Adam Idah sets up Norwich win to pile pressure on woeful Everton and Benítez
Rafael Benítez’s job as Everton manager was under increasing pressure on Saturday night as Norwich recorded just a third win of the season over his Everton side at Carrow Road.
An own goal from Michael Keane and a cute finish from the impressive Adam Idah in the first half were enough to claim three vital points for Dean Smith’s side in the battle against relegation. A frenetic and furious Benítez, meanwhile, was left looking over his shoulder as the travelling support unfurled banners calling for his departure and that of the Everton board at full time.
Norwich deserved their win as they showed composure and a level of quality that has almost been entirely lacking so far this season. The visitors, meanwhile, recorded a decent second-half display and halved the deficit with a goal from substitute Richarlison. But in the round there was not enough on display and Everton are now just six points off the drop zone themselves.
Norwich began the game the stronger as they dominated possession and looked confident on the ball despite having lost six Premier League games on the spin. That they did not look particularly dangerous in front of goal would not have surprised many, those six games were scoreless too, but the Canaries were able to rely on generosity from their opponents to open the scoring when Keane turned into his own net.
It came in the 16th minute after a long spell of possession ended up at the feet of Josh Sargent at the right side of the Everton byline. The American has had a torrid time in front of goal this season but on this occasion delivered quality: he moved beyond Vitalii Mykolenko and found a low cross that spelled danger in the six-yard box. Idah was interested and it was the Irishman that Keane sought to cut off, but his toepoke onto the ball was all wrong and shot past Jordan Pickford into the net.
Norwich doubled their lead straight from kick off. Anthony Gordon surrendered possession in the Norwich third, but the home side broke with purpose through Brandon Williams down the left. Dean Smith has praised the Manchester United loanee for his character in Norwich’s fight against relegation but here it was first pace, then precision, that counted as he played Idah in behind a retreating Everton backline. Idah’s first touch was off but his second was cute and he curled a shot beyond Pickford for his first Premier League goal of his career.
Faced with a real deficit, Everton were woken from their slumbers, or perhaps it was the pitch invader, flicking his fingers at Benítez and getting applause from the visiting fans, that did it. Either way their intensity rose for the remainder of the first half, without having much in the way of chances to show for it.
Benítez waited till 10 minutes in the second half to change things up, moments after Idah almost had a third after a calamitous backpass from Mykolenko. Yerry Mina and Richarlison came on for Seamus Coleman and Salomon Rondon and within five minutes the substitutes combined to bring Everton back into the game.
It came from a corner, Tim Krul struggled to clear after he entered a melee in the box. The ball was whipped back in and Mina put the Norwich goalkeeper under pressure again. Krul’s punch was weak, it did not clear his area, and Richarlison – the blond Brazilian returning to the side for the first time since 12 December latched onto it to sweep a perfect overhead kick into the net.
Now Everton had a spring in their step, and their passing clicked for the first time in the match. But Norwich, customarily unused to leading a Premier League football match, managed the game well . As the clock ticked down Everton could count just one half chance, a low effort from Gordon that was blocked by substitute Dimitris Giannoulis.
Seven minutes of added time were held up and Benítez was up and down from his seat as Smith prowled the technical area. Idah had another chance on the break that Mina blocked and Milot Rashica hit the post with the last kick of the match.