All those old enough to remember the Saint and Greavsie ITV show of the 1980s will remember Jimmy Greaves famous catchphrase, “It’s a funny old game” and so it proved today at Goodison, as bottom of the table Sunderland were outplayed for much of the game by 10 man Everton, but still emerged victorious due to a catastrophic mistake between Tim Howard and Leon Osman. That error led to both men leaving the pitch in the 24th minute, Howard to a red card after he “tripped” Ki in the box, and Osman substituted to allow Joel to takeover between the sticks.
Sometimes however football just doesn’t go to plan. Everton were unbeaten at home in the league throughout 2013, Sunderland hadn’t won away all season. The Blues were looking to push their claims for Champions League next season, Sunderland were looking for vital points in their battle to stay out of the Championship. Everton were littered with talented players, allowing Martinez to rest the precocious Ross Barkley, Gus Poyet was missing his regular centre back pairing and was forced to play an unproven back four. However, what can not be denied is that for all the possession, all the second half opportunities created by Everton, the one statistic that matters reads Everton 0-1 Sunderland.
So what not for the Blues? It is certainly not time to panic. One defeat should not change the view that Everton have enjoyed a fantastic opening half to this Premier League season. The inevitable over reaction has already started on the social networks. Apparently Osman, who was almost man of the match two weeks ago against Fulham, should not play for Everton again after his mistake. Tim Howard, who was equally to blame, as acknowledged by Roberto Martinez, appears to have escaped any criticism from the Goodison faithful. Everton will bounce back and with another home fixture in just 3 days time, the visit of Southampton represents the perfect opportunity to right a few wrongs.
Everton will go into that game missing a few crucial players. Tim Howard will be suspended after his red card, although Joel Robles is a more than able deputy. Gareth Barry is also banned after collecting his fifth yellow card after a poor first half tackle. Barry is much more difficult to replace,although it is likely that the much maligned Leon Osman will play in a more withdrawn role, unless Martinez decides to employ a change of formation and introduce a third central defender. Kevin Mirallas must also be a significant doubt after leaving the Sunderland match suffering from illness.
Today has certainly brought a sense of realism, the title talk has been put to bed for now. Everton must respond, with the top of the Premier League table incredibly close with 8 or 9 teams pushing for European football next season. But before we all panic, Everton remain just two points behind Liverpool in fourth and just five off Arsenal who currently sit top.