NIKICA Jelavic rediscovered his goal-scoring touch in timely fashion as Everton fought back to beat Sunderland 2-1 in a tight Goodison contest.
The Croatian’s 79th minute first-time strike gave David Moyes’ men the lead, and this time they clung on to stay in fourth place in the Barclays Premier League.
They had to do it the hard way yet again - after conceding first for the seventh consecutive game when Adam Johnson scored for the visitors just before the break.
Despite als losing the attacking threat of Kevin Mirallas during an entertaining first half, when the Belgian limped off with a hamstring injury, the Blues kept going and got the victory they deserved in the end.
It was a lively start as Mirallas deployed a slick shimmy to bamboozle the visiting defence and play in Jelavic who seemed reluctant to shoot with his left foot and delayed too long before being hustled off the ball. The striker felt he’d been fouled but referee Lee Mason was unimpressed and it would have been a generous spot kick.
Despite that flurry Everton almost fell to their customary early set back when Steven Fletcher played a simple ball to Stephane Sessengnon who muscled too easily past Seamus Coleman and looked a certainty to score but for the reflexes of a sprawling Tim Howard. Then Sessengon returned the favour, setting his striker partner free down the left and despite pressure from Coleman his shot across goal was only inches from creeping in at the far post.
The Blues responded with further attacking prowess from Mirallas, who was linking up smartly with his compatriot Marouane Fellaini, as the trusty axis of Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar also began to click. It led to a sustained siege of the Sunderland goal, as Everton passed the ball with purpose and pace outside the area, albeit lacking a cutting edge to garnish their artistry.
Although the visitors had enjoyed some gilt-edged chances, Everton could claim to be on top so it was a serious blow when Mirallas limped off clutching his hamstring on half an hour.
To their credit Everton continued to push relentlessly, and Leon Osman began to show just why he is worth his England call-up by pulling the strings with a smart array of passing. Then Seamus Coleman, who had struggled initially, went on a mazy run and was upended right on the edge of the area, and Baines’ free kick was met by Jelavic whose shot was narrowly over.