Everton’s opening Algarve Football Cup fixture ended in penalty shootout defeat by French team Lille.
The Blues still claim a point, however, after the game finished scoreless through 90 minutes, a period in which they could rightfully claim to have been the more progressive of the sides.
With the penalties only serving as a potential tie-breaker at the end of the three-team tournament, a two-goal Everton triumph over FC Porto - who were beaten 2-1 by Lille on Friday evening - would see Marco Silva's side victorious in the competition.
Oumar Niasse had a chance to win the contest for Everton in the final seconds of normal time but shot wide when well placed in the box – while the woodwork came to Lille’s rescue when Sandro Ramirez broke clear shortly before the break.
Lille had chances of their own, not least when Thiago Mendes clattered the bar with a strike from distance.
Niasse sent the first penalty of the shootout over the top, with Nikola Vlasic unlucky to see his strike from 12 yards thunder off the underside of the crossbar and roll to safety.
Mo Besic and Kevin Mirallas converted their penalties before Vlasic’s miss set the stage for Anwar El Ghazi to fire in the winning strike. Competition rules dictated the shootout ran to five kicks per team and Kieran Dowell scored for the Blues, while Lille completed a nap hand of successful kicks to win 5-3.
Forward Jonathan Ikone’s strike a foot past the post midway through the first half lit a flame under the game.
Everton responded to the Ivorian’s forceful effort by piecing together a tidy move which ended with Davy Klaassen putting the ball in the net. The Dutchman, however, had strayed offside when he pounced after goalkeeper Mike Maignan was unable to keep hold of Vlasic’s initial effort.
Maarten Stekelenburg comfortably saved down to his left from another Ikone shot just past the half hour. But the Blues goalkeeper could only hope for the best when Mendes unleashed a fizzing drive from distance. And Stekelenburg’s wishes were granted when the ball came thudding back off the bar.
Lille defender Gabriel had to resort to nefarious means to prevent Niasse from latching onto a pass over the top – the Brazilian defender booked for throwing out an arm to direct the ball out of harm’s way.
When Everton next came forward it was their turn to be foiled by the goalframe. Ramirez, showing no ill-effects from a heavy challenge early in the piece which earned France Under-19 international Ruben Droehnle a caution, moved onto Besic’s incisive pass and opened up his body to send a left-footed effort onto the post.
The Toffees continued to apply pressure on Lille’s goal either side of the break. Maignan turned over Niasse’s rising 18-yard strike. And the goalkeeper, albeit unconvincingly, managed to shovel away Callum Connolly’s header after the 20-year-old met substitute Mirallas’ cross from the right soon after the restart.
Mendes’s blasted free-kick from inside Everton’s box after Stekelenburg handled an Ashley Williams backpass was charged down by Klaassen – while Stekelenburg was subsequently untroubled by Gabriel’s ambitious – and high – shot from distance.
The busy Klaassen was narrowly over after timing his run into the box to get on the end of the overlapping Jonjoe Kenny’s lifted right-wing delivery.
Mirallas had a penalty appeal rejected with 17 minutes remaining, the Belgian believing he had a hard and fast case after hitting the deck under pressure as he tried to chop back onto his right foot following a direct run down the left.
Tom Davies replaced Connolly on 79 minutes – Dowell also on for Klaassen in a double change – and the 20-year-old took the captain’s armband shortly after when Williams made way for Mason Holgate.
Lille came close in the intervening period, right-back Zeki Celik flying forward to connect with Jonathan Bamba’s cross but volleying wide of Stekelenburg’s left post.
It was the indefatigable Niasse who could have had the final say. But when the ball alighted with the Senegalese in the box at the death he struck wide of the target.Three-times Ligue 1 champions Lille claimed the spoils in the shootout but Everton have an immediate chance to get back on the bike, with twice European champions Porto the Toffees' opponents in Faro on Sunday night (8pm).
Everton: Stekelenburg, Kenny, Robinson, Williams (Holgate 84), Pennington, Besic, Connolly (Davies 79), Vlasic, Klaassen (Dowell 79), Ramirez (Mirallas 46), Niasse.