The Dutch striker, a summer signing from Sporting Lisbon, opened the scoring inside 10 minutes with his first goal for Chris Hughton’s side, much to the delight of the jubilant home crowd. Mexican and former Arsenal striker Carlos Vela drew the visitors level midway through the second half, calmly slotting past Mark Bunn after finding space in the penalty area.
Hughton named fellow home debutants Leroy Fer, Nathan Redmond and Martin Olsson in his starting lineup, and it was the former who helped create Van Wolfswinkel’s opener, leaping highest to connect with Robert Snodgrass’ early corner, only to see his header diverted past the hapless Claudio Bravo courtesy of the unsuspecting striker’s shin.
It was no more than Norwich deserved, with Redmond in particular proving to be a constant thorn in the Sociedad’s back line throughout.
Norwich would have to wait until midway through the first half for their next chance of note, as Steven Whittaker fizzed an effort at goal from the edge of the area following a short corner, but was unlucky to see his strike fly narrowly off-target.
Van Wolfswinkel should have doubled his goal tally shortly after the half-hour mark, when pouncing on a defensive mix-up, but the Dutchman was unable to beat Bravo in the Sociedad goal from close range, firing straight at the keeper when one-on-one.
Shortly before the interval Imanol Agirretxe cut in from the right before pulling the trigger, but he was unable to find the target in what was a rare strike at goal for the Spaniards.
Captain Russell Martin came close to doubling his side’s lead with the final kick of the half only to see his glancing header, following another dangerous Snodgrass set piece, fly just wide of the far post as a scrambling Bravo looked on.
Norwich continued to threaten after the break with Snodgrass stinging Bravo’s gloves from range with moments of the restart, but it was Sociedad who looked the more dangerous as the half wore on, with Vela eventually claiming a deserved equalizer.
Ruben Pardo and Vela both came close to levelling the scores for the visitors, only to see desperate last-ditch challenges from Whittaker and Martin deflect their goal-bound efforts just wide.
Vela was not to be denied much longer, as the Mexican finally got the better of the Norwich defense, shrugging off numerous challenges in the penalty area before placing the ball beyond Bunn into the bottom left-hand corner.