There was a time when Sunderland fans wondered why Steve Bruce had made such a fuss about borrowing Danny Welbeck from Manchester United. Last night those doubts were finally banished as they implored their manager to "sign him up".
The fast maturing young striker emphasised his rich potential with not just two goals but a pacy, intuitive performance which, at times, frightened the life out of Phil Jagielka and company. Admittedly Welbeck's passing is not all it might be but Everton looked relieved to secure a point courtesy of Mikel Arteta's late, heavily deflected, equaliser.
"I quite like Welbeck," said Steve Round, David Moyes's assistant. "He's an emerging talent who has certainly got the talent to go far. Playing here is doing him the world of good."
Eric Black, Bruce's deputy, was even more fulsome about a player aided by Sunderland's reversion to 4-4-2. "Danny's got phenomenal potential," he said. "He's exceptionally talented and has now got confidence. Not playing every week at United was stunting his development."
Moyes reckons it is high time Fabio Capello offered Leighton Baines another England run out and Everton's left-back swiftly emphasised his overlapping credentials. After exchanging neat, short, triangular passes with Steven Pienaar down the left, Baines whipped in a cross which the on-rushing Tim Cahill headed beyond Craig Gordon.
It was the Australian's seventh goal in 10 appearances against Sunderland for Millwall and Everton but hardly the start a home crowd – who had braved the sort of bitter north-east night on which the damp chill seeps into your bones – envisaged. After all, in the wake of a 3-0 win at Chelsea, Bruce had been talking up Sunderland as realistic European contenders.
Bruce has more than done his bit to hype Jordan Henderson but the midfielder, who looked out of his depth during his full England debut against France, played as if on a mission to justify his manager's faith. Apart from testing Tim Howard's reflexes courtesy of an early free-kick, Henderson's invariably dynamic hyper-activity initially rarely allowed Arteta time to settle on the ball in central midfield. When he learns to sometimes slow things down a second international cap will surely follow.
Welbeck has been the subject of even more lavish praise from Sir Alex Ferguson. Such glowing references appeared a little puzzling when the Manchester United loanee first arrived on secondment from Old Trafford in August but, suddenly the 19-year-old has added poise — and goals — to his wonderful pace and energy.
He claimed the equaliser, his instinctive first-time close range finish defying Howard following a connection with Bolo Zenden's clever low cross. It is barely a month since Zenden was murmuring discontent at his sidelining from first team action and it seems Bruce has been wise to take the veteran Dutchman's hint.
Incisive and industrious wide on the right, Zenden did not merely supply the cross for Welbeck's goal but was the source of the leveller, seizing possession in his own half from Pienaar before slaloming his way to the edge of the area and tricking Baines into an unwise challenge.
Seeking redemption, Baines promptly delighted in reminding everyone that he takes a mean dead ball and the fallout from one of his corners saw first Henderson and then the equally determined Lee Cattermole scooping the ball to safety.
With Michael Turner subsequently colliding painfully with a post while clearing a hooked angled volley from Cahill off the line following Phil Neville's deep centre it became apparent that crosses were proving game altering.
When Kieran Richardson's late corner was partially cleared the Sunderland midfielder regained possession before crossing perfectly for Welbeck to head Sunderland's second. Everton fans may argue both scorer and creator were offside but it was a splendid finish.
Unfortunately, defending is not always Welbeck's forté and he was deceived by Arteta's slick Cruyff turn after the Spaniard met a fine Baines cross before unleashing a shot which deflected heavily off Phil Bardsley en route beyond Gordon.
Although Everton could have won it when the substitute Jermaine Beckford shot tantalising over the bar when clean through, a draw seemed fair.
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