Carlo Ancelotti says defender Jarrad Branthwaite boasts the talent to be a “fantastic player” for Everton following the teenager's tremendous display in a draw with Aston Villa which extended the Blues' unbeaten home Premier League run to 11 matches.
Branthwaite was summoned from the bench for his first Goodison Park appearance – and only his second top-flight game after a debut as a substitute at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday – when Mason Holgate was forced off on 16 minutes with a recurrence of the shin problem which kept him out of Everton’s previous two games.
Theo Walcott headed an equaliser with three minutes remaining and Ancelotti credited his side for refusing to buckle after the visitors gained a 72nd-minute lead.
The manger nonetheless admitted his side needed more quality in the final third to overcome Villa, who grabbed their advantage through Ezri Konsa, the centre-half jabbing out a boot to connect with Conor Hourihane’s free-kick and poke home.
Branthwaite who played nine times in League Two for Carlisle United before his January move to Everton, didn’t put a foot wrong in an unflustered display which belied his inexperience.
“I am really happy with him, he is really young, a kid,” Ancelotti told evertontv.
“But he showed quality and personality and character.
“He is really calm with the ball, really comfortable, and really aggressive without the ball.
“He can be a fantastic player for us.
“The squad is really young but to compete we have to improve quickly.
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GOALSCORER WALCOTT ON EVERTON'S HUNGER TO IMPROVE
“You have to show character and personality, then you can improve quicker.”
Italian Ancelotti had demanded his team deliver a display in the image of Everton’s “fighting DNA” following the weekend defeat at Wolves.
Everton had claimed one point from three matches before hosting Villa after emerging from the coronavirus shutdown with a trio of impressive performances and results.
Their unbeaten home stretch, which was launched with a rousing 3-1 beating of Chelsea in December, was dangling by a thread when Konsa converted with the game’s first attempt on target.
But Walcott, introduced 17 minutes after half-time, met Andre Gomes’s deep cross with a looping header which defeated goalkeeper Pepe Reina all ends up.
Everton remained 11th at full-time with games against Sheffield United and Bournemouth to come.
“The fact we showed a good spirit to avoid the defeat was important,” said Ancelotti.
“We could have won this game if we played better in the final third.
“We built up quite easily but didn’t have good quality in the final third.
“We have to be more efficient, keep the ball, play with more creativity.
“We forced a lot of passes when we could play more easily.
“There we have to improve.
“The past four games we didn’t create a lot of chances.
“I want to see a good spirit [in the final two matches], that is it.
“We have to try to play better, with more quality.
“We have to finish this season well and prepare well for the next one.
“We have time to do this and the players have to be focused to finish well.
“It has been a difficult season for everyone but focus on this [playing well in the closing two fixtures].”
From staring defeat in the face Everton went close to completing a late turnaround.
Walcott's drilled cross flew across goal untouched and fellow substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson's deflected strike flashed narrowly wide.
They had made most of the first-half running, too, Bernard clipping the bar and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who was inches from levelling shortly before Walcott's strike, close with a scissor-kick effort.
“The spirit was good, the attitude was good," added Ancelotti.
“We tried to play how we wanted.
“The start was good, after that we lost a little bit of control of the game.
“In the end, we didn’t want to lose, we wanted to keep our home record and we were able to do that with the spirit.
“The game was balanced and a draw was fair.
“The team has a good spirit, the players are professional and, in general, the quality is good, but they weren’t able to show it all the time [in the past four games].”