Wayne Rooney could only have dreamt of him scoring on his return to Premiership action for the Blues, maybe it was written in the stars.
After a busy start to the summer transfer activity and successful pre-season schedule including progression in the early stages of the Europa League, the serious business of the Premier League began with the visit of Mark Hughes and his Stoke City outfit to a full house Goodison bathed in pleasant sunshine and offering perfect playing conditions.
Wanting to maintain last season’s excellent home form with a winning start, Ronald Koeman selected: Pickford, Baines, Williams, Jagielka, Keane, Schneiderlin, Gueye, Klaassen, Ramirez, Calvert-Lewin and Rooney.
The Potters lined up: Butland, Cameron, Shawcross, Zouma, Pieters, Allen, Fletcher, Diouf, Shaquiri, Bojan Krkric and Berahino.
In charge of proceedings was referee Neil Swarbrick.
A slow, at times turgid, opening forty-five minutes ended in glorious fashion with the fairy tale homecoming goal for Wayne Rooney.
Most of the first half was eminently forgettable as Everton plodded rather than purred, dominating the possession but, having the only attempt on target with a Gana Gueye shot on twenty minutes that Butland comfortably saved.
Joe Allen was booked on 28 minutes for tripping Rooney as he looked to capitalise on collecting a quick pass from DCL.
Finally, as the fourth official was signalling one extra minute, Everton clicked into gear with Gana playing a one-two with Rooney to then find Ramirez. The Spaniards turned and played DCL into space for the inch perfect cross for Wayne Rooney to plant his header beyond the reach of the despairing Butland.
Half Time: 1 – 0
Cuco Martina came on for Ashley Williams in a tactical switch away from the three-man back line that hadn’t exactly sparkled in the opening half.
Baines was felled by what appeared an elbow from Shaquiri that went unpunished with the Stoke move ending with a cross flashing across the face of the Everton six yard box.
The second half was much improved with more pace and movement and a great ball from Rooney for DCL needed a superb tackle from Zouma to avert the danger.
Rooney was at the certain of just about everything and a cross field ball found Baines on the left and his ball inside saw only a weak chip shot from Klaassen.
Introducing the Everton Mishmash!
The hour mark saw Tom Davies enter the fray coming on for Klaassen and the improvement in Everton’s general play continued when DCL robbed Zouma and forced Butland into a smart save at the near post.
Rooney again linked well with Martina for cross that saw Keane hurt in heading the ball back across the Stoke six yard area.
Stoke used the stoppage to bring Crouch and Choupo-Moting on for Berahino and Bojan respectively and six minutes later, Kevin Mirallas replaced Ramirez.
Into the final ten minutes and Stoke were pumping high balls into the box for Crouch and co, but Everton stood firm to run the clock down.
In added on time, Jordan Pickford capped a debut clean sheet with a terrific save to deny Shaquiri who had been the biggest threat from a Stoke perspective.
Full Time: 1 – 0
Speaking after the game, Wayne Rooney commented, “it was a great moment to score. It was a tough game and the changes at half time worked well as we were better second half and deserved to win the game. To score and for it to be the winner was a very special moment for me personally.”
Mark Hughes noted, “we started well and had good first half control. We needed to get to half time, but allowed the move for you-know-who, who was always going to be part of today’s’ story”.
“The result was not what we wanted, but overall, I was satisfied with our performance”.
Ronald Koeman remarked, “we looked nervous on the ball in the first half, Stoke made it difficult and it was a great goal from Wayne”.
“The decision to go with four at the back made us more comfortable on the ball and we made more chances second half. We defended well and only allowed them one shot on goal”.
“It wasn’t the best performance, but it was three points and a clean sheet for Jordan, so I am relatively happy”.