David Unsworth says "top talent" Antony Evans is reaping the rewards of hard graft after the attacker scored twice in Everton Under-23s' narrow 3-2 defeat against FC Porto on Friday.
Having opened December with a double against Watford, Evan was at it again in what was the young Blues' final game of 2019.
Looking to build on the 1-1 draw they earned against PSV Eindhoven in their PL International Cup opener, Everton fell behind on 10 minutes, before Evans levelled nine minutes later.
Porto goals either side of the break then gave Unsworth's side an uphill task.
And though Evans slammed home a late free-kick, the hosts ran out of time to force something from an entertaining game at USM Finch Farm.
"I thought Antony's performance was tremendous," Unsworth told evertonfc.com. "He showed great work rate, he can handle the ball, he played two or three positions for us tonight, he can play most positions.
"I love working with him, he’s a top talent and he shows his quality in the final third.
"He’s desperate to get on the ball so he drops deep at times, but that’s something we’ve been working on for four or five years! He's just desperate to get on the ball all the time.
"But when he’s in the final third and within a whisker of a shot at goal, you can see his quality."
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HIGHLIGHTS: EVERTON UNDER-23S 2-3 FC PORTO
Unsworth named a starting line up featuring six teenagers and was pleased with the way his youthful charges made it difficult for respected Porto, winners of the PL International Cup in both 2017 and 2018.
Avoidable errors ultimately proved Everton's downfall but the former defender hopes his players will have taken lessons from tackling such high-calibre foreign opposition.
"The result is disappointing, but we played some good football," he said. "We had a very young team out again, so we hope that the experience of playing a good Porto team will stand them in good stead for the future.
"There were some good performances. Ellis Simms, Evans got two cracking goals, Kyle John got another game under his belt and was terrific.
"Matty Foulds and Con Ouzounidis were very good at the back. So within the team performance, which was okay, we had some good individual performances and those players played very well.
"But tonight was tough, it was a good battle and they’re a really good team.
"I don’t think there was much between the two teams, though I think if I’m being honest they slightly edged it.
"But we did gift them two goals.
"It was a good game, I really enjoyed it and it’s great for our young group - our new young group - to have this game just before Christmas, because it shows us where we’re at and where we need to be improved in the new year."