David Unsworth was full of praise for Anthony Gordon after the young forward’s late winner against Sunderland sent Everton Under-23s into the last eight of the Premier League Cup.
Gordon curled home a stunning free-kick just three minutes from time to earn the young Blues a 2-1 victory at Southport’s Merseyrail Community Stadium on Friday night.
“It was a great goal and I thought Anthony was terrific tonight,” said Unsworth. “That’s the best he’s been since he’s been with us, he led the line brilliantly. We decided to play him as a centre-forward and not coming in from the sides and he showed great pace and willingness to run in behind. He moves beautifully and he’s so fast. He was outstanding.”
The opening 40 minutes of the contest was rather forgettable but the game burst into life towards the end of the first half.
Everton keeper Mateusz Hewelt, a virtual spectator up to that point, was forced to make two smart saves in quick succession to keep out well-struck, long-range efforts from Jordan Hunter and Jack Connolly.
Then at the other end, the best move of the opening period saw Gordon place a splendid pass behind the Sunderland defence for Josh Bowler to collect and his low cross was met by Bassala Sambou who was unlucky to see his shot blocked by Max Stryjek in the Sunderland goal.
Everton were quickest out of the traps in the second half – Gordon’s pace took him clear but his final effort was diverted past the post for a corner and Bowler’s trickery was a constant worry for the visitors.
Just before the hour mark, Everton crafted two great chances but Gordon headed straight at the keeper from close-range and Bowler pulled his shot wide when he was clear in the box.
The opening goal came on 66 minutes when Sambou expertly slotted home a penalty kick after Gordon had been sent tumbling.
The equaliser came totally against the run of play when Williams Kokolo headed into the top corner of the net from 10 yards.
It was a shock to the system for Everton and the game was heading towards extra-time when Gordon produced his moment of magic to earn the victory that was thoroughly deserved.
“I said to the players that team-spirit won them the game,”s said Unsworth. “They are not just great individuals they’ve got a great They like each other and I know they will always keep going. We are probably the fittest team in the league and we will always create opportunities. We’ve scored a couple of late winners now and that’s a sign of a good team.”