Assistant manager John Ebbrell saluted a “fantastic team goal” from Everton Under-23s in Monday night’s 1-1 mini-derby draw – but admitted his frustration the young Blues could not press home their advantage after striking early at Southport FC.
The Toffees got off to a dream start, with midfielder Rhys Hughes finishing an incisive Everton move before the clock had struck the one-minute mark.
Liverpool hit back to equalise through Tyler Morton midway through the first half and, while both sides had opportunities to deliver a decisive blow, the points were shared.
The result means Everton, who had substitute Katia Kouyate sent off late on, rise one place to seventh in the Premier League 2 table.
“It was a tough game,” said Ebbrell.
“Liverpool had more of the ball. We had a good start to the game and scored a great goal – it was a fantastic finish from Rhys. We had the ball on the floor, we moved it fast, the way we like to play. It was a great finish and a good team goal.
“We would have liked to have seen more of that throughout the game. We scored early but we didn’t really dominate.
“But credit to Liverpool, they came back into it and equalised. They made it difficult for us in the second half and we would have liked to have been more of a threat on the counter.
“But if you can’t win, you take a draw.”
Everton’s flew out of the blocks and opened the scoring with the game’s first attack.
Nathan Broadhead played a neat one-two with Hughes before sending a low ball into the box for Einar Iversen. The Norwegian cleverly laid the ball off to Hughes, who showcased composure and quality to slot into the bottom corner.
Liverpool responded to the setback well and it needed a superb challenge from Ryan Astley on 21 minutes to keep the scores level. Fidel O'Rourke nicked the ball past Everton goalkeeper Harry Tyrer and looked set to tap into an empty net – Wales Under-21 international Astley hurtled back, however, and made a perfectly-timed goal-saving challenge.
Onyango came close to a second for Everton when his well-hit shot from the edge of the box went just wide – but it was the away side who were to strike next.
Jake Cain’s free-kick was initially blocked by the Everton wall but, after some pinball in the penalty area, Morton lifted the ball into the top corner beyond Tyrer.
Ellis Simms, whose tireless running and smart link-up play impressed throughout, came close to re-establishing Everton’s lead before the break.
The powerhouse striker displayed some excellent footwork to manufacture space for a shot – he tried to find the near corner but Liverpool goalkeeper Marcelo Pitaluga made a fine save with his outstretched leg.
The Blues were indebted to Tyrer shortly after the half-time interval. The Everton stopper made a spectacular point-blank save to keep out a powerful strike from Billy Koumetio.
Beni Baningime created Everton’s best chance of the second half – the midfielder embarked on a lungbusting run direct at the heart of the Liverpool defence before slipping a pass into Simms’ path.
The striker attempted to place the ball past Pitagula, but the Liverpool keeper was equal to his effort.
After Kouyate was sent off for a poorly-timed challenge on Elijah Dixon-Bonner, the away side almost snatched victory at the death.
Substitute Dixon-Bonner saw a low drive from 18 yards whistle fractions past the post.
“We kept going in the second half,” added Ebbrell.
“They had more possession but we were always looking to be a danger on the counter.
“We want to have more of the ball, though, and I think we were a bit wasteful at times. That’s something for us to work on. We need to show some more composure at times.
“We look a threat every time we go forward but we just need to be a little bit more controlled, and pick passes at better times.”