EVERTON 1 (Wes Brown 75-og)
As the men in blue zipped relentlessly across the pitch for 93 minutes, they sent a message to Arsenal loud and clear.
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With a hard-fought 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light yesterday, Everton ascended to the coveted fourth position in the English Premier League, and more significantly, above Arsenal.
The manoeuvre was already a week into its incubation, ever since the Toffees hammered the Gunners 3-0 at Goodison Park last Sunday.
The victory over Sunderland was Everton's seventh league win in a row - a new club record in the Premiership era.
The Black Cats held their own but alas, couldn't hold their nerves in the late stages.
Wes Brown's 75th-minute own-goal was the only difference between two adventurous sides.
In truth, Gus Poyet's men showed a marked improvement from the insipid previous showing - a 5-1 capitulation against Tottenham Hotspur on Monday.
But much, much better stuff is required of them if they are to lift themselves off the bottom of the table, let alone beat the drop.
Everton were, well, functioning at the level that had Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger sweating buckets at Goodison Park last week.
Make no mistake, this wasn't an all-conquering display that had Sunderland reaching for their safety belts from the word go.
After all, Everton were playing on away turf against opponents desperate to cling on to top-flight status.
It was always going to be a tricky encounter. The visitors were cultured in their offensive approach, yet determined in their resistance to Sunderland's raids.
Having said that, Everton were superior to Sunderland on every front. Patience, therefore, was the key to victory.
This game tested their ability to keep their focus and maintain a belief that it was only a matter of time that the hosts would crumble.
In the end, they did, although it took a huge slice of luck.
Again, it was Gerard Deulofeu who supplied the spark, dashing to the byeline before delivering a dangerous cross that Sunderland defender Brown bundled into his own net,
With only 15 minutes left, Everton could virtually taste the three points in the bag. And they held on.
Under former manager David Moyes, the Toffees shrugged off an inferiority complex that hindered them when competing against the Premiership's best.
Roberto Martinez, at the wheel, made them believe that they can complement grit with style.
This is the new Everton, pleasing on the eye and tenacious to the bones.
Are you watching, Arsenal?
This article was published on April 13 in The New Paper.
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