Stadium of Delight as Sunderland secure Premier League safety by beating dismal Everton
- Credit: PA
Sunderland completed another improbable Premier League survival mission and relegated north-east rivals Newcastle and Norwich City in the process after cruising to a comfortable victory over woeful Everton.
Two goals from Lamine Kone followed a Patrick Van Aanholt free-kick as the hosts secured their safety with a game to spare – an achievement lent extra sweetness for the celebrating home fans by the fact it consigned the Magpies, as well as the Canaries, to the Championship.
From looking down and out after losing five straight league games at the end of 2015, the Sam Allardyce-inspired drive to safety was made to seem strangely comfortable by another simply abject performance from Roberto Martinez's visitors.
Apart from two half-hearted efforts from right-back Matthew Pennington, one of the few Toffees players to emerge with any credit, the visitors' lackadaisical approach earned few rewards and cast further doubt over their manager's future.
From the moment Van Aanholt's 38th minute free-kick left Joel Robles strangely rooted to his spot, the Black Cats' mission seemed accomplished, Kone volleying the second just four minutes later before his close-range strike in the second half sealed the deal.
An ecstatic Allardyce, yet to suffer relegation in the top-flight as a manager, told Sky Sports: 'If you go back to November, Everton 6-2 Sunderland, it shows how far we have come.
'There were a long few winter months, we got players in January and turned into a team from January onwards. We became a team that was difficult to beat, who did not like losing and continued the run constantly for the last few months.
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'The Norwich result was the big one we needed, we got close, there was a slip up and then I think the performance against Chelsea, the comeback, gave us momentum to win this game against Everton.
'I hope I am here next season. We have just secured the financial side of being in the Premier League which was most important this season. What that gives us in terms of spending power, it is the same for everybody. It is about how wise we spend it, find players we need, like we did in January.
'The next set of recruitment is crucial for the football club, so we are not cheering or doing a lap of honour for having avoided relegation.'
There had been a growing inevitability of a breakthrough and it came after Ramiro Funes Mori fouled Jermain Defoe on the edge of the Everton box on 38 minutes. After some deliberation in the home ranks, it was Van Aanholt who stepped up to fire a deceiving free-kick which caught out the rooted Robles and found the back of the net. And just two minutes later chants of 'Are you watching, Newcastle?' began tumbling down the Stadium of Light stands as the hosts took a massive stride towards safety by extending their lead.
Everton failed to deal with Wahbi Khazri corner, Leighton Baines' half-clearance only finding Yann M'Vila whose header back was superbly volleyed into the net by Kone.
In the 55th minute, survival was effectively secured when Robles flapped a corner into the backs of his defenders, and Kone pounced on a convenient ricochet to boot home and begin the celebrations.