This was what all the fuss was about.
After the fanfare, excitement and emotion behind the return to his boyhood club, Wayne Rooney showed why there was so much clamour to see him back as a Blue with a glorious opener in Everton’s 2-1 pre-season friendly win against Gor Mahia.
Upon penning a two-year contract with the Club on Sunday, the 31-year-old said he was eager to show his qualities with the ambitious Toffees.
Four days later – and 7,000 miles away in Tanzania – he did just that. With 34 minutes on the clock of the Blues’ first pre-season outing of the summer in Dar es Salaam, the forward received a pass from Ademola Lookman, looked up, and from 30 yards out, sent a shot sailing into the top left-hand corner with his right foot.
It was classic Rooney, and a fitting way to show what a class act Everton have once more.
After Gor Mahia levelled before the break, the Toffees’ winner was equally impressive as Kieran Dowell blasted home from 20 yards out.
Rooney was given a start alongside fellow summer signing Davy Klaassen, with England’s Under-20 World Cup winners Jonjoe Kenny, Callum Connolly and Lookman in the first-half XI.
Gor Mahia – coached by former Reading defender Dylan Kerr – are Kenya’s most successful side and, in a bright opening, showed why they were so dominant in winning the eight-team SportPesa Cup last month to earn the right to take on the Toffees. Everton knew they were in for a testing pre-season opener.
It was Rooney who was getting the attention of the vociferous crowd, though. And the Academy graduate played a part in Everton’s first opening of the match, playing a neat one-two with Lookman, who tried to squeeze a through ball into Aaron Lennon, only for Gor Mahia’s Godfrey Walusimbi to block his path.
The Kenyan side threatened themselves just before the half-hour mark as Jacques Tuyisenge’s incisive pass put Haron Shakava sprinting clear down the right, but Lookman was back in time to deflect his shot out for a corner.
Connolly then kept out what looked a certain opener, diving to block Kagere’s drive. It was to be crucial as, seconds later, the Blues were ahead with 34 minutes on the clock. And it just had to be Rooney.
‘Not just a great goalscorer but a scorer of great goals’ is the quote often saved for England’s most capped outfield player. He showed why as he picked up the ball 30 yards out and nonchantly sent the ball sailing past goalkeeper Boniface Oluoch.
The Tanzania National Stadium erupted, while Rooney pointed both hands to the sky and looked to the heavens as his teammates lapped up what Evertonians hope will be the first of many goals to come.
With the Blues still buzzing, Gor Mahia caught them out with a 37th-minute leveller when the impressive Tuyisenge found space in the area from a corner to power a header past Maarten Stekelenburg to ensure the sides went in all-square at the break.
It was all change in the second half as Ronald Koeman sent out a new XI, including summer signing Michael Keane, Tom Davies and Mateusz Hewelt in goal. Dominic Calvert-Lewin was chosen to lead the line, and after a lively introduction, he went close to putting Everton back ahead on the hour mark.
The 20-year-old ran on to Kevin Mirallas’ pass but his low shot was tipped away by Oluoch, before Idrissa Gana Gueye saw his follow-up at the back post blocked on the line.
Everton were now dominating, and it was Calvert-Lewin’s fellow Under-20 World Cup winner Dowell who was next to go close, collecting Leighton Baines’ cutback and firing a rocket of a long-range drive onto the bar.
The midfielder was not to be denied second later, though. Taking the lead from Rooney, the Academy graduate found space through the centre and unleashed a powerful 20-yard strike past Oluoch.
It was a fitting finale to a satisfactory first summer run-out for Everton. And Rooney is up and running.