Martin Sherif grabbed a double as Everton Under-18s battled back to share a 2-2 Premier League Cup draw with Arsenal at USM Finch Farm on Saturday.
In the penultimate game of Group C, the young Blues needed a victory to progress in the competition. But despite falling short, manager Paul Tait will have been pleased by a resilient performance, especially in the second half.
The hosts found themselves behind with nine minutes on the clock when wing-back Amario Cozer-Duberry broke down the left and crossed a teasing ball into the box where Khayon Edwards was on hand to tuck home at the near post.
Before the Toffees could catch their breath, the Gunners struck again. The away side found themselves attacking at Zak-Luk Leban’s goal after a searching ball towards frontman Sherif from kick-off came to nothing.
After passing themselves out of the press, Richards came inside from the left, cut into some space and elegantly curled the ball in the top corner.
Charlie Whitaker had a couple of chances to peg a goal back, the most notable an acrobatic effort which Remy Mitchell tipped over the bar.
Then, from nothing, Everton halved the deficit as the Gunners were robbed of possession, allowing Sherif to curl a finish into the top corner.
After the interval, it took less than five minutes to find an equaliser. Again, the side who started the day at the top of the group lost the ball on the halfway line with Bradley Ibrahim stretching for the ball.
As frontman Sherif’s persistence paid off, he escaped free and fired his shot high at the near post to make the honours even.
Having got the double, Sherif was then unlucky not to seal his hat-trick when Katia Kouyate saw his shot deflect off a defender and fall to the big striker who just couldn’t set himself in time to bag the winner.