Craig Shakespeare says two-goal Ademola Lookman seized his opportunity to shine in Everton’s convincing Europa League triumph at Apollon Limassol.
Shakespeare had urged the Toffees' players to show the Club's new management team what they could do – and Lookman rose to his boss-for-the-night's challenge in emphatic style, scoring twice in the space of seven first-half minutes and only being denied a hat-trick by a string of smart stops from Tasos Kissas.
Lookman met Nikola Vlasic's cross to dispatch a diving header into the roof of the net after 21 minutes of the game in Cyprus.
And shortly after, the 20-year-old winger defeated Apollon goalkeeper Kissas with a scorching 25-yard drive to double the Blues' advantage.
Vlasic raced through to slot past Kissas and cap a terrific night for Everton three minutes from the end of a game that saw five players make their debuts for the Club.
“Remember he [Lookman] is only young, and there were a lot of young players on that pitch,” said Shakespeare.
“As young players they need that opportunity but they also need to show the ability… and he did tonight.
“To come away from home, whether it be in Europe or the league, or wherever, to keep a clean sheet and score three, the team have to take enormous credit for that.
“But we have said to the squad, look at this as a starting block and in football you get your just rewards most of the time.”
Fraser Hornby was one of the quintet of Everton debutants, the Scotland Under-19 striker starting alongside fellow new boy Harry Charsley and excellent centre-back Morgan Feeney, making his first start after appearing as a substitute against Atalanta two weeks ago.
Teenage trio Nathan Broadhead, Anthony Gordon and Alex Denny all appeared from the bench to crown a wonderful night for the Club’s fertile Academy.
First-team coach Shakespeare, in charge of the team in Nicosia’s GSP Stadium in the absence of boss Sam Allardyce, was keen not to single out individuals – preferring to concentrate on a rousing team display.
Everton have now won three matches on the spin without conceding, and the highlight of their fluid football tonight came in the build-up to Lookman’s second goal, with the former Charlton man’s strike conclusively and thrillingly ending a 26-pass move.
“I have not seen the replay but thank you for reminding me, it seems even better now,” said Shakespeare, when asked about Lookman’s piledriver.
“I thought we played some really good stuff in the first half and with a little bit more care in front of goal could have scored more. But you have to be delighted to score three away from home.
“The work ethic was there for all to see and the rewards at the end of the game were there for all to see, as well.
“For a young boy, Fraser played up front on his own and his hold up play was good. He was a good physical presence and, hopefully, that will give a lot of the young boys a bit of confidence.
“I think the criticism [of the depth/balance of the squad] is irrelevant. We have to assess what is here now and all I can talk about is what they have been like since I came in – and this is probably only my third or fourth day.
“I have really enjoyed working with them and you saw tonight the work ethic and ability, and how we approached the game.”