PREMIER LEAGUE AUGUST 12, 2017: EVERTON 1-0 STOKE CITY
It just had to be.
Back home with his beloved Blues for his first Premier League match for the Club in 13 years, two months and 28 days, Goodison once again belonged to Wayne Rooney.
And didn’t Evertonians just love it.
In a tense, full-blooded and energy-sapping league opener against Stoke, it was Rooney who proved matchwinner with a pinpoint header as the Toffees got their 2017/18 campaign up and running with three crucial points.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin proved the matchwinner in the Blues’ previous competitive match, slotting home the winner at MFK Ruzomberok to secure a place in the Europa League play-off round. And Koeman kept faith with the 20-year-old for the Club’s Premier League opener, with the England Under-20 World Cup winner in the thick of the action early on as Everton tried to make the most of his height advantage wide on the right.
It was Jordan Pickford who was first called into action, though, when Mame Biram Diouf was played in down the right and drove a cross into the area which needed to be palmed over the bar by the Blues’ keeper.
Another of the Club’s summer signings was next up to get involved on 13 minutes as Sandro Ramirez found space on the edge of the area but failed to get a clean connection and scuffed his shot wide.
It was typical Stoke in the opening stages - tenacious, hard-working and frustrating Everton’s attempts to find a rhythm.
But the Blues had their best chance of the match so far on 20 minutes as a neat move between Davy Klaaasen and Rooney enabled Idrissa Gana Gueye to race towards goal. The midfielder had Calvert-Lewin wide right and Rooney through the middle but elected to shoot and his low swerving drive was held by Butland.
It took 45 minutes to Everton to produce their first moment of genuine quality but when it came, it was worth the wait.
Rooney took a touch 25 yards from goal, laid it off to Sandro who glided a long-range pass out wide to Calvert-Lewin. Goodison cried out for a quality delivery and the youngster duly obliged, whipping in a teasing cross which ended with Rooney planting a powerful header past Butland.
Goodison erupted as the Academy graduate scored his first competitive goal for Everton since 13 April 2004 when he netted in a 1-1 draw at Leeds United, taking his Premier League goals tally to 199 in the process.
The duo linked up again as Koeman’s men carved out the first chance of the second half. With 54 minutes gone, Rooney’s exquisite through ball put Calvert-Lewin clean through. Sandro was unmarked in front of goal and crying out for a pass but the 20-year-old took a second too long to cut the ball into his path and Zouma made a crucial interception.
Calvert-Lewin came close again, but couldn't beat Jack Butland. The visitors went looking for an equaliser by throwing on target man Peter Crouch but to no avail.
Credit to City, who continued to pile forward, and they were given renewed optimism by the sight of four additional minutes on the fourth official's board. Xerdan Shaqiri thought he'd rifled in an equaliser deep into added time but for the heroics of debutant goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who preserved his clean-sheet.
The day belonged to Rooney, on a sensational return to Goodison Park.