Abdoulaye Doucouré seals victory for Everton over struggling Norwich

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<span>Photograph: Paul Greenwood/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Paul Greenwood/Shutterstock

Norwich wore fluorescent pink, their fans canary yellow, but otherwise they are not bringing much colour to this Premier League season. Another defeat, this time to a depleted yet more accomplished Everton team, left Daniel Farke without a point from six games and facing more questions about his ability to turn Championship winners into a stable, credible top-flight concern.

Only Portsmouth and Crystal Palace, in 2009-10 and 2017-18 respectively, have opened a Premier League campaign with a longer losing streak than Norwich, who will equal the unwanted record of seven should they succumb again at Burnley next Saturday. It is now 16 successive Premier League losses for Farke’s side, the second longest in English top-flight history. They were the most obliging opponents for Rafael Benítez after he suffered the first defeat of his Everton reign at Aston Villa, followed by a Carabao Cup exit at QPR in midweek. Andros Townsend’s penalty and Abdoulaye Doucouré’s late finish enabled Everton to win their opening three home league games of a season for the first time in 32 years.

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“Hard work is always the answer,” said the Norwich manager when asked whether he could arrest a thoroughly dispiriting run. “We were not the worst side today. Of course, a loss is not easy for the mood or the confidence but the feeling in the dressing room is that it is coming. If we don’t let negativity in we have a great chance to win points and achieve our target. I’m 100% convinced of this.” His players were applauded off at Goodison Park, in contrast to the jeers that greeted defeat against Watford at Carrow Road last weekend, but appreciation for their belated improvement was laced with familiar resignation.

Despite Norwich’s weaknesses this was always destined to be a result built on hard graft and perseverance for Everton. Beyond Demarai Gray and Townsend, Benítez was short of fit and creative options, with Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin among six senior players out injured. His attacking options on the bench comprised an exclusive set of young academy products in Anthony Gordon, Ellis Simms and Lewis Dobbin, who was handed his Premier League debut as a late substitute.

Salomón Rondón was again tasked with leading the line despite being short of match fitness and never shied from making life uncomfortable for Norwich’s three central defenders. Farke’s change of formation may have been designed to give Norwich more width and authority in midfield but their impressive away support had to wait until the second half to witness necessary improvement. Their team offered nothing in the final third before the break and a procession of careless passes out of defence proved easy pickings for Everton’s alert midfielders. An anaemic start was compounded by the clumsy foul from Ozan Kabak that gifted Everton the lead from the penalty spot.

Andros Townsend (centre) celebrates
Andros Townsend (centre) celebrates his penalty which opened the scoring on 29 minutes. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

The referee, David Coote, was initially unmoved when Allan, seizing on a loose ball outside the Norwich area, went down under the former Liverpool loanee’s challenge. VAR advised him to check the pitch-side monitor, that showed the Brazilian touching the ball beyond Kabak before being caught on the thigh by the defender’s boot. It was a needless foul – Allan, at full stretch to win the ball, was already heading to ground as Kabak swung his foot and had no chance of threatening Krul’s goal – and Coote immediately rectified his error. Townsend had grabbed the ball in anticipation of a penalty as soon as the VAR review was announced. He sent the Norwich keeper the wrong way from the spot with a confident left-foot finish.

Farke said: “He was wrong to overturn the decision. The ball was too far away from their player and he used the leg of Ozan, that was too high, to go down.”

Townsend threatened again early in the second half but Everton were only comfortable once Doucouré doubled their advantage. Norwich were much sharper, more willing to commit men forward and inevitably more dangerous after the interval but Jordan Pickford saved superbly from Mathias Normann and Ben Gibson failed to connect with Kenny McLean’s dangerous free-kick in front of goal.

Everton duly punished the struggling visitors. Allan was again involved, winning possession in midfield and allowing Gray to run at the heart of the Norwich defence. He slipped in Doucouré with a perfectly weighted pass to his right and the French midfielder, ordered to improve his goal output this season by Benítez, swept his second Premier League goal of the campaign under Krul. The agonising wait goes on for Norwich.

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