Mackenzie Hunt's wonder-goal capped an impressive team performance as Everton Under-21s got the better of SC Braga 5-0 in Southport on Tuesday night.
The Blues were already three goals to the good when Hunt scored a Goal of the Season contender in the 37th minute. Issac Price’s perfectly-drilled corner to the edge of the Braga box was good enough, but Hunt’s first-time volley that zoomed into the top corner of the net was quite magnificent, with wonderful technique from the in-form left-back.
Under-21s Head Coach, Paul Tait, said: "If I told you we’ve worked on that in training you wouldn’t believe me!
"We nearly pulled it off last week when Mackenzie hit one but he didn’t catch it sweet. But he caught it nice tonight from a perfectly-weighted cross from Isaac. It was a reward for how well he played tonight. I thought he was outstanding."
Everton took command of the contest from as early as the fourth minute. Stanley Mills picked the ball up 40 yards from goal and ran with real purpose at the Braga defence before sliding the ball into the path of Seb Quirk, who lashed a first-class finish past the keeper into the bottom corner of the net.
The Blues doubled their lead in the 17th minute when Sean McAllister led a breakaway and played in Mills, who skipped inside the full-back before applying the finish.
Five minutes later it was 3-0. Price took advantage of sloppy Braga play at the back and placed a neat finish past Lukas Hornicek.
By now, Everton looked likely to trouble the visitors every time they crossed the halfway line. But despite the disparity in the scoreline, the Portuguese side didn’t lie down and both sides put some fierce challenges in.
Braga’s best offering of the first half came when Jose Pedro’s angled effort clipped the top of the crossbar.
The visitors continued to have a go but, by and large, Zan-Luk Leban in the Everton goal was untroubled.
The fifth Everton goal came midway through the second half from Charlie Whitaker, who ran at the Braga rearguard and gave himself half a yard to dispatch a nice low finish for his first goal of the season.
The result had long been secured so Everton, understandably, played within themselves in the second period but with 10 minutes left we had a surprising flashpoint.
Jose Pedro put in a poor challenge on Whitaker that sparked a mass brawl. Pedro was shown a straight red card and Everton’s Joe Anderson was booked – even though he’d been subbed 10 minutes earlier.
The Blues defender dashed from the bench to involve himself in the melee and was spotted by the referee’s assistant.
This was a very good night’s work from Tait’s side and they were full value for their convincing win.
He added: "The way we pressed pleased me most tonight, our play out of possession. They had a nice way of playing and if we didn’t get our press right, they could have hurt us. They tried to outnumber us in midfield but because of the work the lads put in and the energy and enthusiasm, they couldn’t.
"I wouldn’t say we had a load of chances but we were really clinical to get our five goals."