Double delight as Sunderland survive and send Newcastle down
Sunderland 3-0 Everton
Sunderland completed another improbable Barclays Premier League survival mission and relegated north-east rivals Newcastle in the process after cruising to victory over woeful Everton at the Stadium of Light.
Two goals from Lamine Kone followed a Patrick Van Aanholt free-kick as the hosts sealed survival with a game to spare - an achievement lent extra sweetness for the celebrating home fans by the fact it consigned the Magpies, as well as Norwich, to the Championship.
From looking down and out after losing five straight league games at the end of 2015, the Sam Allardyce-inspired drive to safety was made to seem strangely comfortable by another simply abject performance from Roberto Martinez's visitors.
Allardyce said: "If you go back to November, Everton 6-2 Sunderland, it shows how far we have come.
"There were a long few winter months, we got players in January and turned into a team from January onwards.
"We became a team that was difficult to beat, who did not like losing and continued the run constantly for the last few months.
"The Norwich result was the big one we needed, we got close, there was a slip up and then I think the performance against Chelsea, the comeback, gave us momentum to win this game against Everton.
"I hope I am here next season. We have just secured the financial side of being in the Premier League which was most important this season. What that gives us in terms of spending power, it is the same for everybody. It is about how wise we spend it, find players we need, like we did in January.
"The next set of recruitment is crucial for the football club, so we are not cheering or doing a lap of honour for having avoided relegation."
Former Northern Ireland international Neil Lennon hailed the Allardyce touch, saying: "Wherever he has been, he has done a fantastic job. Every club tends to suffer after he leaves."
Apart from two half-hearted efforts from right-back Matthew Pennington, one of the few Toffees players to emerge with any credit, the visitors' lackadaisical approach earned few rewards and cast further doubt over their manager's future.
From the moment Van Aanholt's 38th minute free-kick left Joel Robles rooted to his spot, the Black Cats' mission seemed accomplished, Kone volleying the second just four minutes later before his close-range strike in the second half sealed the deal.
Meanwhile, Newcastle managing director Lee Charnley put out a statement in which he thanked fans and staff at the club for their contribution this season.
"Tonight we are devastated at our relegation from the Premier League, as I know every single person connected to this football club will be," he wrote.
"I want to thank all of the fans for the support you have shown for the club you love throughout the season, in spite of this massive disappointment and under-achievement.
"We know that supporters want to know what the future holds and will want to hear more from us as soon as possible.
"The process of scrutinising what went wrong and planning for what is to come has already begun.
"Right now, of course, Rafa and the team must prepare for the final game of the season but after that, please rest assured we will communicate more fully with supporters."
Sunderland: Mannone, Yedlin, Kone, Kaboul, Van Aanholt, Kirchhoff (Larsson 70), Borini, Cattermole (O'Shea 79), M'Vila, Khazri (Watmore 86), Defoe. Subs not used: Jones, Rodwell, N'Doye, Pickford.
Goals: Van Aanholt 38, Kone 42, 55.
Everton: Robles, Pennington, Stones, Funes Mori, Baines, Barry, McCarthy, Cleverley (Osman 84), Barkley (Lennon 46), Mirallas,
Lukaku. Subs not used: Gibson, Oviedo, Niasse, Besic, Howard.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire).