Good afternoon! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for one of the best days of the year - the opening day of the Premier League! It is the turn of Norwich and Everton to get started here as both sides look to build on good seasons in the last campaign.
We'll start by looking at our hosts today, and they have been fairly busy over the summer. Chris Hughton
has added eight names to his squad, most notably up front with the signings of Gary Hooper and Ricky van Wolfswinkel
. Both strikers certainly know where the goal is, and I think that Hughton has been very shrewd in replacing the goals that left with Grant Holt's departure.
They have also snapped up Leroy Fer in midfield and, although he is unavailable today due to a previous suspension, he will play a big part in the Canaries' season. Nathan Redmond is another exciting addition for Hughton's side, and the teenager will be looking to build up his ever-enhancing reputation even further in the upcoming campaign.
As far as their pre-season campaign has gone, it won’t have instilled too much confidence in the fans. They began well enough with a 3-0 win over Dorados, but their US tour ended with defeats to both San Jose Earthquakes and Portland Timbers.
Three consecutive draws followed against Brighton, Sporting Braga and Real Sociedad before their match against Panathinaikos ensured that they bookended the warm-up schedule with wins, running out 2-0 victors.
Of course, Hughton will be quick to reassure fans and players alike that pre-season form will not impact the regular season. Results are often of secondary importance during the warm-up matches as they focus on fitness.
It was a decent season for Norwich last season as they finished in a respectable 11th place, just two points off a top half finish. Hughton will still be keeping an eye on the relegation battle throughout this season as his side are certainly not out of the mix when it comes to the drop, but he will be more focused on securing a place in the top half. A similar season to the last campaign could well see them achieve that goal.
Switching our attention to the visitors today, Everton are just about to embark on a brand new era. Roberto Martinez
will take charge of his first competitive game as Everton manager this afternoon, and we are likely to see a different style to what the Goodison Park faithful have been used to for the past decade.
Moyes was undoubtedly a great manager for Everton – you don’t get personally recommended by Sir Alex Ferguson as his successor by doing a bad job after all – but there were murmurs of discontent from some of the Everton fans towards the end of his reign. Some thought that he wasn't adventurous enough and that his style of play wasn't easy on the eye most of the time.
If it wasn’t pretty, though, Moyes’s tactics were certainly effective. He turned the Toffees into perennial European challengers, and Martinez will have a tough job replicating such success. The Spaniard is likely to bring a style that involves a lot more passing with him, and the Everton fans could finally get the attractive football that they have been pining for.
Following Moyes is no easy feat, but Martinez has a pretty impressive resume and so will be confident that he is up to the task. His Wigan side somehow escaped relegation time and time again before finally succumbing to the drop last season, although that disappointment was tempered by success in the FA Cup, an achievement that will go down in Wigan’s history as one of their finest days.
Everton finished sixth last season, two points ahead of Merseyside rivals Liverpool. In addition to having to adapt to a new manager with a new style, the Toffees' season will be made even tougher by the improvement of the teams around them. They will have ambitions of challenging for the top four again, which will put them in direct competition with the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool.
Everton haven’t exactly been quiet in the transfer market themselves, though. Martinez has brought Kone and Alcaraz with him from Wigan, while the loan signing of Gerard Deulofeu could be a stroke of genius. The Barcelona man came out of their academy with the most potential since a certain Lionel Messi, and if he can show any of that quality this season then Martinez has bagged himself a brilliant deal.
TEAM NEWS: The team news is in for both sides, and the headlines come from the Norwich camp. Both Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Nathan Redmond are named in the starting lineup, as is fellow summer signing Javier Garrido. Everton, meanwhile, look very much like they did last season in terms of personnel. No debutants for them, although Kone, Deulofeu and Joel are all on the bench. Full team news coming right up.
NORWICH STARTING XI: Ruddy; Whittaker, Turner, Martin, Garrido; E Bennett, Howson, Johnson, Redmond; Hoolahan; van Wolfswinkel
NORWICH SUBS: Bunn, R Bennett, Olsson, Butterfield, Fox, Tettey, Becchio
EVERTON STARTING XI: Howard; Baines, Jagielka, Distin, Coleman; Barkley, Osman, Fellaini, Mirallas, Pienaar; Jelavic
EVERTON SUBS: Robles, Heitinga, Kone, Deulofeu, Naismith, Stones, Anichebe
What can we make of those teams, then? Well, as far as Norwich are concerned there are no real surprises. Hooper faced a late fitness test but was always unlikely to feature in today’s match, giving van Wolfswinkel the sole starring role up front. He will be the man for Everton to keep a close eye on in this match as he is something of an unknown quantity.
