Sunderland confirmed their place in the Premier League for another season with a smooth 3-0 win over Everton on Wednesday, with that result consigning Newcastle United, their biggest rivals, and Norwich City to the Championship.
Knowing that a win would make them safe and relegate Newcastle and Norwich, Sunderland went about their business at the Stadium of Light quite professionally, dispatching Everton, whose manager Roberto Martinez will surely be let go now, with goals from Patrick Van Aanholt and Lamina Kone. The win put Sunderland on 38 points from 37 games, four more than Newcastle and Norwich, with a game to go.
Van Aanholt started the scoring with his freekick finding a way through traffic and into the back of the net. Kone then made it 2-0 just before halftime, before completing his brace ten minutes into the second half to confirm the relegation of Newcastle and Norwich, who went down despite beating Watford 4-2 on Wednesday.
"I got a brace and it was absolutely extraordinary so to get that myself in front of our fans to make our league safety a certainty makes it a fairytale," Kone told the club's official website. "It's really hard to find the words to describe the moment but I am really proud of the team, proud of the staff and everyone here.
"The fans were absolutely fantastic and they have been since my arrival. It was incredible on Saturday, they really pushed us on and it was really thanks to them that we got that result against Chelsea. Without them I think things might have been a little bit different but I am really happy for them and I am looking forward to next season."
Sam Allardyce was over the moon after pulling off the great escape. Sunderland looked dead and buried when Allardyce was handed over the reins from Dick Advocaat, who had managed to garner just three points from eight matches. However, slowly but surely, he stabilised the defence and after several draws, also found a way to pick up victories – three of them came in the last five matches – to take Sunderland to safety, at the expense of their closest rivals.
"To be safe with one game to go is pretty miraculous," Allardyce was quoted as saying by The Guardian. "There was no way I wanted to go to Watford on Sunday with anything on the line but you go back into November when Everton beat us 6-2 and it shows how far we've come.
"We turned into a team from January onwards. This is probably one of my greatest achievements in management."