Everton Under-23s kept their double hopes alive with a 2-1 Premier League Cup quarter-final victory over Blackburn Rovers at Goodison Park.
The young Blues were two goals ahead at half-time courtesy of a Bassala Sambou penalty and Josh Bowler strike and held on to set up a last-four clash against Swansea City.
It means Everton continue their push for more silverware after being crowned Premier League 2 champions last week - their second title in three seasons.
“We were terrific in the first half and played some really good football and scored two great goals,” said Under-23s boss David Unsworth. “It was probably the best we’ve played this season. We did everything we had worked on but in the second half we were just out on our feet and we’ve just about got ourselves over the line.
“I’ve said to the players that after the euphoria of the last game we, as staff, expected us to be flagging a bit at some point but we saw it through and that’s all you need in the quarter-final of a cup.”
There were just three minutes on the clock when Everton took the lead. Anthony Gordon ran on to a loose pass from visiting keeper, Charlie Albinson, and Charley Doyle sent him tumbling for a stonewall penalty that Sambou converted.
Everton’s early tempo was too hot for the visitors to handle and Bowler picked the ball up on the half way line and carried it to the edge of the Rovers box where he unleashed a powerful low drive that Albinson did well to turn around the post.
The young Blues were dominant in the opening half – Gordon shot wide from 18 yards, Albinson bravely saved a close-range effort from Sambou and Nathan Broadhead went close from the edge of the box.
Another goal was inevitable, though, and it was in-form wideman Bowler who got it when he skipped past a couple of challenges before rifling an unstoppable shot into the back of the net from 20 yards.
“Josh isn’t just producing performances, he’s getting goals as well,” said Unsworth.
Everton’s game management at the start of the second half was excellent, keeping the ball for long periods of time but the resolute Blues rearguard was pierced in the 63rd minute when Harrison Chapman squeezed the ball past Joao Virginia at the near post.
The goal gave Blackburn some fresh impetus. Chapman ran at the home defence again shortly after and was unfortunate to lose his footing inside the box just as he was poised to shoot, and then Virginia made a terrific save to thwart John Buckley.
Blackburn made a spirited attempt to claw themselves level but Everton defended well and Virginia made an excellent save to push away a well-struck drive from Chapman late on.
“It’s a great achievement from the players to win the league and be in the semi-final of a cup and I’m very proud of them,” said Unsworth. “They need a little bit of rest and we might change things around a bit for the final league game at West Ham so that we are fresh for the semi-final.”