Watford’s perfect return spoiled by Everton comeback
Roberto Martinez's side twice have to come from behind to earn opening day draw
Watford’s Miguel Layun celebrates scoring their first goal Photo: Reuter
Everton 2 Watford 2
Watford earned a point on their Barclays Premier League return as they held Everton to an opening-day 2-2 draw at Goodison Park.
The newly-promoted Hornets, playing their first top-flight game since 2006-07, took a surprise lead in the 14th minute when Miguel Layun fired in.
The visitors’ resilience in defending that advantage was finally broken in the 76th minute as Ross Barkley struck a sweet equaliser, but Watford were back ahead in the 83rd through a clever effort from substitute Odion Ighalo.
Everton substitute Arouna Kone then ensured his team salvaged something with a far-post finish with four minutes of normal time remaining.
With six debutants in their starting line-up as well and having a new boss in Quique Sanchez Flores, Watford went into this game as something of an unknown quantity.
But it did not take long for them to demonstrate their threat as Everton — who had handed a debut to Tom Cleverley — failed to deal with Jose Manuel Jurado’s cross from the left and the ball came off Phil Jagielka to Layun, who rifled it into the net.
Gareth Barry went close to netting a swift equaliser as his looping header was tipped over by Heurelho Gomes, but the hosts then struggled to fashion much more in response despite seeing plenty of the ball, with an organised Watford backline restricting them to efforts from distance.
Barkley was appearing their most likely scorer and brought a smart save out of Gomes just after the half-hour mark with a dipping shot, but it was an isolated hopeful-looking moment for the Toffees.
Romelu Lukaku was thwarted on the edge of the box by Gomes as he tried to dink the ball around the goalkeeper, who, replays showed, had not handled outside the box despite some appeals to the contrary that were ignored by referee Mike Jones.
Everton then survived a scare just before the interval as Layun struck fiercely across the face of goal.
The home side improved after the break, with Lukaku heading a fine Barkley cross wide and Craig Cathcart making a last-ditch clearance in front of the Watford goal.
The visitors then pushed forward themselves, Ikechi Anya being denied by a superb John Stones tackle and Tim Howard pushing away a Jose Holebas drive.
Kone subsequently squandered a good chance by heading off-target, before the lively Barkley popped up to level eight minutes later as he met Kone’s tee-up and slammed the ball home from outside the box.
It seemed just reward for Everton’s boost in performance, but with seven minutes to go Ighalo put Watford back in front in fine style, nicely jinking his way through the home defence and beating Howard.
The lead lasted only three minutes, though, with Kone slotting in at the far post to ensure the contest finished with honours even.