Real Betis B v Everton Under-21
Chris Long’s second-half strike earned Everton Under-21s a well-deserved 1-1 draw against Real Betis B in Jerez.
The young Blues rallied after the interval following Isuardi’s opener for the Spaniards on 31 minutes.
Long’s persistence paid off as he finally netted the goal he merited on 67 minutes after twice coming close in the first half.
The England Under-20s international finished a sweeping move with a composed low finish from eight yards out.
In blisteringly hot conditions, Everton adapted well and bossed the game for long periods, with the outstanding John Lundstram at the source of all things positive for the Blues.
The midfielder’s range of passing and driving force from central areas caused constant problems for the Spanish fourth tier outfit.
Lundstram’s assuredness was apparent from the very beginning, typified with an ambitious halfway line effort that flew wide of the mark.
He then set up Long for the game’s first real chance, playing a perfectly weighted pass in behind the Betis defence that allowed the striker to bring a smart low save out of goalkeeper Raton.
Long failed to hit the target with his second attempt and after an enterprising opening from the Blues, Betis began to play themselves into the contest.
Two long-range attempts didn’t trouble Mateusz Taudul – but there was little the Blues Polish stopper could do to thwart Isuardi who buried a shot from the edge of the box into the bottom corner on the half-hour mark.
That clinical finish ensured the Blues went into half-time trailing 1-0 and Alan Stubbs’ response to the Spaniards’ strong finish to the first 45 minutes was a double substitution at the break.
Ryan Ledson, a tidy ball playing midfielder, and powerful forward Courtney Duffus were introduced for Matthew Kennedy and Conor Grant.
The second half started similarly to the first with Everton the team in the ascendency. Lundstram hammered a free-kick into a sizeable Betis wall and Long worked Raton for a second time in the game.
In energy-sapping conditions, Everton could have been forgiven for dropping their tempo but they continued to look the team most likely to net the game’s next goal – and they did on 67 minutes with a crisp and clinical passing move.
The ball was switched from right to left and when Lundstram fed Long, the Blues frontman made no mistake by slotting the ball into the bottom corner.
As expected, a flurry of substitutions followed as the second half wore on. Ibou Touray, Ben McLaughlin and Gethin Jones all got run-outs for the Blues.
When Betis did press forward they encountered a solid Blues defence, marshalled by the impressive centre-back pairing of skipper Tyias Browning and Matthew Pennington.
The Spaniards’ best chance to net a second goal came about from a goalmouth scramble but Taudul – playing his first full game since recovering from a long-term knee injury - showed no rustiness by pulling off a fine diving save.
A 1-1 draw was the final – and perhaps fair - outcome but there was plenty for coach Stubbs to be encouraged with heading into the Under-21s league opener at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday.