Everton extended their unbeaten start to the Premier League season against Huddersfield Town but will be frustrated not to have claimed all three points from a contest in which Marco Silva’s men made all the running.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored his third goal in two games to level for Everton two minutes after Philip Billing’s header had stunned Goodison Park.
Danish midfielder Billing reacted sharply in the 34th minute to redirect the ball into the roof of the net after Calvert-Lewin, stationed at the front post, had only been able to help Chris Lowe’s right-wing corner into the box.
But the Everton player was soon haring onto a fabulous delivery from Lucas Digne to glance skilfully across Jonas Lossl and drag the Blues back on terms.
Kurt Zouma threatened first, the centre-back carrying the ball from halfway on 13 minutes to unleash a fizzing 30-yard drive which skipped past scrambling goalkeeper Lossl’s right post.
Everton were dominating the ball – they had 59 per cent of it in the opening 45 minutes – but, despite sending nine strikes at goal in this period, only Calvert-Lewin’s decisive effort was directed on target.
Cenk Tosun thrashed narrowly past the angle on 26 minutes after peeling left to provide an out ball for Gylfi Sigurdsson and advancing to shoot from a tight angle.
Theo Walcott then met an inswinging cross from Digne but could only head beyond the far post.
Huddersfield had set out to close spaces, hassle and hound Everton – and generally frustrate their hosts.
And they drew a deal of confidence from reaching the half-hour mark all square. David Wagner’s side had bared their attacking teeth only sporadically until this point, but there was plenty of intent in Aaron Mooy’s long-range drive when the Australian pounced on a Digne clearance to thump a shot which deflected wide off Mason Holgate.
It was Everton in the ascendancy once the sides had traded goals, however. Chris Schindler got a vital block on Walcott’s blast from 18 yards. Walcott then turned provider, lifting a delivery in from from the right but marginally too high for Calvert-Lewin who couldn’t get his giant frame over the ball to send it on target.
Jordan Pickford had to field a rising strike from Terriers' striker Steve Mounie shortly after the restart, the goalkeeper seeing his first substantial piece of action since the opening exchanges, when he had raced from his area to tidy up after a thundering Seamus Coleman drive rebounded off a defender into the Blues’ half.
Rajiv van La Parra shot over on 59 minutes after Mounie had skilfully held up a punt from Lossl – and with Everton still digesting the blow of Walcott leaving the field injured.
Walcott’s replacement, Ademola Lookman, entered the pitch to a mighty ovation but the change initially checked the Blues' rhythm.
Lookman sprung to life with 16 minutes remaining, getting free down the right to fizz a ball across the area which Sigurdsson was inches from converting.
Both teams fancied pinching a winger by this stage. Mason Holgate was alert to swipe the ball off Mounie’s toes after substitute Eric Durm’s low cross from the right.
Silva sent on Oumar Niasse and Leighton Baines for the closing stages and the two substitutes combined to set up a last-ditch chance for Tosun.
Baines had already struck one corner which Calvert-Lewin headed over the top, when the left-back hoiked another delivery to the far post.
Niasse acrobatically turned the ball back into the box but Turkish striker Tosun headed too high to trouble Lossl. All that was left was for Huddersfield to run down the clock and stifle Everton's attempts to locate any real fluency in four disjointed, added minutes.
Word is fast getting around about the goal threat carried by this Everton team. The Toffees were going along at two per game before today – and had put three past Rotherham United in midweek.
Truth be told, Marco Silva’s side would have hit the net far more already this term had they exploited a greater portion of the opportunities generated by their slick attacking football.
The inevitable consequence of Everton’s adventure was spelled out when Huddersfield boss David Wagner emerged from the away dressing room in Goodison Park’s compact tunnel to thrust his teamsheet into the hands of referee Stuart Attwell.
It looked very much like the visitors were going to line-up with five men strung across the back – and four more protecting them in midfield. And, well, if it looks like a safety-first plan and sounds like a safety-first plan – chances are that’s exactly what is being concocted.
It was up to Everton, then, to pick their way through these two banks of bodies – to inject pace and imagination when they reached the business end of the pitch. Getting that far was the easy bit, with Wagner’s side not interested in engaging with the Blues until the hosts progressed 10 yards beyond the halfway line.
By the same token, Everton could not simply pile men forward and hope to achieve a breakthrough by sheer weight of numbers. The visitors were menacing when they got on the front foot – Florent Hadergjonaj and Adama Diakhaby in particular, a pacy and ambitious duo down the right.
The Blues started out by going right for Huddersfield’s jugular. Cenk Tosun applied a delicious touch on a driven pass from wideman Theo Walcott to feed Gylfi Sigurdsson at the edge of the box. Walcott had continued his run and would have been on the end of Sigurdsson’s ball, squeezed through a crowd of defenders, were it not for the stretching Chris Lowe’s gossamer touch.
Everton were blending finesse with force. Kurt Zouma took the direct route when he accepted the Terriers’ invitation to ease forward from halfway and chance his arm, the Frenchman’s strike worrying Jonas Lossl with the ‘keeper desperately trying to make ground to his right and relieved to see the ball fly marginally off target.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the wind in his sails following his double strike against Rotherham in midweek, was similarly forceful with a searing run through the middle, only halted by a swiping challenge.
