David Unsworth admitted Everton Under-23s produced “something special” after coming from two goals down to claim a 2-2 draw against Manchester City in Premier League 2 to preserve their unbeaten start to the season.
The young Blues fought back to earn a point at Southport’s The Pure Stadium thanks to a brilliant free-kick from Antony Evans – his second stunning goal in successive games after a last-gasp winner at Brighton last week – before Ellis Simms headed the equaliser, following up a superb drive from Anthony Gordon that crashed against the crossbar.
“In spells we were very good but in other spells we were not like how I know we can be,” said boss Unsworth. “We were on the backfoot and we needed a goal and we needed something special. We got that with Antony Evans again with a special free-kick. Last week’s was world-class, this one was very, very good!
“Then there was great individual ability from Anthony Gordon to create the opportunity for Ellis to score. That would have been a world-class goal from Anthony and he showed his class again tonight.”
The visitors came into the game sitting second from bottom in Premier League 2, but they belied that position in the early exchanges, with winger Jan Carlo Poveda proving particularly elusive on the right.
The opening goal came from the penalty spot midway through the first half. Ryan Astley upended Morgan Rogers and City skipper Tommy Doyle placed his kick past Harry Tyrer into the bottom right corner of the net.
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HOT SEAT: ALEX DENNY
Everton’s had their moments, too. Harry Charsley’s well-struck shot forced Gavin Bazunu into a smart save and Evans curled a direct free-kick from right on the edge of the box just over the bar.
The more the game went on, the more Everton grew into the game, so it was a bitter blow to concede the second goal just four minutes into the second period. Nabil Touazi found space inside the box and slid a precise finish past Tyrer.
The response was spectacular.
Evans scored a wonder goal last week and he did it again by finding the top corner of the net from a direct free-kick right on the corner of the penalty area.
Evans almost scored a second on 73 minutes but Bazunu made a terrific save to keep out his low shot.
There was always a sense that Everton would get something from the game and, sure enough, Simms nodded the leveller with eight minutes to go. Gordon skipped past a couple of challenges before crashing a terrific shot against the crossbar and Simms was alert to snaffle the rebound.
With neither side settling for a point, the closing stages were tense and seven minutes of added time contributed to the drama.
Everton defended superbly, though, and thoroughly deserved to take something from the game.
“That (defending) doesn’t surprise me,” said Unsworth. “It’s something we’ve always done. Morgan Feeney and Lewis Gibson, and Harry Tyrer, too, when he was needed. It was a decent performance in spells but certainly a game to analyse.
“At 2-0 down, after a poor start to the second half by us, you wonder which way the game is going to go and City were probably good for their lead at that stage. It was a learning curve for the boys with the way City play and we set up in a way that we thought would help us. The problem when you press teams like Man City is that if one player switches off you get done.”
Unsworth reserved special praise for Beni Baningime, who once again gave a controlled, mature display in the centre of the park.
“He’s a class act and probably shouldn’t be playing at this level,” said Unsworth. “He’s getting the profile to kick on in his senior career. He played a bit further forward tonight which I felt suited him against the opposition, and he is consistently one of the best players on the pitch every week.”