David Moyes won 218 of his 518 games in charge of Everton – arguably, it was win number 100 that was his best. It was November 2007, and Sunderland had come to town looking for three important points in their relegation scrap. They left with their tails firmly between their legs, having been given an almighty hiding. A goal-hungry Goodison crowd had been given a rare treat.
Everton, certainly in the – I’m sorry about this – “Premier League era”, haven’t tended to be the sort of side that dishes out thrashings. Get thrashed? Maybe. But Blues are made to wait for the royal blue machine to churn up some poor footballing chum. When it happens, it’s worth the wait. And then Everton ruin things by releasing a DVD.
Moyes’ Toffees had in fact never scored more than four in game since the Scot’s arrival in 2002. They had conceded seven against Arsenal, but the best the Blues had offered were 4-0 defeats of Leeds, Crystal Palace and Luton. A good beating, it seemed, was overdue. Moyes himself alluded to it, claiming after the Sunderland win that, having seen the side’s performances in training and matches, he had foreseen such a result.
Thanks to cup competitions, Everton were in decent form. The Blues had won five on the bounce – though only two of those goals were in the league – before a dramatic Tim Cahill overhead kick sealed a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. There was plenty of attacking talent available to Moyes, with Andy Johnson returning from injury, and Mikel Arteta replacing Tony Hibbert in the starting line-up was a clear indicator that Everton would be on the front foot from the off.
It took 12 minutes for the floodgates to open. A bouncing long ball bamboozled Sunderland summer signing Paul McShane, and Yakubu was given the license to chance his arm. Luck was on the Nigerian’s side, as a weak effort spooned off the lunging Danny Higginbotham, over Craig Gordon and into the net. If the first goal was simple and scrappy, the second was the opposite. Yakubu released Arteta on the right with an incisive pass, and the Spaniard held the ball up before releasing Phil Neville with a clever flick. Neville chipped a ball in to the penalty area for Cahill, whose bouncing touch was somehow not pounced upon by any of the four Sunderland defenders in the vicinity. Cahill fired his effort past Gordon to complete the flowing move.
Kenwyne Jones was ploughing a lone furrow for the hapless Sunderland, and a driven effort saved by Tim Howard was all the visitors could muster in the opening 40 minutes. The Sunderland midfield was butter, to which Arteta, Osman, Carsley and Pienaar were hot knives. Even Nuno Valente got in on the act, charging through the middle and feeding the South African on the left before continuing his run. Pienaar slipped the ball down the wing for the left-back, received the return ball, and opened his body to drive a first-time shot into the far corner.
Yet this is Everton we’re talking about. Even a thrashing can’t be simple. On the cusp of half-time, Grant Leadbitter and Carlos Edwards had efforts saved by Tim Howard. Somehow, Jones was still allowed to collect the loose ball and feed Dwight Yorke, who made no mistake. Yorke’s reward for scoring was to get hooked by Sunderland manager Roy Keane at half-time, with the Trinidadian and Dickson Etuhu replaced by Danny Collins and Ross Wallace. It seemed to have worked. For the opening 15 minutes of the second half, Everton were kept at bay.
After an hour of neat football, the Blues broke Sunderland down with one of the most route one goals Goodison has ever seen. Joseph Yobo, ambling out of his penalty area under no pressure whatsoever, elected to lump the ball forwards. McShane didn’t judge the flight of the long ball correctly, but Cahill did. A deft touch took him inside McShane, and a cool finish made it 4-1. It should have been 4-2 minutes later, but Michael Chopra inexplicably missed with the goal at his mercy.
It just wasn’t McShane’s day. Arteta wandered into the penalty area and laid the ball back for Osman, whose effort was parried by Gordon. The ball bounced off the hapless Irishman’s knee and fell for Yakubu, who swivelled and planted a shot into the left-hand corner. At 5-1, Sunderland had given up the ghost. Even their own attacks were turning into Everton goals. A poor Jones pass was intercepted by Phil Neville, and the Everton captain’s tackle-cum-clearance-cum-killer ball was latched onto by the returning Johnson. The striker tore past the static Mackems and neatly chipped the ball over Gordon. There was time for one more, arguably the best of the bunch. Osman started near the halfway line, slalomed through the Sunderland defence, held off a series of weak challenges, and tucked away a seventh Everton goal.
7-1. It could have been eight, if Everton had been awarded a penalty when Arteta was brought down clumsily in the second half. The Toffees’ biggest league win since 1996 was in part thanks to Sunderland’s incompetent defending, but it would not have been possible without some attractive, often outstanding, attacking play. Keane said afterwards: “No matter who had played Everton today they would have had a battering.” Cahill, Osman and Pienaar were all impressive, but it was Arteta’s midfield magic that doomed Sunderland to a serious beating.
David Moyes claimed at the time that the win was the best in his five years at the helm. There were few in the six years following that could challenge it. All that remains to be seen is when the next Everton hiding will be dished out.