Everton U21s v Newcastle U21s
Everton are through to the semi-finals of the Under-21s Premier League after a night of high drama at Goodison Park.
Alan Stubbs’ side edged past Newcastle United on penalties following a thrilling 3-3 draw.
The teams could not be separated after extra time – but the Blues scored all five of their spot-kicks to win the shoot-out 5-3, with Gael Bigirimana the unfortunate Newcastle man to miss from 12 yards out.
This all came about at the end a 120 dramatic minutes of football.
For long periods it seemed like one goal might have been enough to decide the outcome, especially when the game was still scoreless heading into the 66th minute.
After both teams had wasted glorious chances to break the deadlock, it was Sammy Ameobi who struck first to put the visitors ahead.
Conor McAleny netted an almost instant reply before Steven Naismith looked to have won the game for Everton 13 minutes before the end.
But Bradden Inman’s 83rd-minute equaliser took the tie to extra-time and Kevin Richardson’s strike eight minutes into the additional period put Newcastle ahead for a second time.
Just as time seemed to be running out for Everton, John Lundstram – back from a loan spell with Doncaster Rovers – took the tie to penalties, with a close-range effort.
It took the best part of 20 minutes for the tie to come to life after a cagey start to proceedings, with McAleny’s off-target drive the highlight inside the opening exchanges.
But Everton soon found their rhythm, cutting through Newcastle with ease as they created a countless number of opportunities to gain an advantage.
Naismith – one of six players in the Everton side with first team football to their name this season – saw a point-blank header saved by Newcastle keeper Jak Alnwick, who also denied McAleny with an excellent low stop.
Long dragged a left-foot shot wide after storming through the Newcastle defence, while Barkley and Oviedo both should have done better from promising positions.
Jan Mucha had been a virtual spectator inside the first half and, indeed, his first real involvement in the tie was to tip a curling effort from Inman behind for a corner a minute after the restart.
The Newcastle winger was again unlucky to see a curling effort flash just past the post, as was Long who rattled the Gwladys Street woodwork after latching onto a through ball and sprinting past defender Lubomir Satka.
After waiting so long for the first goal, there were suddenly four strikes within the space of 17 frantic minutes.
Newcastle were the first team to start the scoring frenzy as Ameobi latched onto a cross from the right and fired low past Mucha on 66 minutes.
The lead was short lived, however, as McAleny found space inside the area to thump the ball into the Gwladys Street net following excellent work from Matthew Kennedy. With it, that strike ended a goal drought that stretched back over more than four matches.
The advantage swung in Everton’s favour when Steven Naismith lashed into the roof of the net with 13 minutes remaining.
But progression through to the semi-finals was wrestled away from Everton for the time being when Inman was allowed to turn and drill a left-foot shot into the bottom corner late on.
30 minutes of extra-time followed, in which Newcastle moved into a 3-2 lead when Richardson charged down Mucha’s clearance and tucked the ball into the net from a tight angle.
Lundstram ensured there was to be one final twist when he stabbed home at the far post with 115 minutes on the clock after substitute Luke Garbutt’s outswinging free-kick had evaded everyone.
Everton always had their noses ahead in the shoot-out from the moment John Stones expertly dinked the first kick into the back of the net.
Bigirimana was the first Newcastle player to step up and he dragged his 12-yard attempt wide following an unfortunate slip.
It was to prove a costly miss as Shane Duffy, Ross Barkley and Garbutt all held their nerve.
Ameobi, James Tavernier and Inman found the net too but it was left to Bryan Oviedo to score the winning penalty that booked Everton an away tie at Tottenham in the semi-finals.