There was more invention from the Blues when Seamus Coleman smartly took up a position on the corner of Huddersfield’s box and received a pass from Tom Davies only for the Toffees' skipper to drag his shot across the face of goal.
Everton were trying to keep Huddersfield guessing, spreading play wide to feed Walcott and Calvert-Lewin – or the serially overlapping Lucas Digne.
Equally, the Toffees were prepared to take aim from distance, with Coleman, Zouma and Tosun all having pops in the first half alone.
It was Calvert-Lewin’s aerial power which eventually broke down Huddersfield’s barricades – and the 21-year-old came close in similar fashion twice more.
Everton were not short of ideas and if this game is anything to go by, they’ll need to have their thinking caps on at Goodison Park rather a lot this term.
Blues Pass Character Test
With a goal to protect, Huddersfield’s players would have metaphorically grown an inch or two, their manager’s gameplan shaping up just like he told them it would and more than 2,000 supporters from Yorkshire creating a celebratory din.
Everton, in stark contrast, already patiently chipping away, trying to open up cracks in this solid Terriers’ rearguard, would have known things were about to get a whole lot tougher.
We often study a team’s character and spirit and typically find those attributes when things are going along swimmingly.
It is when a side has its backs to the wall we really discover what it's made of. And within two minutes of being dealt a hurtful blow by Billing, Everton demonstrated their substance.
Kurt Zouma fizzed a pass to Lucas Digne on the left – two defenders combining to propel the Toffees back onto the front foot.
Digne manipulated the ball quickly, leaving Adama Diakhaby on his backside, then sent over a pinpoint cross for Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
The forward, operating on the left, but in this instance drifting inside from the opposite flank, caught Huddersfield on their heels. Darting in front of his man, Calvert-Lewin planted his header across Jonas Lossl, the goalkeeper getting a hand to the ball to no effect.
It was a response which told us plenty about this Everton team - and which provided tangible evidence to back up the encouraging noises coming from the Toffees' dressing room.
This was Evertonians’ first proper look at Kurt Zouma in Premier League combat.
“I know the League,” the Frenchman promised when he joined from Chelsea last month, Zouma eager to point out he had the experience and ability to immediately step into the Blues’ rearguard.
Run your eye down Zouma’s resume and you’d have backed him to appreciate what is required of centre-halves in today’s top-flight.
In broad terms, these men have the physicality of a cruiserweight, the speed of a decent 400metre runner and comfort in possession to rival a smooth, ball-playing midfielder.
Zouma’s strength and pace got Everton out of a hole early in the second-half when the 23-year-old burst across on the cover to ease the raiding Rajiv van La Parra out of the equation.
Moments earlier, he was awake to the danger when Chris Lowe broke down the left and positioned his body expertly to beat the lurking Adama Diakhaby to left-back Lowe’s delivery.
With Huddersfield content to allow Everton time and space in their own territory, Zouma had plenty of the ball at his feet.
He brings it out from the back with authority, springing his team on the attack and prepared to go it alone, as demonstrated when Zouma struck a foot wide from 30 yards with the game 13 minutes old.
A cavalier charge from defence on four minutes was crudely halted by Philip Billing who promptly became the first player booked.
We should mention Zouma’s countryman and fellow Everton top-flight full debutant, Lucas Digne, too.
The 25-year-old is striking up a promising relationship with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and has directly supplied two of the attacker’s three goals this week.
His delivery for the Englishman’s equaliser was spot on, the sleight of foot which preceded it a sublime piece of work. He deserved his generous round of applause when he made way for Leighton Baines on 76 minutes.
Man-of-the-Match: Dominic Calvert-Lewin
The forward edges Kurt Zouma for the day's honours by dint of the fact it was his forehead which powered the ball past Jonas Lossl to preserve Everton's unbeaten start to the season.
Competition for places in Marco Silva's team is intense and Calvert-Lewin's mature and adventurous display against Rotherham in midweek persuaded the manager to select him in place of the suspended Richarlison today.
How the 21-year-old repaid Silva's faith. Everton were travelling down various avenues in search of a way to breach Huddersfield's packed rearguard and running into a succession of dead ends when the England Under-21 player intervened.
Something is already clicking between Calvert-Lewin and Lucas Digne, and the attacker sensed an opportunity when his teammate created space to cross from the left.
Calvert-Lewin met the Frenchman's teasing delivery with a powerful header which had too much for Lossl, despite the Danish 'keeper getting a hand to the ball.
Huddersfield's three hulking centre-halves found it tough going keeping tabs on Calvert-Lewin and he escaped twice more to connect with crosses into the box, coming close to scoring again following deliveries from Theo Walcott and Leighton Baines.
Worth noting, too, that Calvert-Lewin was primarily operating out on the left, rather than in his favoured centre-forward role.
He gave Digne and then Baines decent protection, always maintaining an eye on what was happening over his shoulder and doing his bit to prevent Huddersfield from making headway down their right.