Fulham U21s v Everton U21s
Everton Under-21s’ six-game unbeaten run came to an end as Fulham struck a late double to steal a 2-1 turnaround victory.
Alan Stubbs’ side were on course to clock up their fifth league win of the season when Jonjoe Kenny stooped a quarter of an hour into the second half to head the Young Blues ahead.
But Jack Grimmer levelled in 86th minute before Muamer Tankovic robbed Everton of a point with a controversial winner deep into stoppage time.
The Fulham striker lifted the ball over goalkeeper Mason Springthorpe but Tyias Browning appeared to have made a superb sliding clearance from under his own crossbar.
However, the referee’s assistant signalled the ball had crossed the line to consign the Under-21s to their first defeat since August.
It was harsh on Everton who looked to have executed the perfect away-day game-plan, containing Fulham by marrying a patient passing approach with stubborn defensive resilience.
This was particularly evident in the first half when Springthorpe did not have a save to make.
Ange-Freddy Plumain and Lasse Vigen Christensen tried their luck from distance but both efforts were off target and of no trouble to the Blues stopper.
Likewise, Everton didn’t create too much prior to the interval, though full-backs Ben McLaughlin and Ibou Touray were a constant source of danger by providing crosses from both flanks.
Kenny’s 25-yard shot, acrobatically pushed away by Jesse Joronen, was the closest the Toffees came to forcing a breakthrough.
It was more of the same in the second half as both teams pressed and probed without having much joy in the final third.
Stubbs threw on strapping centre-forward Courtney Duffus 10 minutes after the restart to add some extra physical presence – but it was the diminutive Kenny who found himself in the right place to head Everton into the lead.
Inside a packed penalty area, the midfielder nodded home Matthew Kennedy’s inswinging corner on the hour mark to net what looked set to be the winning goal.
It seemed even more likely to be the case when Springthorpe excellently palmed substitute Patrick Roberts’ dipping shot over the crossbar to preserve the Blues' lead.
However, Fulham broke Everton’s resistance with four minutes of normal time left when Grimmer ghosted in and swept home a right-winged cross from eight yards out.
A draw was the least the Toffees deserved – but they were denied even that right at the death in dubious circumstances.
Browning raced back and seemed to have produced an excellent last-ditch clearance to hook away Tankovic’s dinked effort.
The referee’s assistant adjudged the ball to have crossed the line and awarded a goal, despite the protests from Everton’s players.
Seconds later the full-time whistle was blown, leaving Stubbs and his squad to reflect on a night of frustration.