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Roberto Martinez’s first competitive match in charge of Everton ended in a 2-2 draw with Norwich City at Carrow Road in the Barclays Premier League.
The home side opened the scoring during the early stages of the second half as Steven Whittaker converted his own rebound before Everton looked to have won it when they scored twice in quick succession through Ross Barkley and Seamus Coleman. However, a debut goal from Ricky van Wolfswinkel with just under 20 minutes remaining allowed Norwich to press in the closing stages as the two sides ultimately shared the points.
Norwich manager Chris Hughton was able to include new signings Van Wolfswinkel and Nathan Redmond in his starting line-up, but Leroy Fer’s debut will have to wait due to suspension and Robert Snodgrass missed out with a groin strain. None of Everton’s transfer window acquisitions made it into the starting XI, as Gerard Deulofeu, Joel Robles and Arouna Kone all started on the bench, while Marouane Fellaini appeared from the beginning.
Everton began the stronger side but Norwich grew into the match, and only the right leg of Sylvain Distin prevented a clear-cut chance in the 17th minute, as Wes Hoolahan met Van Wolfswinkel’s cut-back from the left.
Neither team managed to stamp their dominance on the match in the first half, but Everton registered two good efforts close to the half-hour. Kevin Mirallas shot just wide from outside of the area and then Fellaini fired well over from a tight angle to John Ruddy’s left.
After going in level, Norwich came out after the break with renewed determination, and it took them just seven minutes to take the lead. Right-back Whittaker broke forward down the right and managed to hold off the challenges of three Everton defenders before curling a left-footed shot towards goal. His effort came agonisingly back off the far post, but the Scotland player was alert enough to chase down the rebound and knock it home.
The lead lasted less than 10 minutes, though, as Everton responded in the best possible fashion. Coleman was the architect when he cut in from the right, skipped past two tackles and laid the ball back to the edge of the area for Barkley, who hammered a left-footed drive past Ruddy to level things.
After 65 minutes, Everton thought they had completed the turnaround, as Nikica Jelavic broke into the left edge of the penalty area and fired a shot across goal, where Coleman was on hand to tap in after Ruddy’s initial save.
Norwich, though, had other ideas. With 19 minutes left Whittaker sliced a left-footed volley into the danger area from the right and Van Wolfswinkel rose above Phil Jagielka to head the ball into the top corner to level things up again.
Everton had one final chance in the closing moments when Norwich failed to clear Steven Pienaar’s left-wing cross, but Ruddy impressively stopped Steven Naismith’s close-range effort before Russell Martin blocked from Jelavic.
Norwich manager Chris Hughton: "We certainly showed drive to get back into the game. We had good chances ourselves and having taken the lead in the second half, I think we needed a longer period to get back into it. However, we soon found that we were 2-1 down and then we look at the character of our players.
"It's a fair result. It was a tight and difficult game in which they [Everton] showed great quality with what is arguably their best XI. They moved the ball around very well and caused us a lot of problems.
"The satisfying thing is that we were up against a full-strength Everton side. Robert Snodgrass pulled out only today; we were missing Leroy Fer, Anthony Pilkington and Sebastian Bassong, too. We've got more scope with the squad we've got, and taking that into consideration the lads put a great effort in."
"We've got to make sure that with the strikers we do have we provide them with a service. What Ricky [van Wolfswinkel] gives us is a willing runner up front, whatever formation. He always gives us an opportunity to score goals."
Everton manager Roberto Martinez: "Scoring goals is the hardest thing in football and Ross has the talent. What I’m pleased about with Ross is he wants to learn, develop and listen. To have a player of that ability at that age is an incredible asset for us. He was perfect today.
"Many people will speak about the quality of the goal, but that’s something he does every day in training. I’m most happy about is his overall contribution. Tactically, he was outstanding and he worked very hard for the team. It was a very mature performance. I’ve seen that a lot in pre-season and he showed he is willing to help the team. He was excellent and he deserved his goal."
"I was obviously pleased with the chances we created. We all know that Norwich at Carrow Road are a difficult unit to break down, so I couldn’t be happier with the manner in which we were patient in our build-up, we created good chances to score good goals from open play. Overall, I’d say we deserved the three points but we conceded two soft goals, which is the area of the performance in which we need to improve."
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