Sunderland have secured Premier League survival and relegated Newcastle United and Norwich City in the process courtesy of a 3-0 win over an out-of-form Everton on Wednesday night.
The Black Cats entered the match knowing that three points at the Stadium of Light would secure safety for another season, while there was the added incentive of sending bitter rivals Newcastle to the Championship once again.
It proved to be a comfortable night for Sam Allardyce‘s team, who will now end the season in 17th position and can travel to Watford at the weekend knowing that they will be present in England’s top flight for at least one more campaign.
It was Sunderland that brought the early intensity in front of a vocal home support, but a looping header from Matthew Pennington just missed the far post as Everton came closest to making the breakthrough inside 10 minutes.
Younes Kaboul showed excellent feet in a wide position before whipping an effort towards the far corner in the 24th minute, but the Sunderland centre-back’s effort just moved wide of Joel Robles‘s post.
Ross Barkley sent a curling effort wide of the post down the other end as Everton continued to carry a threat, but both defences were on top as a pulsating first 45 minutes approached its latter stages.
A rash challenge from Ramiro Funes Mori presented Sunderland with a dangerous free kick seven minutes before the break, however, and the hosts took the lead when Patrick Van Aanholt‘s effort went straight through the wall and wrong-footed Joel.
The ground erupted courtesy of the 38th-minute opener, but the noise reached a new level four minutes later when Sunderland scored a second. This time it came from centre-back Lamine Kone, who turned home from close range after Everton had failed to clear a high ball inside their own box.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez introduced Aaron Lennon at the break and the former Tottenham Hotspur attacker immediately lifted the Toffees. The first half-chance of the second period came to the visitors, butVito Mannone made a smart save to keep out a header from Pennington.
Down the other end, Jan Kirchhoff sent a header just wide of the post after Joel failed to deal with a superWahbi Khazri corner from the left.
Jermain Defoe had one cleared off the line in the 54th minute as Sunderland came close once again, but the home side did have their third less than one minute later – Kone converting his second from close range after Joel had flapped at a corner from Khazri.
Defoe again came close in the 66th minute after unleashing a strike from inside the box, but Joel was on hand to make the save, before Mannone kept out a powerful Funes Mori header down the other end.
Despite Sunderland’s dominance, Everton continued to carry a threat and Mannone again had to be in good form to keep out a powerful Barry header 15 minutes from time.