REPORT: EVERTON 2-0 CITYGOALS from Gareth Barry and Kevin Mirallas saw the Canaries fall to a 2-0 defeat against Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday afternoon.
City started brightly but allowed Barry too much space on 23 minutes to fire in the game's opener, before Mirallas' second-half free-kick put the hosts in a commanding position.
Gary Hooper and Robert Snodgrass had Norwich's best chances, but despite a much better last 20 minutes they left empty-handed and just two points clear of the Premier League relegation zone.
Chris Hughton made three changes from the last Premier League game against Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day, with Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Ryan Bennett and Javier Garrido all starting.
Everton were without Ross Barkley, but skipper Phil Jagielka was passed fit – leading scorer Romelu Lukaku led the line while new signing Aiden McGeady was introduced before kick-off.
The in-form Seamus Coleman gave John Ruddy – formerly of the Toffees – his first work on four minutes, with the City stopper comfortably collecting his left-footed shot.
Lukaku then found a Mirallas cross just out of reach at the back post as Everton pressed, but a fantastic long pass from Steven Whittaker released Gary Hooper for the game’s best chance on the quarter hour.
The City forward was in acres of space so elected to take a touch to bring the ball down, but it was to his cost as Tim Howard was able to smother at his feet.
Up the other end Mirallas and Leighton Baines tried their luck from distance, but it was Barry who struck gold on 23 minutes.
He was allowed too much space in between City’s midfield and defence to advance, yet his shot from 20 yards was crisp enough to leave Ruddy no chance.
Norwich responded with their best move of the match on 28 as van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer combined, with the former eventually forcing a save from the stretched Howard.
The hosts were still the side on top, however, and could have doubled their lead on 35 had Coleman shown more composure when free at the back post.
HALF-TIME: Everton 1-0 Norwich City
Everton were quicker out of the blocks once more but van Wolfswinkel had a half chance on 57 minutes for the Canaries, volleying over after Bradley Johnson’s through ball.
Bennett’s foul on Leon Osman led to the Toffees’ second goal on 59 minutes, however – Mirallas stepped up and swung the perfect free-kick from 25 yards into the left corner.
With the bit between their teeth, Lukaku drove straight at Ruddy moments later and then had a goal disallowed for offside when he rounded City’s ‘keeper.
Nathan Redmond was introduced for City and had a shot blocked before Bradley Johnson’s advance saw his whistle an effort just wide, but time was running out for a comeback.
Redmond was lively and after showing tenacity down the left, he provided a cross for Robert Snodgrass to head towards goal, with the ball bouncing onto the outside of the post.
City were having the best spell of the game but when van Wolfswinkel sliced wide with five minutes left on the clock, their hopes of salvaging something from the game were all but gone.
FULL-TIME: Everton 2-0 Norwich City
GOALS: Toffees: Gareth Barry (23), Kevin Mirallas (59)
EVERTON: Howard; Coleman, Jagielka (c), Stones, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; Osman (Heitinga 69), Pienaar (Naismith 72), Mirallas; Lukaku. Subs not used: Robles (GK), Hibbert, Oviedo, Gueye, Vellios.
NORWICH CITY: Ruddy; Whittaker, R Bennett, Bassong (c), Olsson; Snodgrass, Fer, Johnson, Garrido (Redmond 66); Hooper, van Wolfswinkel (Josh Murphy 88). Subs not used: Bunn (GK), Martin, Hoolahan, Elmander, Fox.