WEAR ALL STAYING UP
Big Sam's men seal survival as Martinez suffers
SUNDERLAND last night secured Premier League safety – relegating arch-rivals Newcastle and Norwich.
Their thumping victory over a poor Everton side at the Stadium of Light kept up manager Sam Allardyce’s record of never having been relegated from the top flight.
Allardyce – a former Newcastle boss – took over when former boss Dick Advocaat left in October with a parting shot that Sunderland were ill-equipped to survive.
Everton’s heavy defeat and their awful performance will inevitably pile yet more pressure on manager Roberto Martinez, inset, who is expected to be replaced this summer. Norwich scored four goals for only the second time this season when coming from behind to beat Watford at Carrow Road. But that effort was all in vain after Sunderland’s superb triumph.
IF CARLSBERG did nights out for Sunderland supporters, the script would run something like this.
As if clinching a fourth consecutive great escape was not enough, to condemn Newcastle to the Championship in the process made it just about the perfect occasion as Wearside celebrated kicking the noisy neighbours while they are down.
Ivory Coast defender Lamine Kone scored in each half as inept Everton were swept away on a tide of emotion to cries of, “Are you watching Newcastle?” from the Stadium of Light.
Perhaps the only surprise in a season of the unexpected was that Sam Allardyce’s men sealed safety with a game to spare in opening the trapdoor for both the Tynesiders and Norwich, who are unable to bridge the four-point gap on Sunderland in Sunday’s final round of fixtures.
Sunderland celebrated long into the night at saving another seemingly lost cause and this was all about another stunning act of escapology under a fourth different manager.
The visitors could soon be looking for another boss themselves as the latest spineless display left Roberto Martinez’s position looking increasingly vulnerable, with a single victory in the Spaniard’s last 10 games.
Not so Allardyce – one defeat in nine just when it matters – who might expect to be handed the freedom of Sunderland given the rescue mission he has overseen in his seven months in charge. The Black Cats all but sealed victory with two goals in the space of four minutes as their mounting pressure finally told with half-time approaching.
After a foul on Jermain Defoe 25 yards from goal, Patrick van Aanholt stepped up in the 38th minute to send in a curling freekick that Joel Robles misjudged, the keeper almost diving out of the way as the ball found virtually the centre of the net.
Robles partially made amends with a fine reaction save to deny Defoe’s header but from the ensuing corner the hosts doubled their advantage.
Everton failed to clear Wahbi Khazri’s set-piece and, when the ball fell for Kone unmarked six yards out, the defender sent a thundering volley into the roof of the net for a nervesoothing second and his first goal for the club.
Allardyce had warned his side, unchanged for a seventh straight game, to guard against complacency, which was a strange instruction given that Everton had lost one of their previous 11 visits to Wearside and had put six past them at Goodison Park in November.
The Toffees have rarely scaled such heights in the subsequent six months, hitting a new low with the 3-1 defeat at Leicester last weekend.
In contrast, Sunderland had been on the front foot in the 3-2 victory over Chelsea and backed by another buoyant near sellout, they set about unsettling Everton from the off.
Their energetic approach soon petered out as the visitors took the sting out of proceedings, carving out the first chance as young Matthew Pennington got forward from right-back to head a Gareth Barry centre narrowly wide.
Everton’s back-four dropped deep to negate the threat of the ball over the top for Defoe, but the forward lifted the flagging atmosphere when he almost blocked a hurried Robles clearance form inside the area after he was sold short by an awful back-pass from Ramiro
Funes Mori. With the crowd back involved, Younes Kaboul went close with a low curling effort as he popped up in an unexpected attacking position.
His defensive colleagues Van Aanholt and Kone showed him how it should be done soon after to put the hosts within reach of survival.
Kone came close to adding a third straight after the break after causing more carnage in the Everton box at a corner, while Defoe almost claimed the goal his brilliant display deserved as Pennington cleared his effort off the line.
Everton were hanging on and it came as no surprise when the third goal arrived in the 55th minute, Kone given time and space two yards out to thrash the loose ball home after Robles made a hash of Khazri’s inswinging corner.
Funes Mori and Barry forced late saves from Vito Mannone, but by then the escape party celebrations had long since started.