Jermaine Beckford netted twice for Everton to consign Sunderland to a fourth successive loss.
Budget blessing in disguise as Beckford comes good for Everton
LIVERPOOL // Occasionally poverty has its benefits. Had David Moyes been granted substantial funds to spend last summer, Jermaine Beckford might not have joined Everton. Were he to have had a healthy budget in January, the former non-league forward would not be in the team.
However, the cut-price answer to a striker shortage is starting to make his mark. Recruited on a free transfer from Leeds United - the lack of a fee may well have been the crucial factor - Beckford now has five goals in eight games.
The double that defeated Sunderland contained an element of scruffiness but Beckford adheres to the predator's motto: they all count.
"There have been a lot of good goalscorers who don't always kick the ball cleanly," Moyes said.
"They get the ball in the net and that's the secret to it. It's what he does: he gets goals. It's been a big step up for him, to make the jump of two divisions.
"But his movement in the box is as good as I've seen from a lot of the best."
Indeed, it was movement, more than a clinical touch, that produced his two goals.
First, Leon Osman pierced the Sunderland defence with a pass Beckford read. His shot was goal-bound before Titus Bramble clumsily turned it over the line.
It was an afternoon to forget for the Sunderland central defenders; the other, John Mensah, was deceived by Mikel Arteta's change of pace before the Spaniard found Beckford.
A scuffed finish was ultimately less important than the run that enabled him to be in position.
Arteta's lack of creativity has been an unexpected problem at Goodison Park this season, so his involvement was welcome.
Indeed, this ranked among his finer displays, the playmaker languidly stroking passes around. To his left, Osman blended business with touches of quality. A well-struck half-volley whistled just wide and an injury-time effort was headed off the line by Ahmed Elmohamady.
A third goal wouldn not have flattered Everton, as Steve Bruce acknowledged.
"The first half in particular was possibly as poor as we've played all season in terms of the goals we gave away and the apathy we showed," the Sunderland manager said. "It wasn't good enough, simple as that. We were second-best all afternoon."
Such invention as Sunderland showed came from Stephane Sessegnon. The Benin international supplied Kieran Richardson for an early chance that the Englishman spurned and then unleashed a terrific shot that Tim Howard tipped on to the bar. "A great save," Moyes said.
A great week, too, for him, despite the minor injuries that led to the withdrawals of Beckford and Marouane Fellaini: eliminating Chelsea from the FA Cup revived a campaign that, with three months remaining, appeared to offer little to Evertonians.
It also restored an optimism that was apparent by a capacity crowd.
With Everton excelling and Beckford finishing, the sunshine appeared to signify the end of Goodison Park's bleak midwinter. Paupers they may be, but Everton were far from poor.