The Canaries also pose a significant threat from midfield, however. The likes of Howson, Johnson and Hoolahan all have an eye for goal, while Redmond is an exciting young talent who loves running at defences and creating chances for both himself and teammates.
Everton’s defence is solid enough to deal with most tests, however. The full-backs of Baines and Coleman are among the best pair in the league, although they are probably better going forward than they are in defence. That is not to say that they aren’t capable at the back, but the Toffees will be looking to get them overlapping into advanced areas whenever possible.
I am quite surprised to see no debutants for Everton. I had a feeling that Roberto Martinez
was going to make a statement by stamping his authority on the side early on, making it his team rather than a team left by Moyes. That hasn’t happened, though, and perhaps it is wise from the Spaniard. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Their dangermen will, as ever, be the likes of Fellaini, Baines, Mirallas and Pienaar. Everton have done well to hold on to Fellaini and Baines in particular this summer and, although there is still plenty of time left in the transfer window, I can’t see them leaving now as it is simply too late to replace them. Mirallas and Pienaar are both tricky customers and are just as capable of scoring themselves as they are creating chances for teammates.
One man who will be hoping to get on the end of such chances will be Nikica Jelavic. The striker didn’t have the best of times last season, but he has found his scoring touch again in pre-season and looks to be a more confident player now. Having said that, I did expect Kone to start ahead of the Croat, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him come on if Jelavic is struggling.
Interesting lineups for both sides, then. Norwich have more of the unknown about them, although I’m sure Martinez will have done his homework on the Canaries’ debutants. You’d have to say that Everton have more quality about them throughout the team, and the likes of Kone and Deulofeu give them potential game-changers on the bench. Still, optimism is always high at the start of the new season and Norwich will be confident of getting a win today.
PREDICTION: We’re 10 minutes from kickoff at Carrow Road, which means that it is prediction time! Opening day matches are always hard to predict, especially between two reasonably even matched teams like we have today. Everton just edge it in terms of quality on the pitch, but the home advantage is Norwich’s. For me, I think these two will cancel each other out today so I am going to plump for a 2-2 draw.
New seasons always bring with them optimism, whichever team you support. Both of these sides today will fancy getting a win to kick off the new campaign, and both realistically have a chance to do just that. It is a very intriguing match.
Of course, being the opening day, this isn’t the only match we have for you live on Sports Mole today. You can follow every single one of today’s Premier League matches with us, and there is more to come on Sunday and Monday as well. The Premier League is well and truly back (hooray!)
There has already been one result in the league today as Liverpool took on Stoke in the early kickoff. It finished 1-0 to the Reds with Daniel Sturridge getting the goal shortly before half time. Simon Mignolet also saved a penalty on his competitive debut for Liverpool, who sit top of the table at least for another couple of hours.
Today is a landmark occasion for Leighton Baines, who is establishing himself as one of the best left-backs in world football. It is his 200th appearance for the Blues this afternoon. Will he make many more or could someone snap him up before the end of the transfer window?
We’re edging ever closer to the first whistle of these sides' new seasons. The whole summer of preparation has been building up to this match, who will come out on top? We'll have the answer in 90 minutes!
KICKOFF: Michael Oliver gets the match underway as Everton kick us off. The 2013-13 season has begun!
Both sides are playing similar formations in this one, with a sole striker being supported by a midfielder. Mirallas appears to be doing the job for the visitors, while Hoolahan has been charged with backing up new boy Van Wolfswinkel.
It is Everton who have fallen into their stride quickest here. They are dominating the ball early on and the hosts just can’t get hold of it at the moment.
The first piece of action for either keeper sees Ruddy get a comfortable catch that will settle his nerves nicely. Baines whipped the ball in to the box and Jagielka steered a header goalwards, but it lacked power and looped into the arms of the keeper.
Fellaini is playing in a deeper role in this match, which could be an early indication of Martinez’s plans for the Belgian. He has been a notable attacking threat for the Toffees in recent seasons but it is Barkley who is playing furthest forward out of the midfield trio at the moment.
