This was a game of conflicting and fast-changing emotions. Joy gave way to frustration, which ushered in anxiety – only for the fleeting nerves to be replaced by sheer, unfettered glee. Finally, contentment won the day.
To the best bit first. With Everton’s Premier League season 67 minutes old, the Blues down to 10 men and tied 1-1 with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Richarlison grabbed the whole thing by the scruff of the neck. And gave it a right good shake.
On his Everton debut – and with one goal to his name already – Richarlison made himself available for Cenk Tosun, back to goal and tightly marked.
Tosun’s touch was perfect, fed into Richarlison’s stride. He advanced. Wolves backed off, fatally, enabling the forward to open up his body and finish sublimely across Rui Patricio and into the far corner.
This represented the continuation of a theme for the excellent winger. Richarlison stabbed home to give Everton the lead on 17 minutes after defender Willy Boly got in a tangle trying to deal with Leighton Baines’ dipping left-wing free-kick.
Wolves tried to hit back shortly after but Joao Moutinho was off balance and never completely in control of his shot from 25 yards which zipped over the top.
The game took on an entirely different hue four minutes before half-time. Everton, hitherto relatively untroubled – and having recently threatened to double their advantage when Richarlison’s pass did not have enough on it to release Theo Walcott down the right – found themselves a man down.
Jagielka stretched to tackle Diogo Jota on the edge of his own box. The Everton player appeared to get some of the ball but the Wolves man tumbled to the deck and referee Craig Pawson whipped out his red card.
Molineux echoed to the sound of Ruben Neves’ name. And the Portuguese midfielder promptly obeyed his expectant public, sending a scorching free-kick into the top-right corner.
Jordan Pickford did get his fingertips to the ball, an indication that the goalkeeper is at the top of his game, because he really had no right to get anywhere near it.
Neves tried his hand with a dipping long-range drive which did not come down fast enough to bother Pickford on 57 minutes.
Indeed Everton, despite their numerical disadvantage, did not appear unduly troubled and swiftly covered the length of the pitch on the counter, with Tosun’s curler from 18 yards forcing Wolves’ debutant goalkeeper Rui Patricio to shovel the ball to safety.
Pickford did well to beat away a hard-struck effort from Raul Jimenez when the Mexican broke through on goal
Then, just as the action had fallen into a lull, Richarlison roused it in thrilling fashion. Wolves would not go away, however, determined they would have something tangible to toast at the end of a memorable day.
Jimenez pulled away at the back post to power home a header from Neves’ inswinging left-wing delivery with 11 minutes to play.
Still Everton could have won it. Coleman burst down the right and sent in a scorching cross which ran fractionally out of the reach of substitute Oumar Niasse.
Richarlison was replaced by fellow new arrival Lucas Digne with a few minutes left on the clock. He did not miss out on a huge deal. Two committed sides had scrapped to a standstill.
On the day Richarlison completed his move to Everton, the Brazilian was in no mood to shy away from talk of what he intended to add to Everton’s team.
Goals and assists was the gist of it. The cut of their new signing's jib will have pleased Evertonians. Not half as much as when the 21-year-old proved true to his word 17 minutes into his Toffees career. Richarlison exhibited a few of his many attributes in one neatly-packaged showreel.
First there was the direct run down the left, every athletic stride brimming with intent and eating up the lush Molineux turf, which drew a foul from wing-back Matt Doherty.
Richarlison promptly vacated the scene, making a beeline for the penalty box to await the arrival of Leighton Baines’ free-kick.
When Michael Keane’s presence distracted Willy Boly and caused the Frenchman to undercook his clearance, it was Everton’s new boy who was on the scraps quick as a flash. Richarlison played a lot of his football back in Brazil as a striker and summoned all those predatory instincts to prod his finish past Patricio and send Everton’s colossal travelling support into raptures.
The second strike we have covered but it bears repeating, it was a beauty, the product of intelligent running and a composure in the box which belied the player’s tender years.
There was bundles of Richarlison’s resilience and determination in this performance, too. Seamus Coleman talked in glowing terms ahead of the game of his new teammate’s work ethic.
It was easy to see, here, what had impressed the demanding Coleman. The former Watford player, for one reason or another, had a huge job on to crack it in the professional game in his homeland. He simply ploughed on, grafted and trusted in his ability to win out.
In microcosm he did the same against a motivated Wolves team. Richarlison bombed up and down the left, provided reliable protection for Baines and showed a welcome fondness for a tackle.
There were a few moments the winger would like to have again, not least when he did not get enough on a pass for Walcott who was sprinting into open ground on the right. On Richarlison’s passing, he has a few strings to his bow. There was plenty of short, punchy stuff, followed by energetic bursts looking for a return. And one raking crossfield ball aimed for Walcott in the second half hinted at a player with an extensive range.
His heading? That’s pretty handy, too. If Walcott had got hold of a close-range strike from the winger’s knockdown on 65 minutes, the new-boy would have had a bona fide assist to his credit.
This is a footballer in the embryonic stage of his career. The prospect of a fully-formed Richarlison flourishing with Everton is a very exciting one indeed.
Premier League Prizefight
If you ever need to explain what it means to a club and its fans to be part of the modern-day Premier League then toss them a video of this match.
Wolves’ entrance from the tunnel for their first top-flight match in more than six years generated a cacophony of noise.
The home fans’ ear-splitting rendition of their own version of Hi-Ho Silver Lining provided the backdrop to a sparkling firework display. Flames were projected skywards from pitchside, giving this 129-year-old ground a fleetingly hazy appearance.
Everton retained their heads amid all this. Indeed, the measured yet furious nature of Everton's football doused Wolves’ fire in the opening exchanges.
Marco Silva’s players were briefed on precisely what their manager wanted from them and the game plan was working a treat when Richarlison pounced. The locals’ encouraging roars gathered a more defiant tone.
Jagielka’s dismissal changed the atmosphere and, by necessity, Everton’s approach.
Silva thought on his feet, replacing Gylfi Sigurdsson with the excellent Mason Holgate. The instruction was to remain defensively compact – not, however, to dig a bunker.
Everton have too many bright, pacy attackers to ignore. So when Ruben Neves thrashed in his free-kick, the Toffees absorbed the blow and carried on regardless.
They carried the fight to Wolves while appreciating there were periods when self-preservation was required.
It all added up to a fascinating contest, one in which the home side had the dice loaded in their favour for 50 minutes but were prevented from capitalising on their advantage by a savvy Everton side, which, with a fair wind, could have won this.
Up For The Fight
There was a familiar look to Everton’s back-four for this first Premier League match of a new era.
The threesome of Leighton Baines, Seamus Coleman and Phil Jagielka had a combined 1,040 Toffees’ appearances under their belt ahead of this one.
And, along with Michael Keane, who played 30 Premier League matches last season the Blues' rearguard performed admirably.
Silva prefaced this match by insisting his recruitment drive was not a case of, out with the old, in with the new. The manager, he says, values experience, and here it was easy to see why.
The new season was barely 10 minutes old when an Everton full-back had his first shot on target. Coleman drove into the box before cutting onto his left foot and taking aim with a strike saved low down by Patricio. Moments earlier, Baines had split Wolves defensive pair Ryan Bennett and Matt Doherty to play in Gylfi Sigurdsson on the left.
Baines was involved in the construction of both Everton goals, while Oumar Niasse was agonisingly close to winning the game following Coleman’s late raid.
In the case of this pair – and it should be said, the luckless Jagielka – familiarity most certainly does not breed contempt.