Everton 1 Sunderland 0

Last updated : 12 January 2002 By Austin Rathe
There was much resting on this game. Before the match kicked off, many a TV and Newspaper hack was predicting that today could be a pivitol moment in the league, with a few of the lower teams eithe giving themselves a fighting chance or condemming themselves to first division football.

As it turned out, it may not have actually been that important for everyone else, but the importance of Everton's win cannot be underestimated. With the return of Kevin Campbell and Nick ALexandersson to the team, Walter SMith gained two influential players but lost the reason for Everton's recent poor form, i.e lots of injuries. This meant that he was being judged on his own merits, and the Everton team helped him pass the test without too much trouble.

Everton showed all of the early promise and came close within the first few minutes. Campbell had a chance five minutes in when he narrowly missed from the left side of the six-yard box after a cross from youngster Tony Hibbert. Sunderland were by no means out of the game, and former Kopite Jason McAteer came close with a shot from distance, but the Steve Simonsen wa spared the trouble of having to save it.

It was on 26 minutes that Everton took a deserved lead. Blomqvist headed well past Sorensen in the visitors goal after some excellent play down the right from Alexandersson, who's cross could not have been better. As always the Alexandersson was at the front of most of Everton's best play. The Swedish midfielder was agin involved a few minutes later when Everton very nearly increased their lead.

He cut inside Stanislav Varga on the right and raced into the box only for Julio Arca to produce a saving tackle inside the six-yard box.

In the second half Everton continued to dominate, Alexandersson once again going close, and Sunderland 'keeper Martin Sorensen was lucky to escape after he fumbled a shot from the ever impressive David Weir.

The introduction of Niall Quinn for the visitors on 55 minutes allowed Sunderland to show some promise, but only by pumping long balls up to the tall Irishman.

It was all hands to the pump in Everton's defence as the visitors desperatly threw men forward as the game came to a close, but the defence weathered the storm well and Simonsen in goal didn't have a save to make.

Everton looked good throughout the game, with only the odd moment of danger when Quinn and Philips combined. Lots of people called for Peter Reid to replace Walter Smith has manager when we weren't doing so well. HAving seen two teams who have similar amounts of cash to spend play each other, maybe those people will give Walter a bit of breathing room and realise that despite being one of the best players ever to pull on a blue jersey, and one of my personal hero's, Peter Reid has yet to prove himself as a manager at the highest level.