UPDATE: The first goal of the 3pm kickoffs has gone Arsenal’s way. They lead Aston Villa 1-0 courtesy of an Olivier Giroud strike.
Everton are asked to defend for the first time today and they do it with aplomb. Fellaini clears a free kick as far as Redmond, who unleashes a very well-struck volley from the edge of the box but Barkley makes an important block.
The early signs for Norwich look to be positive in comparison to last season’s opening day. They were thrashed 5-0 by Fulham on that occasion, but Everton are finding it hard to break through the defence at the moment. The Toffees are still enjoying more of the ball, though.
SHOT! Almost a gift for Everton as Whittaker dwells on the ball inside his own area. Pienaar is very quickly on the defender and wins the ball but snatches at his effort and sends it curling well wide.
Half chance for Norwich as Hoolahan is released down the left flank before sending a good cross towards Van Wolfswinkel, who has just peeled off the back of Distin. The centre-back does just enough to put the striker off, however, and the ball skews out for a corner. He will be dangerous in the air, Van Wolfswinkel.
Great defending from Distin as he slides in to deny Hoolahan an easy tap in. It was too easy for Norwich, who beat the entire Everton defence with one ball down the channel for Van Wolfswinkel. The striker put a decent low cross in and it needed Distin to intercept.
UPDATE: Cardiff’s Premier League experience has not got off to the best start. They have just fallen behind to West Ham United thanks to a Joe Cole strike.
Norwich are starting to really crank up the pressure now. Whittaker tries to go past Distin, who makes a very good challenge. That doesn’t stop the Norwich defender throwing himself dramatically to the floor, but he has absolutely zero chance of a penalty there. It was a solid, clean tackle from Distin. Not the first time that he has come to the rescue today.
Baines is so good at whipping crosses in. The latest is an absolute peach and just needs a flick from Jelavic, but Turner did well to divert it out for a corner. Fellaini gets his header to that corner, but Turner is again in attendance to ensure that he can only loop it over the bar.
CLOSE! Nice football from Everton as Mirallas and Jelavic link up well. The former zips the ball into the feet of his striker, who controls it before laying it off for Mirallas to shoot, but he can only drag it wide. Ruddy appeared to have it covered, but it wasn’t far away.
UPDATE: Arsenal’s lead did not last too long. They have been pegged back by Aston Villa, who have made it 1-1 from the penalty spot. Christian Benteke was the man who stepped up to score.
Baines whips another fine delivery into the box, this time from a corner, and it goes right across the face of goal. It takes a nick off Van Wolfswinkel that diverts it to Fellaini at the back post, but the Belgian’s effort is sliced wildly wide and over.
Good block from Martin as a fluid Everton move results in Mirallas hammering an effort goalwards. Pienaar spread the play to Coleman, who in turn pulled the ball back to Mirallas on the edge of the box. The midfielder’s shot is certainly going on target until Martin steps in to send it behind for a corner.
This is a good, lively match and both sides look capable of scoring. Everton are certainly on top as their corner count continues to rise, but Norwich are still very much in this one.
Pienaar is starting to pull the strings in this match. He is a very clever player who uses the ball well to make up for a lack of pace and strength. He is getting himself on the ball more and more at the moment but just can’t find that killer pass yet.
Everton are getting a little bit of joy from these corners as the ball seems to be falling to them on each occasion, but none of them can really be counted as chances. The latest sees Jagielka taken by surprise that the ball has reached to him, and his volley while backtracking ends up a long way over the bar.
Despite it being an entertaining and lively match, we’re still waiting for our first real chance. Mirallas has come closest with his low drive from the edge of the box that skimmed just wide, but even that looked like the keeper had it covered.
Mirallas wastes a very good attacking platform for Everton by straying offside. He didn’t even need to get the ball as the pass was initially intended for Jelavic, but the linesman’s flag is rightly raised to halt Everton when they had the Norwich defence stretched.
Coleman finds space on the right and works himself into a very good position, only to under-hit his final cross. That has summed up the match so far really -plenty of good positions but a lack of cutting edge in the final third.
Everton’s lack of long range shots is becoming quite noticeable. They have had space around 25 yards from goal on a number of occasions but each time have tried to thread a clever pass through to no avail.
