Everton Under-23s boss David Unsworth said his team did not perform to the standard he expects after the young Blues were beaten 1-0 by Liverpool in their 2020/21 season opener on Sunday.
Jack Cain’s first-minute strike proved decisive at the Liverpool FC Academy, with the home side indebted to a host of superb saves by goalkeeper Caoimhín Kelleher.
Everton attackers Ellis Simms, Nathan Broadhead and Josh Bowler were all denied by the inspired Irish stopper.
Unsworth, however, said the Toffees' overall display was not good enough.
“It was very poor,” he said.
“I’m very disappointed. There was a lack of desire to go and win the game. The players have been left in no uncertain terms about how I feel.
“It’s the first competitive game after a long break and I would have expected a lot of fire in the performance. I didn’t see it.
“I’ve seen great things over the past six weeks [in pre-season]. But, I’ve said to the players, as professionals your performances are judged in games, and they didn’t deliver today.
“The commitment and desire weren’t there and that’s not right.”
The home side attacked for the outset and took the lead within the first 60 seconds – Cain sending a precise shot into the bottom corner from just inside the area.
Bowler almost had an equaliser on four minutes, the winger tricking his way into space before his drive forced the first in a series of fine stops from Kelleher.
Dennis Adeniran then almost got the Blues on level terms with a wonderful solo effort midway through the half.
The midfielder, operating from a wide left position, skilfully turned his marker 40 yards out before showcasing his power and speed to home in on goal. He shot hard and low but Kelleher was there again to make the save.
The game was end-to-end at this juncture and soon after Liverpool thought they extended their lead. Luis Longstaff slotted home after a slick team move, but his strike was ruled out for offside.
Everton came again on 24 minutes, with Kelleher making a fabulous double-save to somehow maintain Liverpool’s advantage.
First, he made a splendid stop from Simms’ well-struck shot, before somehow scrambling across his line to keep out Nathan Broadhead’s close-range effort.
Simms again went close but hammered a shot just over the bar, while Liverpool winger Liam Millar saw a daisy-cutter from 20 yards well saved by Harry Tyrer.
Everton continued to create chances after the break.
Broadhead saw a curling shot go fractions wide, while Simms was denied again from point-blank range by Kelleher after being played through on goal by Bowler.
Liverpool came closest to adding to their tally when Rhys Williams struck the post after the Blues failed to clear a corner delivery.
Asked whether he was confident his team would provide a strong response following the defeat, Everton boss Unsworth said: “I know they will.
“I absolutely guarantee it. Despite what I’ve said about the performance, we still should have won the game and created enough chances to do so.
“But we were very much below par today.
"You’ve got to be honest with young players, and that wasn’t acceptable. We’re hurting, I’m hurting, and we’ll try to put right what went wrong.”