Everton Under-21s’ coach David Unsworth refused to be disappointed after watching his side fall to a narrow 2-1 defeat against Villarreal in the Premier League International Cup on Wednesday evening.
The Young Blues matched their Spanish opponents for long periods at Goodison Park and, after conceding early, scored a fine equalising goal through David Henen at the start of the second half.
Villarreal snatched the win a quarter of an hour before full-time but Unsworth was content with how Everton performed – particularly with the game falling just 48 hours after they beat Southampton in domestic action on Monday evening.
“It was a really tough but enjoyable game,” Unsworth told evertontv. “It was a great test for our young players and I thought Villarreal were excellent. It showed the competitive league that their young players play in – I thought that was the difference tonight.
“It was a big ask for our players having played on Monday. It was always going to be a tough physical test when it got to the hour mark. We asked them to give everything and they did, so I was delighted with their effort.
“I was delighted with the way they showed a fighting spirit to get back in the game but on occasions we lacked a little bit of quality to open them up.
“We tried to win the game – we threw two strikers on – but unfortunately after getting back into the game we got caught with a counter-attack for their second.
“It’s a great experience to play foreign opposition and a good team. But we are a good team too we and we competed very well. On another night, maybe with fresh legs, we might have come out as victors.”
The Under-21s fielded Sylvain Distin as one of their permitted overage players and Unsworth felt his young team would have benefitted significantly from playing alongside a defender with nearly 450 Premier League appearances.
“Sylvain was exemplary and it was a great experience for Brendan [Galloway] and Jonjoe [Kenny] to play alongside him,” explained former Everton club captain Unsworth.
“Sylvain was terrific as I expected him to be, so that was great. It’s just disappointing that we didn’t get that result.”
Wednesday’s defeat to Villarreal means Everton Under-21s need to beat Sunderland in their final group game to stand any chance of progressing through to the quarter-finals of the competition.
“We have still got an opportunity,” Unsworth added.” The way we play and set up, we go out to win every game.
“We never settle for a point so we know what we have to do and we are looking forward to it. It will be a good game.”