YELLOW CARD! The first yellow card of Norwich’s season goes the way of Martin, and he can have no complaints. It was a blatant block of Mirallas, and he didn’t really need to do it either.
Baines’s free kick hits the top of the wall and loops up into the middle of the area. Fellaini controls it magnificently before teeing up Barkley, who hammers a very powerful shot over the bar. Decent hit.
There will be one minute of added time at the end of this half.
HALF TIME: Norwich 0-0 Everton
The scoreline may suggest otherwise, but it has been an entertaining first half at Carrow Road. Chances have been few and far between admittedly, but the general standard of play has been good, open and free-flowing. Everton have enjoyed the most possession, seeing 69% of the ball, but Norwich have played their part as well.
The best chances have gone to the visitors and, in truth, they look most like scoring. Mirallas has come close with a low drive from the edge of the box and Barkley flashed a powerful strike just over moments before the break.
Norwich have been very limited in terms of chances, with the best falling to Van Wolfswinkel. He had a chance with a header fairly early on, but he mis-timed his effort under heavy pressure from Distin. They have defended well, however, with Everton yet to create a really good chance despite all of their possession.
Goals have also been hard to come by elsewhere in the league today. The early kickoff ended 1-0 to Liverpool, while the first halves of the 3pm kickoffs have only yielded three goals from five matches. Arsenal and Villa are drawing 1-1, while West Ham are beating Cardiff 1-0.
Both managers will be fairly happy with the first half despite it still being goalless. Roberto Martinez’s side have looked good in possession but he will be keen for them to turn that possession in to chances. Their final ball has just been lacking so far today and they will need to rectify that if they are to come away with an opening day win.
, meanwhile, will be happy with how his side have defended and limited Everton’s chances. He will, however, want more of an attacking presence from his side in the second half. Both managers will still be confident of coming away with three points this afternoon and, although the first half belonged to Everton, both sides still could.
The Toffees’ troubles are perhaps best summed up by the fact that they have had 12 shots but Ruddy is yet to be really tested. All of their shooting opportunities have been from awkward positions, and there hasn’t been an occasion when you could say that someone really should have scored. It may not be long before we see Arouna Kone for the visitors if things stay like this.
KICKOFF: Norwich get the second half underway, can either side find an opener in the coming 45 minutes?
A good long ball upfield is taken down by Jelavic on the edge of the box, but his attempted backheel into the path of Osman is just intercepted.
Everton ripple the side netting after a fast move that Norwich could not keep up with. Osman plays in Coleman, who has escaped the attentions of Redmond down the right and puts a low cross into the box. Mirallas does well to adjust his feet and dig out a shot, but he hits into the wrong side of the net as far as he is concerned.
GOAL! Norwich 1-0 Everton (Steven Whittaker)
, of all people, has broken the deadlock with a fine solo effort! He gets a couple of lucky bounces on the way through three tackles before easing past Fellaini and curling an effort towards the bottom corner. His initial shot comes off the inside of the post but he continues his run and shows good composure to roll the ball into the empty net from an awkward angle. Very good goal.
UPDATE: The goals are starting to fly in elsewhere, too. Pajtim Kasami has given Fulham the lead against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
SAVE! Play opens up for Barkley around 27 yards from goal and he gets tempted by the shot. He is well within his rights to go for goal, but the curling shot is too central and is easy for Ruddy.
Baines and Howson both launch themselves into a tackle and it doesn’t look pretty as they clash legs, but fair play to both they get straight back up and make no fuss whatsoever. Good to see when so many players nowadays would make a meal of that.
YELLOW CARD! Turner scythes down Pienaar and is correctly booked for the challenge. It was a genuine attempt for the ball from the Norwich man, but Pienaar was just too quick for him.
GOAL! Norwich 1-1 Everton (Ross Barkley)
What a way to get your first Premier League goal! Coleman deserves credit for a mazy run inside before teeing up the youngster on the edge of the box. He takes a touch before shifting the ball on to his left foot and smashing a shot past Ruddy, who had no chance. Fine strike to level the scores.
GOAL! Norwich 1-2 Everton (Seamus Coleman)
Everton have turned this one around! Pienaar sends a lovely reverse pass into the path of Jelavic, who has made a clever run into the box. Ruddy parries the Croat's shot right into the danger zone where Coleman is following up. The right-back simply has to roll it in to the empty net, and Everton suddenly find themselves in the lead.
