Goalscorers: Don Hutchinson 16, 26, Francis Jeffers 41, Mark Pembridge 61, Kevin Campbell 72
Everton: Paul Gerrard, Richard Gough, Richard Dunne, David Weir, David Unsworth, Mark Pembridge, John Collins, Don Hutchinson, Nick Barmby (Alex Cleland 74), Kevin Campbell, Francis Jeffers (Joe-Max Moore 74)
Sunderland: Thomas Sorensen, Chris Makin, Paul Butler, Eric Roy (Darren Williams 32), Steve Bould, Michael Gray (Michael Reddy 45), Gavin McCann, Stefan Schwarz, Nicky Summerbee, Kevin Kilbane, Niall Quinn
Referee: Stephen Lodge, Attendance: 40,017
Confidence was high at Everton going into this match with Sunderland in December 1999. Bill Kenwright had just completed his £20 million takeover of the club and manager Walter Smith had just signed an extension to his contract. However, they were considered outsiders for this match against a Sunderland side that were flying high on their return to the top-flight and threatening to gate-crash the European positions.
However, an ankle injury meant their top goalscorer; Kevin Phillips was missing this Boxing Day trip to Merseyside. Peter Reid’s side had a real off-day and it showed as he returned to the club where he’d won two championships as a player in the 1980s. Smith had built Everton into a physical side to play against but also one who could entertain. They’d shared a 4-4 draw earlier in the campaign with early pacesetters, Leeds United.
They took the lead after 16 minutes of this post-Christmas encounter. It saw neat build-up, involving Francis Jeffers, Mark Pembridge and David Unsworth. Don Hutchinson finished the move off with a low drive into the bottom corner of the net. 10 minutes later, the Toffees doubled their advantage. Sunderland goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen was beaten once again by a Hutchinson low shot after the experienced Steve Bould had failed to properly clear Unsworth’s free-kick.
The game was pretty much over as a contest four minutes before the interval. The lively Jeffers raced onto Richard Gough’s pass and showed no nerves in dispatching the ball past a shell-shocked Sorensen. This result was not expected at all, considering that Everton had lost 5-1 at Manchester United three weeks earlier, whilst Sunderland were dismantling Chelsea 4-1 on the same afternoon.
There was a reaction from Reid’s men after the break and Niall Quinn started to win more headers against the Everton defenders. Unfortunately without the goalscoring freedom that Phillips provided, it limited Sunderland’s attacking threat. Kevin Kilbane kept battling on but he was playing out-of-position and just didn’t possess the finishing qualities that Phillips had.
The home side soaked up the initial response from their opponents and added to their score on the hour mark. Sorensen was able to deny Kevin Campbell getting onto the scoresheet but his save only came out to Jeffers. Spotting Pembridge in a better position, the young forward squared the ball for the Welsh international to score a rare goal. It could have been more. Nick Barmby had two efforts cleared off the line and Jeffers was denied a second goal by a tight offside call. Everton still had time to add the icing on a delicious Christmas cake. Campbell lost his marker in the box and finally managed to defeat Sorensen.
Sunderland got their revenge and won the return fixture in March and finished higher in the table too but this was a painful afternoon for Reid and one of the best Walter Smith would experience in his four years in the post at Goodison Park.