Reserves v West Brom
Everton’s first game in the newly-formed Under-21 league ended in a 3-1 defeat at West Brom.
In truth the Baggies, who boasted plenty of players with league experience, were well worth their victory, which was secured through a first-half Saido Berahino strike and Chris Wood’s calm finish after the break.
England Under-19 star Berahino rammed in a third on 65 minutes to make it comfortable.
The Blues gained a consolation goal in the last minute when Jake Bidwell headed in after a period of sustained pressure.
There was drama inside the first minute when powerful New Zealand international Wood headed against the bar and in the scramble for the rebound a penalty was awarded.
Berahino stepped up but his effort was weak and rookie goalkeeper Mateuz Taudul was able to plunge to his right and smother the ball.
The Baggies weren’t deterred by the setback and continued to probe, with James Hurst firing over after a good run from right-back.
A spell of Everton possession culminated in Anton Forrester almost latching onto a Vellios pass before Sam Kelly shot tamely wide after a good charge forward.
The big Greek headed a corner over the bar soon after but then West Brom took a stranglehold on the game.
Taudul brilliantly saved George Thorne’s free-kick but the Pole was powerless to prevent the home side taking the lead.
Hurst marauded unchallenged down the right and centred for Berahino to make up for his earlier miss.
West Brom eyed more goals as Romaine Sawyers hit the post, Wood curled just wide and Hurst saw a drive tipped over.
Berahino could have had another before Junior had a rare sight of goal for the Blues, extending Luke Daniels with a fierce drive after a neat one-two.
The Toffees were better at the start of the second half without worrying the Baggies’ goal so Andy Holden, deputising for the absent Alan Stubbs, brought on striker Chris Long for midfielder Kelly.
But the new man had only touched the ball once before Wood was played in at the other end to easily round Taudul and double his side’s lead on 57 minutes.
Everton were in danger of crumbling and Berahino’s second on 65 minutes had Duffy beating the floor in frustration.
Wood hit the side netting moments later as things threatened to get out of hand.
But Everton refused to lie down and after a flurry of late chances Bidwell headed home in the last minute to narrow the margin of defeat.