UPDATE: Arsenal have conceded a second penalty and Benteke makes no mistake from the spot once again! Aston Villa now lead the Gunners 2-1 at the Emirates.
EVERTON SUB: The first change of the day comes from the Everton camp as Steven Naismith replaces Kevin Mirallas. That is quite an attacking sub considering the circumstances.
GOAL! Norwich 2-2 Everton (Ricky van Wolfswinkel)
The goals are flying in now! There is an element of luck to the goal as Whittaker’s cross was actually a woefully mis-hit shot, but Hughton won’t care one bit. It goes into the path of Van Wolfswinkel, who displays why he is so dangerous in the air with a fine header into the top corner. It's a dream debut goal for the striker.
NORWICH SUB: Hughton makes his first change of the day as Hoolahan is replaced by Alexander Tettey. Tettey poses less of a goal threat than Hoolahan, which could point towards Hughton being happy enough with a draw, but it isn’t an overly defensive sub.
Van Wolfswinkel is almost released by a fabulous through ball straight down the middle, but the linesman has his flag up. That one was very, very close.
Mistakes are starting to creep in to Everton’s game and they are handing Norwich the initiative now. The hosts have made a couple of promising breaks in the last five minutes or so and Everton are looking increasingly thin at the back as they go for a winner.
CHANCE! What a chance for Everton, but some brilliant defending denies the Blues! Jelavic’s nod down was smashed goalwards from point-blank range by Naismith but Ruddy was out to smother the shot. It bounces back to Jelavic, who also opts for power from close range but Martin makes a goal-saving block. How that didn’t go in is beyond me.
EVERTON SUB: Arouna Kone is coming on for his competitive debut here, and I’m surprised that it has taken this long to be honest. He replaces Jelavic, who will be wondering how he didn’t just put his side back in the lead.
UPDATE: West Ham have doubled their lead against Cardiff thanks to Kevin Nolan. The Hammers look set to be cruising to a solid opening day win.
The game has just calmed down a little after a manic spell. Most of the second half has been played at a frenetic pace to be honest. It has been a superb half of football. I expect it to liven up again in the last five minutes or so.
NORWICH SUB: Nathan Redmond’s Norwich debut is over as the youngster makes way for another debutant in the shape of Martin Olsson. Redmond can be happy enough with his performance today.
CLOSE! Oh that is not far away from Coleman getting his second of the game, and this one would have been a lot more spectacular than the first! The ball falls to the full-back on the edge of the box and he flicks it from his right foot onto his left before unleashing a powerful drive that whistles just past the post.
UPDATE: Things have gone from bad to worse for Arsenal as Antonio Luna has made it 3-1 to Villa. Southampton, meanwhile, have taken a late lead against West Brom through a Ricky Lambert penalty.
There will be four minutes added on here. Plenty of time for some late drama!
FULL TIME: Norwich 2-2 Everton
The referee brings an end to what was a thrilling second half of football. Both sides contributed to the entertainment and neither will be too unhappy at coming away with a solitary point. Everton may feel a little aggrieved having been on top for large periods of the match, but in terms of clear chances for either side it was pretty even.
It was a good day for Ricky van Wolfswinkel, who netted his first goal for Norwich on his debut to rescue a point. That came after quick-fire goals from Ross Barkley
and Seamus Coleman
had cancelled out Steven Whittaker’s opener.
All in all it was a good day of football all round at Carrow Road. The Premier League is back with a bang and, if these fans see entertainment like that all season, they would have certainly got value for money. Martinez picks up a point in his first match in charge of Everton and, although it could have been more, he won’t have too many complaints. Chris Hughton, meanwhile, will be delighted with how his side held off heavy pressure for most of the first half and a draw would probably make him the happier manager tonight.
Right, that’s it from me this afternoon! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for today’s match. Norwich and Everton cancelled each other out on the opening day of the season to record a 2-2 draw. Make sure to check out our full match report and stick around for match analysis, which will be on site shortly. If you still want more live Premier League football after so long without it, Manchester United get their new era underway with former Everton boss David Moyes at the helm against Swansea later. Kickoff for that is at half five, and you can follow it live with us. From me, though, it’s goodbye!