Two late goals condemned Everton to a 4-2 defeat at the Blackburn Rovers Academy.
Paul Tait’s side gave a good account of themselves and were well in the game before a more experienced home side finished them off.
Everton took the lead in the game when Joe Anderson fed the ball to Stanley Mills on the halfway line and he carried it forward until reaching the edge of the box, where he cut inside a produced a cool finish.
A Kyle John corner was then headed back across goal by Anderson but Mills couldn’t get the power or accuracy on his own header and the keeper safely gathered the ball.
Rovers had chances of their own in the opening period and had Everton pinned back at times. Central defender Ash Philips ventured forward and should have levelled when he missed the target with a close-range header and Blues keeper Zan-Luk Leban saved well to deny Harry Leonard.
Some of Everton’s play was pleasing on the eye but they didn’t make enough of the wide possession.
However, they should have doubled the advantage when Francis Okoronkwo hit the crossbar with a header and when the rebound landed at the feet of Katia Kouyate he blazed what should have been a simple finish over the bar.
Rovers levelled five minutes after the break. Dilan Markanday broke froward from midfield and the ball found Zak Gilsenan, who finished well past Leban.
Not long after, John Buckley curled a direct free-kick around the Everton wall and Leban had to stretch to make a fine diving save.
The hosts kept probing, though, and on 57 minutes they took the lead. Buckley played a delightful pass through the Everton defence to Markanday, and he clipped the ball over Leban.
The Everton equaliser came just after the hour mark. Elijah Campbell’s free-kick was palmed away by Aynsley Pears but then Buckley inexplicably cleared across his own goal to the feet of Okoronkwo who smashed the ball into the net.
With 15 minutes remaining, Everton came within an ace of a spectacular lead. A Price corner was punched clear by Pears and Seb Quirk’s perfectly executed volley fizzed past the post.
At the other end, John did well to block a Harry Leonard shot as the game really opened up.
The third Rovers goal came in the 82nd minute. Buckley was again the provider, with Leonard the scorer, and then substitute Charlie Weston drilled a late low shot past Leban to make it four.
Everton Under-21s Head Coach Tait said: "I didn’t think we deserved to lose by that margin. It flattered them a bit. We were in the game for most of it and then just a bit of experience told at the end. They had midfielders who have played hundreds of Championship games between them and they showed their quality and the level they are at.
"We’ll learn from it. It was a good game for us and we played some excellent stuff, especially in the first half. They then took control of the second half, but we got back into it and at 2-2 we wanted to push for a winner but the game got turned on its head.
"Our first goal was excellent. We played out from the back, the build-up was really good and then Stan did what he does with a great run and finish. I was glad to see Frankie get a goal as well. He worked hard and he looked a threat. There’s more to come from him, too.
The good thing is that we have another game on Wednesday so they can have a rest tomorrow and then we’re back at it on Tuesday."