Everton Under-18s coach Paul Tait expressed his delight after his side advanced into the semi-finals of the Premier League Cup.
Anthony Gordon fired the young Blues ahead before a Timmy Abraham own goal handed Tait’s side a 2-0 win over Fulham at USM Finch Farm.
After a tight opening, the young Blues opened the scoring with the game’s first real chance.
Gordon and Stephen Duke-McKenna combined before the latter produced a fine finish from close-range.
Korede Adedoyin then went close to doubling the young Blues’ lead - but the forward’s header from Nathan Moore’s cross was comfortably dealt with by Luca Ashby-Hammond in the Fulham goal.
The visitor’s best chance of the first half fell to Jayden Harris. After the Toffees only half cleared their lines, the ball fell to Harris on the edge of the box, but the Fulham number 10 fired straight at Nicolas Hansen.
The opening 15 minutes of the second half saw Tait’s side soak up a considerable amount of pressure, but some resolute defending by the young Blues kept the visitors at bay.
And with 20 minutes remaining, the Everton sealed their passage into the last four.
Elliot Richards headed Duke-McKenna’s free-kick goalwards before Abraham deflected the ball into his own net.
Ten minutes from time and the visitors were reduced to 10 men after Nicolas Santos saw red for a late tackle on Joe Anderson, before Tait’s side went close to adding a third in stoppage time as substitute Pawel Zuk headed against the post.
“I’m really pleased with the result and the performance - plus to keep a clean sheet is even better,” Tait told evertonfc.com
“We talked before the game about the way we would play if went ahead in the game - and we thought it was best to sit back and hit them on the counter-attack down the sides as we felt we had the pace.
“It didn’t quite work in terms of getting us a goal but it helped when we went 2-0 up.”
The Premier League Cup is a new competition for this season and Tait believes the tournament has been a really good experience for his side.
“This is really good competition,” he added. “We faced some tough games in the group stages but we managed to finish top. We knew if we advanced it would give us the chance to test ourselves against the best sides from the south.
“In some ways we used today a bit like a cup final. We changed tack from the league in terms of intensity, playing on the front foot and learning lessons from the Youth Cup [where we lost to Ipswich early on].
“Now we will hopefully get to play against the best in the semi-finals.”
Everton: Hansen, Moore, Anderson, Collins, Richards, Denny, Adedoyin, Scully (Iversen), Mampala, Duke-McKenna, Gordon (Zuk).
Substitutes not used: Murphy, Simms, McKeown.
Fulham: Ashby-Hammond, Spence, Felix, York, Mundle-Smith, Garrido, Hilton, Francois, Abraham, Harris, Santos.
Substitutes: Showkat, Chisholm, Martin, Davis, Asare.