David Unsworth refused to be downbeat after seeing his Everton Under-23s team exit the Premier League International Cup.
A 2-1 defeat to Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday night at Goodison Park resulted in the young Blues failing to make it through to the knockout stages of the competition.
Unsworth focused on the positives despite the narrow reverse, explaining that the opportunity to play against Spanish opposition and German side Hertha Berlin earlier in the competition would provide valuable experience to his group of young players in the long run.
On the night, Everton took the lead in the early minutes through Callum Connolly. Jonjoe Kenny then saw a penalty saved before Bilbao levelled just before half-time through Inigo Cordoba. The Spaniards went on to win the game through Unai Nunez’s late goal.
“These have been good, competitive games,” Unsworth told evertontv. “They’ve been real games - this Bilbao team play in the second league in Spain. They are battle-hardened and play against men every week which is what I wish our boys could do.
“I thought we were the better team. It was a bit of a smash-and-grab from Bilbao but that’s what happens. It’s a great learning experience - we must take our chances. If we score the penalty to make it 2-0 after 15 or 20 minutes then it’s game over. We let them back in with silly mistakes for the goals and we’ve been punished.”
Two Evertonians earned praise in particular for the quality of their performances on the evening.
“Tom Davies and Jonjoe Kenny were the best two players on the pitch by a country mile,” Unsworth added. “Their energy, quality, drive and passion were the massive pluses.”