Marco Silva gave Everton new-boy Richarlison his first Blues runout in Thursday night's pre-season friendly at Blackburn Rovers.
Gylfi Sigurdsson and Idrissa Gana Gueye also played their first football of pre-season at Ewood Park after the duo returned to training last week following their World Cup involvement in Russia.
Everton lost the match 3-0, going down to goals from Republic of Ireland international Darragh Lenihan, striker Dominic Samuel and Bradley Dack, the impressive forward.
Richarlison was one of nine players brought on by boss Silva for the second half and three times went close to opening his Toffees’ account, the Brazilian heading fractionally wide from a Kieran Dowell free-kick and then curling just beyond the far post after tricking his way into space down the left. The 21-year-old directed an effort in the closing minutes narrowly off target after leaping to meet Dowell’s left-wing cross.
The home team’s breakthrough was the product of a smartly-worked set piece. Dack – Rovers’ creative hub who had already sent one shot fizzing past the upright, stood over a corner on the right.
That was the signal for Richie Smallwood to bolt into the box. Dack’s delivery was fizzed into the former Middlesbrough player’s run. He stood up a cross to the far post for fellow midfielder Lenighan, whose header took an age to loop across goal and land almost apologetically inside the post.
The goal arrived moments after Everton had quickly shifted play upfield to engineer an opening of their own. Sandro Ramirez, nominally operating from the right but buzzing about and frequently drifting off his flank to try to have a say in matters, collected a pass from Mo Besic and zipped the ball to Tom Davies. Midfielder Davies fed Antonee Robinson’s overlap and didn’t switch off there. When the left-back’s cross was cleared to the edge of the area it was Davies who was first to it, hitting a shot which arrowed marginally off target.
Robinson’s outstretched leg prevented Elliott Bennett’s crunching drive from doubling Blackburn’s advantage, while Dack, his tail up, was too high with an optimistic strike from distance.
Those glimpses of goal for the hosts bookended a half-chance for Everton. Sandro popped up on the left to play in Robinson. But when the defender picked out Kevin Mirallas with his cross the Belgian got his angles all wrong and sent a volleyed effort travelling back across the box.
Bennett’s raking ball on 31 minutes found Danny Graham’s run behind the Toffees’ backline. Graham steadied himself, waiting for the arrival of Amari’i Bell, steaming down the left but shooting into the side netting when he reached the edge of the box.
Everton’s most promising football was generally flowing through Sandro and Davies. And those two were instrumental in setting up Gylfi Sigurdsson – seeing his first action since June 27 – for a presentable opportunity.
Sandro found striker Oumar Niasse, peeling to the right. Niasse squared for Davies, whose exquisite touch invited Sigurdsson to take aim from 10 yards. The Icelander’s normally immaculate technique betrayed him, however. Sigurdsson’s contact was scruffy and the ball ran harmlessly into the gloves of David Raya.
Jonjoe Kenny, who advanced to join the attack four or five times in the opening 45 minutes, felt hard done by when referee Martin Atkinson declined the right-back’s penalty appeals following Bell’s untidy challenge shortly before the break.
And Kenny would have been even more narked minutes later when Rovers extended their lead. Dack jinked his way to the byline on the left and cut the ball all the way to the far post, where Dominic Samuel took a touch before thumping into the net.
Seamus Coleman had the new-look Everton on the front foot soon after the restart. The right-back switched into archetypal cavalier mode within minutes of being on the pitch, haring down the flank to send in a pearler of a cross for Cenk Tosun.
Tosun’s header was good, firm and directed to Raya’s right. But the Spanish goalkeeper was up to his task, reacting brilliantly to divert the ball to safety.
Tosun was wayward with a strike from all of 30 yards – while in the intervening period Maarten Stekelenburg saved in identical fashion twice in quick succession, both times batting down rising efforts from Bennett.
Richarlison’s two near misses sandwiched an effort by Dack which skipped by Stekelenburg’s left post.
But after Dowell had been prevented from firing at goal from Leighton Baines’ cross by an exceptional last-ditch tackle, Dack did hit the target. The forward powerfully worked himself a shooting position, before opening up his body and finishing right-footed across Everton 'keeper Stekelenburg.
Dowell couldn’t keep another strike down when the attacker’s run into the heart of the box was located by Coleman’s latest accurate delivery, while Richarlison skilfully used the outside of his right boot to cross for Tosun, who glanced wide.
Nikola Vlasic replaced Sandro for the final 10 minutes and very nearly profited from another Coleman raid. The Croat struck goalwards from the defender’s low delivery but was thwarted by Lenihan blocking on the line.
Everton (first half): Stekelenburg; Kenny, Pennington, Williams, Robinson; Besic, Davies, Sigurdsson; Sandro, Mirallas, Niasse.
Everton (second half): Stekelenburg; Coleman, Jagielka, Keane, Baines; Schneiderlin, Gueye, Dowell; Sandro (Vlasic, 80), Tosun, Richarlison.