Under-21s Downed By Arsenal

Everton Under-21s were defeated 4-1 by Arsenal on Friday evening despite a spirited performance.

Stanley Mills opened the scoring in the first half, but the visitors turned things around after the interval to secure the three points. 

After an initial slow start from both sides, the contest soon livened up with Everton's Katia Kouyate - so influential in the win 4-1 win at Leicester on Monday night - playing another prominent role. 

With confidence flowing through the veins of Kouyate, he was causing early havoc for opposition full-back James Sweet, making several dangerous runs at the defender.

One strong burst from Kouyate in particular saw him get in behind the Arsenal full-back before teasing a delivery across the area which just evaded the onrushing Francis Okoronkwo.

From the same source again, Everton came close to an opener. Kouyate showed stunning trickery to weave past several Arsenal defenders and tested goalkeeper Noah Cooper with a low drive.

As was the theme of the half, eventually Kouyate’s brilliance yielded the opener. 

As the game approached the half-hour mark, more excellent wing play was on display as Everton's No.11 swung a pinpoint cross onto the head of Stanley Mills to power home from close-range.

That was Mills' 13th strike of the campaign, however, he was denied the opportunity to add to the tally further after he picked up a knock and didn't reappear after the half-time break. 

Frustratingly for the Blues, their lead only held for five minutes as Arsenal hit back with an equaliser from the spot.

Charles Sagoe Jr was upended inside the penalty area, and Ben Cottrell made no mistake from 12-yards-out to level the contest.

After heading into the break all square, Everton began the second-half well with a flurry of corners and blocked shots, none of which led to the game's crucial third goal. 

Instead, it was the visitors who took the lead in the 53th minute. A drifted ball found the feet of Ben Arron Cottrell inside the penalty area, and he held his composure to slide the ball underneath Billy Crellin.

Shortly after the goal, Paul Tait's side were hit with more bad luck as the star of the first-half Kouyate was also forced off through injury. 

That, at least, provided the opportunity for Martin Sherif to get on the pitch, and he almost immediately equalised. A ball was played through to Sherif in the penalty area and he did well to get an effort on goal from a tight angle, but Noah Cooper was equal to it.

Fellow substitute Owen Barker also had a chance to level proceedings, but his strike from the edge of the box was beaten out by the Arsenal shot-stopper.

Chances for a fight-back were all but ended, though, as against the run of play as Arsenal made it 3-1 in ruthless fashion.

Amario Cozier-Duberry stormed into the box and put the ball on a plate for Charles Sagoe Jr to tap in from just a few yards out.

The third goal knocked the stuffing out of Everton after what had been a strong performance, and Arsenal grabbed a fourth in stoppage time.

Substitute Mauro Bandeira pounced on a loose ball and picked out the bottom corner, clinching the victory.

The Under-21s will aim to finish their campaign on a high with a home game against Leicester City on Monday 8 May (2pm BST).