by Seb Larsson, and he fed Gomez but the Spaniard fired just wide.
As Everton grew through the first half, Barkley again broke through the midfield but Aiden McGeady blasted just wide to end the threat and the first half in which Everton could have rued their finishing. It continued into the second half, when Bridcutt could breathe a sigh of relief as his horrific back-pass slotted through Romelu Lukaku but the big Belgian bungled his wide-open chance with a heavy touch, and the ball was smothered by Costel Pantilimon.
Lukaku was again thwarted by Pantilimon just minutes later when his shot was pushed off the near post by the big goalkeeper.
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Sunderland manager then brought on Will Buckley for Adam Johnson, and it made an immediate impact. Buckley won a free kick just outside the Everton box, and Larsson delivered a peach of a free kick past Tim Howard for a lead at home. Howard was absolutely fuming after the goal, screaming at his defensive wall for crumbling to bits before Larsson even kicked the ball.
But Everton would have respite. A brilliant ball by Eto’o came through into Seamus Coleman on goal in the box, and Connor Wickham scythed him down quite obviously and Lee Mason pointed to the spot. Leighton Baines powered home the penalty to pull level.
The game burst to life with both sides consistently swarming referee Lee Mason at every decision, and a controversial moment saw Howard thrust into the spotlight. Howard dribbled the ball back to waste precious seconds in injury time, and with the ball not yet in the penalty area he laid on the ball for a moment. Sunderland screamed for a handball outside of the box, but replays showed Lee Mason made the correct decision not penalizing the American as his arms never touched the ball.
McCarthy saved the point for Everton at the death, as he cleared a powerful header by Steven Fletcher off the line, and the game finished level. The point pushes Everton above Spurs for 10th on goal differential, while everything at this point for Sunderland is vital as they go three points clear of the drop zone.
Sunderland: Pantilimon; Vergini, Reveillere, Brown, O’Shea; Bridcutt, Larsson, Gomez, Johnson (Buckley 64′); Wickham, Fletcher.
Goals: Larsson 66′
Everton: Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry (Gibson 11′); McGeady, Barkley; Eto’o, Lukaku.
Goals: Baines (pen) 76′