Everton continued their impressive start to the league campaign with a comfortable 2-0 victory over bottom-of-the-table Norwich City.
Andros Townsend netted a penalty after 29 minutes before an Abdoulaye Doucoure strike in the second half made it three home wins out of three in the league for the Toffees – the first time they’ve managed that since 1989.
It was a much-changed starting 11 from the side that crashed out of the Carabao Cup on penalties against QPR on Tuesday, with Jordan Pickford, Yerry Mina, Michael Keane, Allan, Doucoure and Demarai Gray all restored.
The hosts began strongly against their newly-promoted opponents and carved out a good opportunity early on, but Townsend’s eventual shot was poor and easily gathered by Tim Krul.
Just as play approached the half-hour mark, Allan made a marauding run into the Norwich penalty area and was brought down by former Liverpool defender Ozan Kabak and after a VAR check, the Blues were awarded a penalty which was dispatched by Townsend.
Having fallen behind 1-0, the visitors began to search for an equaliser which almost arrived in the form of a long-range strike from Norwegian midfielder Mathias Normann that was only just pushed behind by Pickford after taking a wicked bounce.
The Canaries continued to look the more threatening of the two sides in the second half as Normann again tested the gloves of the England international goalkeeper with a shot from the edge of the area.
On 77 minutes, the Blues caught Norwich on the counter-attack as Allan dispossessed Kenny McLean on the halfway line, Gray picked up the loose ball and drove into the opposition area before laying off for Doucoure and the Frenchman finished with aplomb, making it 2-0 and wrapping up the three points.
In the dying stages, Ben Godfrey had a chance to grab his first ever Everton goal against the club they signed him from as he got on the end of Keane’s flicked header, but his close-range effort was somehow saved by Krul
The final whistle sounded soon after and the Toffees secured a win that never really looked in doubt, boosting them back up to fifth with 13 points out of a possible 18 – not a bad start at all.
More importantly, the result will have caused a rise in optimism within the Goodison faithful after the disappointment and frustration of the two previous results – defeats to Aston Villa and QPR.
Gray and Townsend were each involved in a goal for their side today and continue to look like incredibly astute bits of business.
Meanwhile, Allan and Doucoure were once again dominant in the midfield while Yerry Mina was imperious in the air.
The return of Pickford between the sticks was also a welcome sight after Asmir Begovic failed to impress in his two appearances as deputy keeper.
The trip to Old Trafford next week will no doubt be a tricky one, but it will be interesting to see how Rafael Benitez’s side fare in their toughest challenge of the season so far.