Black Cats move well clear of the drop zone after first home win for new man Di Canio.
New Sunderland head coach Paolo Di Canio recorded back-to-back Premier League victories after guiding the struggling North-East outfit to a hugely-significant 1-0 win over Champions League-chasing Everton at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon.
Six days after he guided his side to a sensational 3-0 win over North-East rivals Newcastle, Di Canio was celebrating again as Stephane Sessegnon’s first-half winner at the Stadium of Light lifted the Black Cats six points clear of the relegation zone.
Di Canio has now won two of his first three matches since replacing Martin O’Neill, and whereas Sunderland looked doomed to relegation less than a month ago, they now appear reborn.
Everton, however, have failed to win twice in the space of a week, a run that has all but ended David Moyes’ side’s outside chance of claiming a Champions League place.
Moyes had never previously lost to Sunderland, but goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was barely tested on a frustrating afternoon for the Toffees, who are five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.
Di Canio resisted the opportunity of a formal pre-match introduction in the centre-circle, but the new Sunderland boss was nevertheless cheered to the rafters throughout his first home game.
He had urged his players to re-create the passion and intensity they displayed in last weekend’s thrilling Tyne-Wear derby win over Newcastle, and they responded with another bright display from the off.
Seb Larsson was especially impressive at the heart of midfield, wresting the initiative from Marouane Fellaini and testing the Everton back four with a succession of well-judged passes and through balls.
The Swede was also dangerous from set-pieces, and he went close on three separate occasions before the interval, with his third attempt from 25 yards forcing Tim Howard into a smart save down to his right-hand side.
That 40th-minute effort looked like being Sunderland’s final opportunity of the first half, but just as Everton looked like reaching the interval on level terms, their opponents struck in the final minute.
Leighton Baines displayed uncharacteristic sloppiness as he conceded possession to Larsson, and after the Swede quickly shuffled the ball to Sessegnon, the Sunderland forward squeezed a low 20-yard shot beyond Howard’s right hand and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
The goal was a just reward for Sunderland’s first-half superiority, with Everton failing to force Mignolet into a single save before the break.
Kevin Mirallas saw a long-range shot deflected wide off Carlos Cuellar, but apart from a number of dangerous crosses from Baines, Everton never really posed a threat.
If anything, Sunderland’s dominance became even more pronounced at the start of the second half, with Danny Rose whistling a low drive just wide after comfortably coming out on top in a 50-50 challenge with Leon Osman.
However, the half-time introduction of Nikica Jelavic gradually enhanced Everton’s attacking threat, and Mignolet was finally tested midway through the second half as he blocked Jelavic’s intelligent deflection of Fellaini’s long-range strike.
Sunderland’s Belgian international keeper was involved in a bizarre incident 11 minutes from time as he was booked for catching Larsson’s senseless back-pass from close to the halfway line.
The resultant free-kick was rolled to Baines, but the full-back’s shot was blocked by Adam Johnson.