Home games don't get much easier than when Norwich City come to town, and Everton made the most of the Canaries' visit to Goodison Park. But despite the scoreline showing a comfortable 2-0 win, Norwich can leave Merseyside with their heads held high -- they gave their hosts a real match and could easily have scored a goal or two themselves.
The hosts dominated play early on and could easily have taken the lead in the 12th minute. Kevin Mirallas floated in a cross for compatriot Romelu Lukaku, who beat his man and sent a header inexplicably wide from two yards out. It was a bad miss, but the Toffees soon made up for it with a wonderstrike from... Gareth Barry?
No, that wasn't a typo. The on-loan Manchester City midfielder isn't exactly infamous for his goalscoring exploits, but he put his reputation to one side here. A long ball forward was corralled by Lukaku, who held up play before sliding a short pass back to Barry, who then proceeded to drive forward and fire a thunderbolt of a shot just inside John Ruddy's far post. The goalkeeper never had a chance.
Everton continued to probe, but Norwich demonstrated some promise on the counterattack. Twice in the first half, Tim Howard had to rush out and clear as Gary Hooper threatened to wriggle free on goal, and Ricky van Wolfswinkel contrived to miss a clear chance to equalise just before the hour mark, blazing well over after he'd been found by Bradley Johnson.
For all of that effort, however, the Canaries were still on the back foot, and the Toffees always had the ability to put the game beyond their guests' grasp. They did so through Mirallas. Leighton Baines made a run from the left side, Ryan Bennett brought him down in scoring position, and Mirallas stepped up to double Everton's lead, sending a delicious effort zipping into the top corner.
Lukaku thought he'd added a third when he rounded the keeper and rolled home a cute finish, but his celebrations were interrupted by the linesman's flag. It looked for a second as though his goal being disallowed might matter when a bouncing header from Robert Snodgrass beat Howard... but it cannoned back off the woodwork to keep the Toffee's two-goal cushion intact.
Norwich put on further pressure as they looked to find some way to get back into the match, but despite some good, industrious play, they simply didn't have enough about them to make Everton's life particularly nervous. With Liverpool not playing until Sunday, the Toffees are -- temporarily -- back in the top four.
Everton starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Tim Howard; Leighton Baines, John Stones, Phil Jagielka, Seamus Coleman; Gareth Barry, James McCarthy; Steven Pienaar (Steven Naismith 71'), Leon Osman , Kevin Mirallas; Romelu Lukaku.
Goals: Barry 23', Mirallas 59'.
Norwich City starting lineup (4-4-2): John Ruddy; Martin Olsson, Sebastien Bassong, Ryan Bennett, Steven Whittaker; Javier Garrido , Bradley Johnson, Leroy Fer, Robert Snodgrass; Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Josh Murphy 88'), Gary Hooper.