Wayne Rooney the Everton hero again with dream goal on second debut
A 1-0 win against Stoke on Saturday gave the newest chapter of the Wayne Rooney and Everton story a well-scripted start. His match-winning header helped the home side to their first opening day success in five seasons.
With a neat one-two in the build-up, some sharp movement and a well-timed leap, the Rooney homecoming suddenly burst to life as half-time approached. The first goal in royal blue in 4,869 days had been worth the wait.
After a wretched first half stemming from some perplexing tactical choices, a reshuffled and re-energised Everton improved in the second period and merited the three points against their disappointing visitors.
A good measure of the importance of a player is how he performs when those around him are struggling. Rooney grabbed the headlines but Idrissa Gueye was the glue holding Everton together.
Gueye effortlessly took up the slack as others floundered, snuffing out danger and even trying to drag the team forward. This serene demonstration continued from first whistle to last.
Let us never again speak of those opening 45 minutes. Even with his team grabbing the lead on half-time, Ronald Koeman altering both personnel and formation at the interval told its own story.
The use of striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin as a makeshift wing-back summed up a disjointed and confusing formation that had Everton falling short in numerous areas.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Koeman admitted defeat with his half-time reshuffle. The upside of his mistakes is a willingness to move quickly to rectify them. Well-timed substitutions freshened up the team when needed.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 7 -- Earned his new team two points with a superb save in the closing moments. Decisive, commanding, and his accomplished distribution is an added bonus atop an endless list of goalkeeping potential.
DF Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 6 -- Neither winger nor wing-back, the young forward should play in attack or not at all as a fine assist could not mask a torrid first half. Return to his preferred striking role gave the team a much-needed attacking focal point thereafter.
DF Michael Keane, 7 -- Keane adds composure to the defence, a trait that meant the summer signing was one of the few at ease in either formation. Imperious in the air, especially once Stoke went direct and introduced Peter Crouch.
DF Ashley Williams, 5 -- Sacrificed at half time as Koeman reverted to a back four. A typically robust performance but positioning not always at its sharpest and seemed the right choice to make way.
DF Phil Jagielka, 6 -- Forced too high and too wide in a three-man defence that puts unreasonable demands on his lacking ability in possession, the Everton captain looked far more comfortable once Koeman changed systems.
DF Leighton Baines, 7 -- Even more isolated and opposed thanks to the tactics in the first half, Baines was a more influential figure after the tactical rethink and showed why he remains a key figure after a decade of service at the club.
MF Idrissa Gueye, 9 -- Banished any preseason murmurings about his role in the team with the sort of all-conquering display becoming his trademark. Most passes, touches and tackles in the match capped this latest midfield exhibition.
MF Morgan Schneiderlin, 6 -- A few neat interceptions but otherwise off the pace without the ball and nowhere near expected levels on it, failing to grasp usual play-making responsibilities in front of the defence. This marked a poor showing based on the exemplary standards set last season.
MF Davy Klaassen, 5 -- Unable to implement his sharp passing or intricate link-up play due to the collective problems caused by the first-half formation. We may not see the best of the Dutch midfielder until there is a more settled and cohesive team around him.
FW Sandro, 6 -- Even though some good movement went unseen by teammates, the Spanish forward never stopped trying to affect the match. His quick feet in the build-up played a pivotal role in the winning goal.
FW Wayne Rooney, 8 -- Industrious but ineffective in the first half, aside from a flash of quality to open the scoring, Rooney thrived in a deeper role in the second half, dictating play and demonstrating his astute vision and passing range.
DF Cuco Martina, 6 -- An occasionally erratic but committed display added some necessary width and balance at right-back.
MF Tom Davies, 6 -- Everton tend to look a better team with the 19-year-old midfielder on the pitch. Not his finest outing but did enough to justify his introduction.
MF Kevin Mirallas, N/R -- Worked hard going backwards but had few chances to impact the game at the other end of the pitch.
Luke is ESPN FC's Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.