David Unsworth saluted Anthony Gordon’s “explosiveness and star quality” after the forward netted twice in Everton Under-23s' entertaining 2-2 draw with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
The young Blues twice came from behind in north London, with two accomplished finishes from the 18-year-old earning Everton a share of the points.
The result means the defending Premier League 2 champions have drawn each of their opening three games of the campaign.
Tyreece John-Jules opened the scoring early in the piece for Arsenal before Gordon replied almost instantaneously – getting on the end of a neat through ball from Antony Evans and rifling home.
The Gunners regained the lead before half-time through Robbie Burton and looked to be heading for victory as the game approached its final stages.
But seven minutes from time Gordon latched on to a fabulous raking pass from defender Matty Foulds and calmly rounded Arsenal goalkeeper Karl Hein before slotting into the empty goal.
“It was a really tough game,” Unsworth said. “Arsenal are a top side at this level.
“The great thing to take from the game is we stayed in it, the players dug in and we got a really good point.
“They were two great finishes. If chances come along, you want them to come to Anthony Gordon because he is in such a rich vein of form.
“He’s grown in stature as a player. He can still be better physically, in terms of being able to go for 95 minutes – and he will do that. His desire and application is there.
“He is such an explosive player. He’s progressing really well and when he reaches his full potential, he’ll be some player.
"It’s not a question of if, he will do. He’s got that star quality.”
The contest at the Emirates got off to a frenetic start, with each team on target within the opening seven minutes.
The home side drew first blood. John-Jules found some space down the left channel five minutes in and his lofted effort looped over Toffees keeper Nico Hansen’s head and into the back of the net.
Everton’s response was immediate. Evans slipped a pinpoint pass through to Gordon, whose ice-cool finish levelled the scores.
Gordon threatened again soon after. Wing-back Foulds progressed down the left flank and slipped a ball into the forward’s path. The 18-year-old got his shot away but experienced defender Rob Holding – who is stepping up his comeback after suffering a cruciate ligament injury last year – slid in to make a crucial block.
It was Arsenal who were to strike next. After winning the ball in the middle of the park, the Gunners broke at speed and worked the ball to midfielder Robbie Burton, who curled an accurate shot into the top corner on 22 minutes.
Arsenal thought they had a third when Holding’s header looked destined for the back of the net, but Foulds was on the line to clear.
Everton started the second half encouragingly, with Gordon forcing an excellent save from Hein with a swerving effort from 20 yards.
Trae Coyle came closest for Arsenal, cracking a shot at goal that Hansen athletically tipped over the bar.
Gordon was to have the last word, though, showing a predator’s instinct to get on the end of Foulds’ marvellous pass to coolly secure a hard-earned point for his team.
“We know we can do better,” admitted manager Unsworth. “But I can’t fault the lads.
“We weren’t at our best but we hung in there, we showed effort and desire, and for that I’m very proud of them.”