Sunderland’s trip to Everton this weekend may cause David Moyes to call to mind the 2007 rendition of this fixture writes Chris Smith.
The Toffees’ 7-1 win that day remains the biggest victory of his managerial career. As Moyes prepares to take his rock bottom Black Cats back to where he was previously mocked by a novelty grim reaper during his time in charge of Manchester United, let’s revisit the day Everton hammered Sunderland.
November 24, 2007, Goodison Park. Moyes in the blue corner, Roy Keane in the red; a veritable heavyweight clash of inevitable Celtic managers. During the week, Keane had caused a stir by suggesting “too many egos” cost England a Euro 2008 place following Croatia’s win at Wembley.
As the nation mocked poor Steve McClaren for his ill-advised use of an umbrella, Everton fans were likely still on a high from Tim Cahill’s last-gasp overhead-kick at Chelsea the week before.
There was a relaxed mood at Goodison as Sunderland arrived. It turned positively festive not long after kick-off.
The Blues surged forward from the off. Sunderland’s optimistic central midfield of Dickson Etuhu and Dwight Yorke was overrun by Everton’s ‘Midget Gem’ ensemble of Mikel Arteta, Steven Pienaar, Tim Cahill and Leon Osman. With less than 20 minutes on the clock, Aiyegbeni Yakubu and Cahill had scored from close range.
In total control in the centre of the pitch, Arteta pulled the strings so effectively you half-expected to see actual puppets on the end of his passes. After the game, Moyes even loosened his collar to describe the Spaniard’s first half as “nothing short of magical”. Still, Arteta was a mere spectator as Everton’s magnificent third unfolded.
One of the most memorable goals of Moyes’ Goodison reign began with Nuno Valente charging forward and freeing Steven Pienaar. After working hard to overlap, Valente returned the ball straight to Pienaar who slammed the ball home. It was the best goal crafted down Everton’s left under Moyes – not one to mention if Leighton Baines is around.
Pienaar’s goal confirmed Everton were in the mood. The players oozed confidence and the crowd roared them forward. Moyes smiled so much on the touchline that he almost shook off his Moe Szyslak comparison. Yorke pulled one back seconds before the interval to prevent fans from getting carried away, but the second half would see Everton run riot.
Eager to limit the damage, Keane introduced Danny Collins and Ross Wallace in place of his ragged central midfielders. The changes positively affected proceedings as Sunderland enjoyed a decent spell up to the hour mark. It didn’t take long, however, for Paul McShane to get exposed again.
Launching the ball from the edge of his own box to the edge of Sunderland’s, Joseph Yobo’s supreme delivery was part upfield punt, part greatest pass of all time. McShane scampered. When Cahill cut back inside, he fell over completely leaving the Everton man to calmly finish past Craig Gordon for 4-1.
Sunderland frontmen Michael Chopra and Kenwyne Jones unsurprisingly struggled against an Everton defence comfortable enough to permit Yobo’s Hail Mary experiments. Chopra’s gilt-edged miss denied Sunderland a second and any real hope of a respectable scoreline.
Everton just kept going. Moyes brought on two strikers for perhaps the only time in his Goodison career, and eventually, as is often the case in such games, Sunderland collapsed. First Yakubu profited from a series of ricochets to fire in his second, before Phil Neville deserted the Black Cats’ defence with ease with a raking pass.
This time, returning sub Andy Johnson was the beneficiary, with neither McShane nor Danny Higginbotham interrupting his route to goal. Nor did they care to confront Osman minutes later as he
rounded off the rout by strolling through Keane’s defence before driving into the corner.
Sunderland’s ragged troops were delighted to hear the full-time whistle for though it was seven, it could have been 10. Everton had scored more than four for the first time under Moyes and, while Sunderland made it easy, Keane was probably right in suggesting, “No matter who had played Everton today they would have had a battering”.
The result spurred Everton on to one of their best runs under Moyes. The Blues lost just three of 27 games between the last week of October and the start of March including seven consecutive Europa League victories. As for Sunderland, it was the low point of a season that ended in survival by just three points.
Pleasant as that memory may be for Moyes, it’s a lifetime away from his current predicament. In fact, with Sunderland conceding four last time out against Southampton, and Everton hitting six on their last appearance at Goodison, there is even the grim prospect he could be on the wrong end of a repeat.