Friday 30 September 2016

Naismith returns to haunt Everton

Everton 0 Norwich City 2

Chris Bascombe

Published 21/09/2016 | 02:30

Norwich City's Steven Naismith (r) celebrates scoring their first goal with Alex Pritchard. Photo: Reuters
Norwich City's Steven Naismith (r) celebrates scoring their first goal with Alex Pritchard. Photo: Reuters

Steven Naismith is accustomed to having goals acclaimed by Evertonians, but he must have felt humbled by the reaction to his match-winning contribution for Norwich at Goodison Park.

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Naismith and a stunner from Josh Murphy ensured the Championship side inflicted on Everton the first serious setback of the Ronald Koeman era as his side paid for their lack of strikepower.

Everton's Idrissa Gueye in action with Norwich City's Youssouf Mulumbu and Steven Naismith Photo: Reuters
Everton's Idrissa Gueye in action with Norwich City's Youssouf Mulumbu and Steven Naismith Photo: Reuters

How Koeman must wish he could still call on Naismith, who was sold in January. This performance exposed former manager Roberto Martínez's mistake in offloading him to make way for Oumar Niasse, who was scarcely seen again.

Goodison could not have granted the Scot a warmer response to scarring his former club had they offered him a guard of honour. His name had already been cheered before kick-off - his spell on Merseyside remembered as much for his philanthropy as knack for goal. Then came the graceful response to Norwich's goal three minutes before half-time, a highly unusual sight in an English stadium.

Naismith had been sent clear on Maarten Stekelenburg's goal. He slipped as he shot, which wrong-footed the Everton keeper as the strike found the top corner.

Naismith opted not to celebrate. The home fans disguised their disappointment with applause. The Norwich striker acknowledged them and then Koeman's side promptly went about trying to rouse themselves from their slumber.

Norwich City's John Ruddy saves from Everton's Gerard Deulofeu. Photo: Reuters
Norwich City's John Ruddy saves from Everton's Gerard Deulofeu. Photo: Reuters

Koeman had made six changes, and the lack of sharpness was apparent. Too often Gerard Deulofeu and Ross Barkley wanted an extra touch when found in encouraging attacking positions. New signing Enner Valencia will need time to settle. Without the injured Romelu Lukaku, Everton were lacking a competent finisher.

Instead, Murphy added the stunning second after 74 minutes, finding the top corner following a mazy run. That prompted more home applause in appreciation - but there was also bewilderment at Everton's unusually poor display. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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