Arouna Kone put his injury nightmare behind him to salvage a 2-2 draw for Everton against Premier League newcomers Watford on the opening day.
Quique Sanchez Flores’ side twice led at Goodison Park and turned in a composed performance despite fielding six of their 10 recruits, while Tom Cleverley was the only new face in an Everton team that played like a group of strangers for long periods.
Mexico international Miguel Layun bagged his first Watford goal inside the first quarter of an hour and that scoreline remained for over an hour of play until Ross Barkley hauled Everton level with a superb long-range strike.
Back came Watford, as Odion Ighalo stepped off the bench to restore their advantage with seven minutes to play.
But, as Watford’s fans began to dream of a first top-flight win since May 2007, Kone intervened to grab a long overdue moment to remember in an Everton shirt.
Making only his 23rd appearance since joining the club in 2013 – a period ravaged by 14 months out with a knee injury – the Ivory Coast international spared manager Roberto Martinez’s blushes and warded off home jeers that had rolled down from the stands earlier in the contest.
Romelu Lukaku was passed fit to lead the Everton attack following a hamstring problem but a knock in training for Leighton Baines meant 19-year-old Brendan Galloway started at left-back.
And the teenager made an important early challenge to deny Watford captain Troy Deeney, who has broken the 20-goal barrier in each of the past three seasons at Championship level.
It meant Everton had been served ample warning of their visitors’ intentions when Phil Jagielka failed to deal with a left-wing cross and Layun lashed a shot beyond Tim Howard.
Gareth Barry had Heurelho Gomes at full stretch as he planted a header goalwards from Kevin Mirallas’ 19th-minute corner and the Brazilian produced another fingertip save when Barkley unleashed a piledriver from the left-hand corner of the penalty area.
Deeney might have soured a fine 45 minutes for Watford as a two-footed lunge on Galloway saw him only booked, before Layun drilled narrowly wide and the home side departed to boos at half-time.
Gomes was alert to push a mishit cross from Seamus Coleman over his bar but the former Tottenham keeper dashed rashly from his line in the 50th minute – Lukaku failing to punish him as he headed Barkley’s raking ball off target – before Kone replaced Galloway amid continued frustration from the stands.
After Howard beat away a rasping drive from Jose Holebas, Kone got on the end of Cleverley’s right-wing cross but headed wide in the 67th minute.
Kone turned provider nine minutes later, laying the ball off perfectly into Barkley’s stride and the midfielder sent a magnificent 25-yard effort arcing past Gomes’ despairing dive.
Home hopes for an Everton victory push were stunningly checked when Ighalo shimmied inside to leave Jagielka and Chelsea target John Stones in his wake before finishing calmly.
But three minutes later, the Watford backline was undone, as Kone coolly slid a shot past Gomes on the angle to cap a thrilling first-day spectacle.
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