Norwich City 2, Everton 2
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City's summer signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel paid off a slice of his club-record transfer fee with a superb second half header earning the Canaries an opening day Premier League point at Carrow Road.
Van Wolfswinkel powered a 71st minute header past Tim Howard from 16 yards to cap a frenetic second half after Everton had struck twice inside four minutes through Ross Barkley and Seamus Coleman to cancel out Steven Whittaker's virtuoso opener six minutes after half-time.
Chris Hughton opted not to risk Gary Hooper after his shin injury in the pre-season finale against Panathinaikos. Robert Snodgrass was also a surprise omission with a groin injury after undergoing a pre-match fitness test. Sebastein Bassong and Anthony Pilkington missed out for the Canaries with the duo set to step up their comebacks from knee problems next week. Dutch international Leroy Fer was suspended for the opening day after picking up a one-game ban in the closing stages of his spell at FC Twente last season.
Hughton gave Norwich Premier League debuts to Nathan Redmond and van Wolfswinkel with Wes Hoolahan deployed in the chief support role to the club's record signing.
New Everton manager Roberto Martinez resisted the urge to blood hsi summer signings Arouna Kone and Barcelona playmaker Gerard Deulofeu from the start with the pair kept in reserve. Martinez's side slipped into a smooth early rhythm with Kevin Mirallas and Steven Pienaar offering support to Nikica Jelavic. Phil Jagielka's miscued header dropped for John Ruddy from Leighton Baines' free kick in the first minor alarm for the hosts. Redmond attempted to harry Coleman out of the visitors' early stride with a tussle that turned up the volume at Carrow Road.
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Hoolahan was bundled over by Leon Osman in the ninth minute but Maroune Fellaini's towering presence cleared Elliott Bennett's dipping free kick with van Wolfswinkel sensing an opportunity. Whittaker was nearly punished for his attempt to play out from his own penalty area when the razor-sharp Pienaar pounced but the finish lacked any real precision.
City's predatory Dutch striker was then denied by Silvain Distin's timely header after Bradley Johnson had triggered a sharp counter for Hoolahan and Elliott Bennett to wreck havoc down the Toffees' right.
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City captain Russell Martin picked out van Wolfswinkel's run in behind Jagielka shortly afterwards but Distin's sense of imminent danger saw Hoolahan thwarted at the near post.
Martin was forced to head behind with Jelavic momentarily the favourite to despatch Pienaar's drilled cross at the opposite end before Fellaini's header drifted over. Ruddy then went full length but Mirallas' 20 yard hit flew wide after an intelligent set up from Jelavic.
Van Wolfswinkel's defensive qualities subdued Jagielka from another Everton corner before Fellaini skied over at the far post with the visitors' recovering from City's sustained burst of pressure. Norwich spurned a chance to test the Toffees from a free kick right on the edge of the visiting area when Elliott Bennett and Redmond's intricate set allowed Osman to deflect the ball away, but the corner was cleared.
Coleman profited from indecision between Garrido and Redmond but Martin again offered a sturdy obstacle when the Republic of Ireland international attempted to pick out Fellaini.
City's skipper was the first man cautioned a minute before the interval with a blatant check foiling the marauding Mirallas after the Everton forward had weaved beyond Garrido – but Baines struck the Norwich wall before Barkley lashed over the follow up.
The impressive Mirallas swept Coleman's cross into the side netting four minutes after the restart. Whittaker was the unlikely source of the opening goal in the 51st minute with a thrilling dribble past Fellaini before coolly slotting from an acute angle, after his initial left-footed curler clipped the inside of Howard's right-hand post from 20 yards.
Ruddy secured Barkley's long range hit at the second time of asking with Fellaini interested as Martinez's side probed for an instant riposte. Michael Turner was the second Norwich centre-back cautioned by referee Oliver for a rash sliding challenge through the back of Pienaar. City survived the resulting free kick but the hosts had no answer to Barkley's thumping hit from the edge of the Norwich penalty area that flew past Ruddy's despairing dive.
Things got worse for the Canaries when Coleman reacted quickest to lash past Ruddy in the 65th minute after the England keeper could only parry Jelavic's angled hit when the Croatian forward anticipated Pienaar's clever flick. Turner's eagerness to win the ball back following a fresh bout of sustained Everton possession gifted Baines another chance but the left-back from a set piece was unusually wayward – a charge you could not level at van Wolfswinkel when he drew Norwich level to cap a free-scoring second period. The Dutchman's pinpoint header from 16 yards left Howard with no chance after Whittaker's sliced shot arrowed towards him. City surged forward in the immediate aftermath with Jonny Howson and substitute Alex Tettey both leading penetrative counters but City's final decision on both occasions lacked the precision of van Wolfswinkel's headed equaliser.
Norwich earned a major reprieve in the 80th minute when Jelavic's header dropped for Steven Naismith but the Scot's point blank hit was superbly blocked by Ruddy before Jelavic slammed against Martin. Hughton introduced Martin Olsson for his Norwich Premier League debut with Redmond making way for the final five minutes and the Swedish international's whipped cross had van Wolfswinkel interested again only for Howard gathered at his near post. The excellent Coleman was a yard wide from his second and a potential Everton match-winner with a swinging strike that veered away from Ruddy's far post in the 88th minute.
• Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Turner, Martin, Garrido, E Bennett, Howson, Johnson, Redmond (Olsson 85), Hoolahan (Tettey 73), van Wolfswinkel. Subs (not used): Mark Bunn, Ryan Bennett, Jacob Butterfield, David Fox, Luciano Becchio.
• Bookings: Martin (foul on Mirallas, 44); Turner (foul on Pienaar, 59).
• Goals: Whittaker (51), van Wolfswinkel (71)
• Everton: Howard, Coleman, Distin, Jagielka, Baines, Barkley (Anichebe 90), Osman, Fellaini, Pienaar, Mirallas (Naismith 70), Jelavic (Kone 81). Subs (not used): Joel Robles, Johnny Heitinga, Gerard Deulofeu, John Stones.
• Goals: Barkley (61), Coleman (65)
• Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)
• Attendance: 26,824