Match report and free match highlights as Norwich beat Everton at Carrow Road; Toffees boss Rafael Benitez is under mounting pressure following latest setback; Everton have won one of 13 league games
Sunday 16 January 2022 10:21, UK
Norwich boss Dean Smith hopes his side have "turned a corner" after breathing life into their Premier League survival hopes with a 2-1 victory over Everton which heaps more pressure on Rafael Benitez.
Michael Keane met Joshua Sargent's low cross to divert the ball into his own net (16), and just two minutes later Adam Idah doubled Norwich's lead when he collected Brandon Williams' pass to slot home.
Benitez turned to Richarlison in the second period, and the Brazilian - who has missed the last three games with a calf issue - acrobatically reduced the deficit within six minutes of his introduction.
But Everton didn't stage a dramatic comeback, with Anthony Gordon's low shot blocked by Dimitris Giannoulis the closest they came to snatching a point.
Norwich's third league win of the season ended a six-match losing streak without scoring and means they move off the foot of the table and up to 18th position, a point adrift of safety after Watford drew 1-1 at Newcastle.
Everton have collected just one win in their last 13 Premier League matches and remain in 15th place on 19 points, six points outside the relegation zone but with their disgruntled supporters unfurling banners, calling for the board to be sacked and an end to Benitez's time at the club.
Norwich: Krul (6), Aarons (7), Gibson (7), Hanley (9), Williams (8), Sorensen (7), Lees-Melou (7), Rashica (7), Pukki (6), Sargent (7), Idah (7).
Subs: Byram (n/a), Tzolis (n/a), Giannoulis (n/a).
Everton: Pickford (6), Coleman (6), Mykolenko (5), Keane (5), Godfrey (6), Gomes (5), Doucoure (5), Gordon (6), Gray (6), Rondon (5), Calvert-Lewin (5).
Subs: Mina (6), Richarlison (7).
Man of the match: Grant Hanley.
This is the highest in the table Norwich have been all season. Dean Smith said he hadn't looked at it for months, but admitted his glass of red wine on Saturday night would taste "extra sweet", delighting in the character shown by his players.
Smith said: "We always had belief in the dressing room but when you're losing games and not scoring goals, it can knock the stuffing out of you. I think it's been unjustified the criticism that we've had.
Teemu Pukki, Joshua Sargent and Adam Idah all started in a three-pronged Norwich attack. Todd Cantwell was back in the matchday squad - named on the bench.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin returned to the Everton starting line-up alongside Andre Gomes. Vitalii Mykolenko made his Premier League debut at left-back while Richarlison was fit enough to make the bench alongside new signing Anwar El Ghazi.
"I'm certainly proud of the players. I told them it wasn't a be-all-and-end-all game beforehand but it's certainly getting that way.
"We've been battered a fair bit from all quarters, so it's nice when we've got the leaders back in the team to lead the younger players. The team spirit in the second half was outstanding and that's what pleased me the most.
"All we can do is concentrate on the next game and hopefully we're now turning a corner."
The Canaries absorbed Everton's early pressure and got fortuitous to break the deadlock as Sargent, on his return to the team, found space to cross from the right to force Keane into inadvertently studding the ball past Jordan Pickford at his near post.
Things got even worse for the visitors just 92 seconds later as a poor pass out from captain Seamus Coleman - allowed Williams to drive forward and pick out Idah with a pinpoint pass.
Idah took a heavy touch which drew Pickford forward but the tall striker was able to poke his shot beneath the England goalkeeper into the net.
Norwich were in control and reached the break with their two-goal cushion intact - the first time in 30 home Premier League matches that they had reached the break with a two-goal lead, previously doing so in May 2016.
They rarely threatened in the second period but didn't have to, showing fine game management from back to front - led by their irrepressible captain Grant Hanley.
As Everton committed more bodies forward, Milot Rashica was narrowly denied a third with virtually the final kick of the game as he kissed the outside of the post with only Pickford to beat.
No side has previously survived relegation from the Premier League with as few as 10 points after 20 games, but crucially Norwich have never been cut adrift. Having previously only scored eight goals this term, this was a timely shot in the arm.
Everton headed to East Anglia seeking a first league win since the start of December and, given Norwich's poor form, would have been confident of taking all three points back to Merseyside.
But the Toffees are spiralling widely towards the relegation zone following this latest anaemic away display. They made heavy work of defeating Championship side Hull City in the FA Cup last weekend, but they remain without an away league victory since August.
They were up against the team with the worst home record in the Premier League and fewest points in their history after their opening 10 league home games of a season. And yet, in spite of this game's significance given the pressure on Benitez coming from supporters, they were all over the place when it mattered.
When asked if he is fearful of being sacked given Everton's record under majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri when it comes to hiring and firing, Benitez said: "I have enough experience and I came here to fix issues that, maybe, are coming from five years ago.
"I have to make sure I analyse these kinds of mistakes we are making and avoid that for the future. Other things are not in my hands. I have to do my job.
"We're disappointed because we lost but we must be professional and try to learn not to make these mistakes. We have players coming back and we have to try to make the right decisions like we did in the second half. We have to be proactive."
Demarai Gray looked dangerous at times, cutting inside Max Aarons to force a routine save from Tim Krul but that was as good as it got in the opening period. Following Norwich's two quickfire goals, a pitch invader didn't make it as far as the dugout but it was clear where he was heading to voice his anger towards Everton's beleaguered manager.
"I didn't see the fan as I was concentrating on the game and after I saw someone on the pitch but that's it," Benitez said. "The only positive is that the team is reacting but the mistakes are costing us games every week. We gave ourselves another mountain to climb."
They might have been further behind when Vitalii Mykolenko's dozy back pass seeking Pickford went straight to Idah but in attempting to set up Teemu Pukki for a simple finish, Ben Godfrey made a crucial last-ditch tackle.
Benitez made a double change on 54 minutes, bringing on Yerry Mina and Richarlison, and it was the Brazilian forward who made an instant impact as Krul's punch from Mykolenko's cross was expertly hooked into the net by the substitute.
There was plenty of time for Everton to win a game - let alone rescue a draw - but Benitez dithered on the touchline, refusing to make a third substitution. Instead, his team quickly ran down cull-de-sacs and out of ideas, their hopes of light relief at the expense of the league's previously lowest-ranked side slipping through their grasp.
Everton have dropped to 15th in the table after managing only one league win since the end of September, when they beat Norwich 2-0 at Goodison Park. But while they have games in hand on most of the teams directly above them, here was further evidence of their alarming malaise through these winter months under their Spanish manager.
Benitez's squad is now close to full-strength, but the sight of a pitch invader midway through the first half directing his anger at Benitez spoke volumes and will have dismayed the club's hierarchy. This was the nadir of his reign. Benitez knows there is no place to hide now.
A towering performance from Hanley in every sense. The Norwich centre-back won all four of his aerial duels - no mean feat when you consider Dominic Calvert-Lewin was back in the Everton side.
Hanley also made an extraordinary 12 clearances, more than any other player, to ensure Everton's attempts to deny Norwich only a third league win of the season were extinguished.
Smith added: "I said at half-time that Grant's block in the first minute set the tone. He put in a captain's performance.
"He's been having injections to get through games, and we've got one big game against Watford before we get an extended rest and hopefully he won't need any more injections after that."
Norwich visit Watford on Friday Night Football, live on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event; kick-off 8pm. Everton host Aston Villa at Goodison Park on Saturday; kick-off 12.30pm.