A perfect, vibrant riposte to the Canaries' critics

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Tony Marshall/Getty ImagesRicky van Wolfswinkel had an impressive Premier League debut for Norwich.

Those who accuse Chris Hughton's Norwich City of negativity should have been in attendance at Carrow Road for a pulsating opening day Premier League 2-2 draw against Everton.

Ricky van Wolfswinkel's predatory header -- in his top flight debut, no less -- earned the Canaries a point after a goal-fueled second period triggered by Steven Whittaker's solo strike six minutes after the interval. Everton looked set to mark Roberto Martinez's first official game in charge in fine style thanks to a two-goal salvo in four minutes until the Dutch master rose imperiously to convert Whittaker's sliced shot.

Hughton was prepared to give his Scottish international full-back the benefit of the doubt and credit him with an assist following the ambitious incision that led to his opening burst. Whittaker tricked his way past Maroune Fellaini before curling a left footer past Tim Howard that kissed the inside of the keeper's right-hand post. Whittaker reacted instinctively to slot the rebound amid a blur of movement that van Wolfswinkel admitted afterwards he would have been proud to claim his own.

The Dutchman's equaliser underlined why Norwich were prepared to bankroll a club-record outlay this summer. Phil Jagielka's close attentions were eluded for a split second as he anticipated the trajectory of Whittaker's cross and executed an instinctive snap header beyond Howard's reach.

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Everton's manager felt a sense of grievance that his side had not made more of their overwhelming superiority in possession, but regular watchers of the Canaries would know Hughton's collective have deep reserves of character in adversity.

The hosts were without team captain Sebastien Bassong, first choice wide players Anthony Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass plus Celtic signing Gary Hooper and the suspended Leroy Fer for good measure. To secure a point in such circumstances spoke volumes for the resources at Hughton's disposal after a frenetic trading summer period.

As such, City will unquestionably grow from a testing opening day examination. Everton were excellent across midfield with youngster Ross Barkley underlining his precocious potential with a sublime hit from the edge of the Norwich penalty area that flew past the despairing dive of John Ruddy to cancel out Whittaker's opener. Ruddy was beaten again when his initial parry from Nikica Jelavic dropped fortuitously for Seamus Coleman to cap a vibrant display with a simple close-range slot. Yet City were thankful for their goalkeeper's commanding presence in the final minutes when the England stopper foiled Steven Naismith from point-blank range after the Scottish international anticipated Jelavic's towering header.

Ruddy's late defiance against his previous employers should not be underestimated even at such an embryonic stage of the new campaign. After all, a heavy 5-0 defeat at Fulham on the opening day last season set the tone for early struggles that threatened to drag Norwich below the waterline before embarking on a club-record ten game Premier League unbeaten run. With newly-promoted Hull next up followed by Southampton's visit to Carrow Road, City must make full use of a far from daunting initial phase to a campaign that promises much more than a fresh struggle for survival.


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