Everton Under-19 side qualified for the next round of the PL Next Generation Cup with a 2-1 win over Reliance Foundation Young Champs in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Second-half goals from Coby Ebere and Halid Djankpata was enough to secure victory over the Mumbai-based side and set up a clash with West Ham United in the knockout stages on Thursday.
A strong start from Young Champs outlined the hosts' attacking intentions. Franklin Robin Nazereth had the first opportunity of the match, forcing keeper Dylan Graham into a fine save following a strike from long-range.
The Indian club came with a real intensity, creating an open contest that Everton nearly took advantage of.
Owen Barker and Jenson Metcalfe drove the side on and the latter came close to opening the scoring. Captain Djankpata did well to pull the ball back to Metcalfe, and his curling effort narrowly evaded the far corner.
Kieran Driscoll's team were now in the ascendancy and came close again. Ebere, star of the Under-18s' comeback draw against Manchester United on the final day of the Premier League North season, was the man providing the threat this time.
The forward magnificently took on several Young Champs defenders, beating them for pace before making an angle for a shot and rifling the ball just over the bar.
Ebere began the second-half in a similar fashion, running at the opposition with real vigour and intent. He used his pace to drive into the box, and a low effort was deflected across goal and cleared.
The rhythm of the game had been established and Everton’s strong start to the second half was rewarded.
Matthew Apter showed tremendous stamina to burst into a wide area and get into a crossing position, and his low cutback was smartly tucked away by the ever-threatening Ebere.
The forward showed brilliant composure in front of goal, giving Ranit Sarkar no chance from close-range.
Driscoll’s side really turned the screw after the break and came agonisingly close to a second.
Provider of the goal, Apter, was the man who nearly doubled the lead, smashing the crossbar with a fantastic drive from 25 yards out.
The wait for a second did not last long, though, as skipper Djankpata made it 2-0 in the 49th minute.
Apter drove through the Young Champs’ midfield with ease before finding Djankpata in space on the left-hand side. The number 10 cut inside and picked out the bottom left-hand corner precisely.
Despite the high temperatures in Mumbai, both sides’ fitness throughout was excellent. The opposition carried a threat of their own in the second half and brave goalkeeping from Graham denied Sanan Mohammed.
In the dying embers, Mohammed pulled one back for Young Champs. The wide man appeared to be in an offside position but tucked away neatly inside the box.
Everton held on to secure the points, with a good second-half performance in tough conditions that saw them progress in the tournament to face West Ham on Thursday.
You can watch that clash live on evertonfc.com, with the action getting under way at 3.30pm (BST)/8pm (IST).