Norwich v Everton
David Moyes calls him the ‘silent assassin’ because Nikica Jelavic does his talking on the pitch.
The Croatian casually dispatched two more clinical strikes at Carrow Road that on another day might well have delivered a fourth straight victory.
Twice the 26-year-old’s deadly finishing put the Blues in front but twice spirited Norwich clawed themselves level.
First Johnny Howson and then Grant Holt found equalisers, but on both occasions the visitors might feel they could have done more to keep out their hosts.
Either side might have claimed a winner in the dying stages yet in the end a draw was probably about right following an engrossing and wide open second half played at a hectic pace.
It was the first league meeting between the sides at Carrow Road since a 3-2 win for the Blues in October 2004.
Tony Hibbert and Tim Cahill were survivors of that game and both were involved in a bright Everton start.
Hibbert willingly linked down the right with the sprightly Magaye Gueye, while Cahill buzzed around and exchanged short passes with chief conductor Steven Pienaar.
Darron Gibson sliced a snapshot wide, Jelavic strained his neck but couldn’t reach a Gueye cross and an intricate crochet of passes inside the box unravelled with Norwich’s defenders dizzied and statuesque.
The game evened slightly after a good opening 10 minutes for Everton but in Jelavic they have a player seemingly able to pluck a goal out of nothing.
And with just over 20 minutes gone the Croatian added another sublime finish to his burgeoning collection of eye-catching strikes.
This time he used the outside of his boot to send Phil Jagielka’s cross angling away into the corner of a helpless John Ruddy’s net.
It was another razor-sharp contribution from a man who week by week is revealing more and more of a deep and technically prodigious striking repertoire.
The hosts huffed and puffed but had barely troubled Tim Howard – right up to the point when he was picking the ball out of his net.
For all their intelligent football and attacking finery, the Blues found themselves undone by some basic defensive errors.
Wes Hoolahan found it all too easy to get in down the left and send a low ball across the face of goal where Howson was afforded the freedom of the six-yard box to prod an easy finish past Howard.
David Moyes will have been unhappy to see his side’s good work undone by a moment of tardiness and they turned around at the interval with no advantage to show for their efforts.
Of more concern, however, was Norwich’s industrious start to the second half and the Blues responded by replacing Gueye with Seamus Coleman and curtailing Marouane Fellaini’s rest with the Belgian coming on for Phil Neville.
The lofty midfielder’s ball-winning skills were required and his tenacity was key as the Blues reclaimed their lead.
He outmuscled an opponent and fed the stealthy Pienaar who had drifted furtively beyond the Norwich backline.
He pulled the ball back and there was a feeling of utter certainty as Jelavic checked out into a pocket of space by the penalty spot and swept the ball beyond Ruddy.
That should have been that, but just as they had done in the first half, the hosts showed plenty of bottle to get themselves back in the game.
Again though, the tape won’t make pretty viewing for a Blues defence that was at sixes and sevens as Aaron Wilbraham barged his way through to go one on one with Howard.
The American dealt with the initial shot but the Norwich forward was able to gather the rebound and square to Holt for a simple tap in.
A hectic finale failed to yield a winner for either side and, while they will be disappointed to have twice led and not won, the draw extends a fine Everton run that now reads two defeats in 16.