LIVERPOOL (AFP) - Ivorian forward Arouna Kone netted a clinical hat-trick as Everton cut Sunderland down to size with a swashbuckling 6-2 victory in the Premier League on Sunday.
Sunderland had been buoyed by a 3-0 win over derby rivals Newcastle United in their previous fixture, but despite hitting the post twice in the early stages and coming back from two goals down to make it 2-2, Sam Allardyce’s side were well beaten.
Goals by Jerman Defoe and Steven Fletcher allowed Sunderland to level after Gerard Deulofeu and Kone had put Everton 2-0 up, but a Sebastian Coates own goal and a Romelu Lukaku effort restored the hosts’ control in the second half before Kone completed his treble.
It was the first time Everton had scored six goals in a league game since a 7-1 win over the same opponents in November 2007 and it lifted Roberto Martinez’s side up to eighth place.
Sunderland remain second from bottom, two points from safety.
Allardyce changed tack for the trip to Goodison Park by switching to a 3-4-1-2 system that gave his wing-backs licence to attack.
It looked likely to bear fruit in the fourth minute when left wing-back Patrick van Aanholt cracked a shot against the left-hand post and Adam Johnson then hit the same post after Tim Howard had saved from Defoe.
But while Sunderland’s new shape gave them width in attack, it left gaps at the back and Everton exploited those holes to go ahead four minutes later.
Kone’s pass found Deulofeu in acres of space behind Van Aanholt and the former Barcelona player cut inside onto his left foot before squeezing a shot between Costel Pantilimon’s legs.
Kone made it 2-0 in the 31st minute, playing a neat one-two with Lukaku and lashing a left-foot shot high into the net.
An end-to-end half saw both sides lose players to injury, with Brendan Galloway replacing Bryan Oviedo for the hosts and former Everton player Jack Rodwell coming on in place of Lee Cattermole for Sunderland.
Lukaku shot straight at Pantilimon as Everton continued to press, but in the fourth minute of stoppage time Defoe gave the visitors a lifeline.
After nipping in front of John Stones to gather a deep pass, the one-time England striker deftly lofted the ball over the sliding Ramiro Funes Mori before dispatching a shot that flicked off Stones and beat Howard.
Fletcher equalised for Sunderland five minutes after half-time when he rose to head home Van Aanholt’s cross from the right.
But Everton equalised five minutes later when the stretching Coates inadvertently stabbed the Spaniard’s right-wing cross into his own net.
Another five minutes further on, Deulofeu’s beautifully weighted pass freed Lukaku to round Pantilimon and score.
Ross McCarthy teed up Kone to make it 5-2 and with 14 minutes remaining the Ivorian completed his treble by driving into the box to meet Lukaku’s glorious outside-of-the-foot cross with a firm header.