Toffees deny Black Cats again

The full-back blasted past keeper Keiren Westwood from 12 yards

after referee Howard Webb had ruled that Leon Osman had been fouled

inside the box, although claims from the home players that he had

simply kicked the ground appeared to be borne out by television

replays. Baines’ effort cancelled out Jack Colback’s first senior

goal for the Black Cats, a deflected 26th-minute shot against the

run of play which galvanised his side as they attempted to win for

the third time in manager Martin O’Neill’s four games to date.

Baines’ equaliser also extended Sunderland’s wait for a victory

over the Toffees to 15 games with the visitors unbeaten at the

Stadium of Light for a decade. The game, which was broadcast by the

BBC World Service to an estimated audience of 25 million across

Africa, very nearly came to a dramatic conclusion when Sylvain

Distin turned Stephane Sessegnon’s cross into the side-netting.

However, the big talking points as a crowd of 43,619 headed home

were the decision which handed Baines his big chance, and

Sunderland’s paltry return of just four wins on their own pitch in

2011. So often this season, the Black Cats have dominated the

opening stages of games and failed to take advantage of the chances

they have created, a failing which ultimately cost Steve Bruce his

job. Today, the story was markedly different as they endured a

torrid opening 20 minutes or so. Everton, themselves on an upward

curve after their midweek victory over Swansea, dominated the early

exchanges and created at least three gilt-edged opportunities to

take the lead. Tim Cahill, who has not scored for his club since

December 20 last year, might have ended his drought with just seven

minutes gone when full-back Tony Hibbert’s long ball played him in

on the right side of the penalty area. The Australia international

struck his shot from a tight angle well, but Westwood beat the ball

away. Cahill should have done much better seven minutes later when

he was presented with a free header from Baines’ corner, but

powered his effort well wide. Striker Louis Saha was equally

wasteful in similar circumstances two minutes later, this time with

Royston Drenthe the supplier, as the defensive resilience which has

returned under O’Neill deserted Sunderland. Their cause was not

aided with 21 minutes gone by Titus Bramble’s premature exit to

injury, which saw Phil Bardsley switch from left-back to

right-back, John O’Shea push inside with Wes Brown and Kieran

Richardson drop in on the left with Colback replacing him in

midfield. But it was Sunderland who took the lead five minutes

later and it was the newcomer who did the damage. Sessegnon skipped

past Distin and Hibbert before slipping the ball to the unmarked

Colback, whose shot clipped the recovering Frenchman and flew past

the helpless Tim Howard. In an instant, the uncertainty and lack of

cohesion which had characterised the Black Cats’ performance during

the early stages evaporated, and they started to take the game to

Everton with Sessegnon and Bendtner repeatedly finding space.

However, Everton got themselves back into the game within six

minutes of the restart, although they did so in controversial

circumstances. Osman was allowed to work his way into the penalty

area, where he went down as Wes Brown and Lee Cattermole closed in

on him. Referee Webb took his time, but eventually pointed to the

spot, although replays suggested that neither Sunderland man had

touched the midfielder and that he had actually kicked the ground.

But as the home fans bayed, the nerveless Baines smashed his

spot-kick high to Westwood’s left to level. Clearly aggrieved by

the turn of events, the Black Cats set about the task of restoring

their lead in determined fashion, and Hibbert had to clear away a

Richardson corner from under his crossbar while Saha headed

Sebastian Larsson’s effort from the other side on to the roof of

his own net. However, Westwood was relieved to see Osman head

across the face of goal after meeting Drenthe’s driven 63rd-minute

cross. Sunderland battered away in the search for a last-gasp

winner, but the closest they came to getting it was when Distin

deflected Sessegnon’s 90th-minute cross into the side-netting.