The Roberto Martinez era at Everton opened with a 2-2 draw away against Norwich City. It's not a bad result for the new Toffee boss, but he'll be lamenting the defensive errors that cost his side a full three points. For Norwich, who was missing several key players, it was an encouraging performance to open the season.
It was all Everton early as the Toffees had possession often and showed off the fluid passing style which Martinez had them working on in the preseason. Norwich stayed organized and absorbed the pressure and Everton lacked the final pass or quick movement needed to break through.
As Norwich settled, Nathan Redmond began to get into the game and even out the possession for the Canaries.
The first real chance of any kind arrived in the 15th minute when Ricky van Wolfswinkel got in behind Sylvain Distin on a cross. The Everton defender did just enough to deflect the header attempt, forcing the ball out for a corner which was ultimately unproductive.
By the 20 minute mark, it was all Norwich as it pinned Everton back and used its attacking speed to get the defense on the heels and out of position.
Everton finally produced the kind of attack Martinez is looking for in the 23rd minute. Improved off-the-ball movement was the key -- something that had been lacking early -- as Ross Barkley and Kevin Mirallas combined to get the Belgian attacker in space at the top of the Norwich 18-yard-box. The left corner of the net was open for Mirallas but he dragged his shot wide.
Norwich took a 1-0 lead in the 51st minute thanks to a combination of good luck, shoddy tackling and determination from Steven Whittaker.
The Norwich fullback basically did everything himself, making an attacking run from deep in the midfield and managing to maintain possession after the ball bounced off both Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar. Marouane Fellaini's half-hearted tackle attempt was easily avoided by Whittaker as his first shot beat Tim Howard but hit the far post. Fortunately for Norwich, the rebound went right back to Whittaker who buried the second shot.
Everton fought right back in the 61st minute and found an equalizer thanks to a wicked blast from 19-year-old Ross Barkley. Seamus Coleman did the lion share of the work, cutting inside and beating his marker from the right side before finding Barkley 20 yards out at the top of the box. Barkley took one touch to the left to create a pocket of space and launched a missile past John Ruddy to make it 1-1.
Three minutes later Everton was back to make it 2-1.
Pienaar's splendid ball into Nikica Jelavić on the left side of the Norwich back started the play, but it wouldn't be the Croatian striker who put the Toffees in front. Ruddy made the initial save of Jelavić's point blank effort but left a rebound that was swept up an finished by Coleman.
Norwich wasn't done though and in the 71st minute it pulled back even at 2-2.
Whittaker's cross in from the right was shanked, but still managed to find van Wolfswinkel between two Everton defenders in front of Howard. The Dutch striker's header was on target as Norwich's record-signing paid dividends in his first league match with the club.
Neither side could find a winner late and the match concluded with both sides taking a well deserved point.
Norwich City: Ruddy; Whittaker, Turner, Martin, Garrido; Bennett, Howson, Johnson, Redmond (Olsson 86'); Hoolahan (Tettey 73'); van Wolfswinkel.
Goals: Whittaker (51'), van Wolfswinkel (71')
Everton: Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Fellaini, Osman; Mirallas (Naismith 70'), Barkley (Anichebe 90'), Pienaar; Jelavić (Koné 81').
Goals: Barkley (61'), Coleman (65')