Paul Tait praised the "character and resilience" of his side as Everton Under-21s battled back after surrendering a two-goal lead to beat Monaco Under-21s 4-2 in the Premier League International Cup at Walton Hall Park on Tuesday night.
In an entertaining clash where both teams caught the eye, Sean McAllister netted twice in the first half to put Everton in control, only for their French opponents to level with two quickfire goals after the break.
But Mackenzie Hunt scored direct from a corner eight minutes from time to make it 3-2, and the win was secured moments later when Francis Okoronkwo hit home from close range.
It preserved the Blues’ perfect start in the competition this season and kept them top of the eight-team Group C after two matches.
"It was a great game, lots of quality and end-to-end with both teams really going at it," said Tait. "We managed to get two goals up in the first half but then the momentum changed in the second half.
"They got at us and eventually got two goals, which they probably deserved.
"As well as it being a good game, the character and resilience we showed was really good. I was delighted Frankie got his goal because he worked tirelessly and he’s been playing really well without getting his goals.
"When it went to 2-2, somebody told me to go five at the back! But I still felt we had a goal in us and I wanted to see how we would react to the challenge and what we had left in the tank. I was delighted with the response. They are a very good side with a nice way of playing with some good individuals."
Everton got off to a flier when Okoronkwo broke through after just two minutes only to be denied by the Monaco goalkeeper, but McAllister was on hand to drill the rebound into the net.
The early exchanges were lively and Billy Crellin did really well to turn over a shot from Nazim Babai that took a deflection off Kyle John.
John was then well positioned to head an effort from the resultant corner off the line.
Midway through the half, the hosts put together a lovely move that ended with Okoronkwo forcing a good low save from Yann Lienard, following excellent approach play by Jenson Metcalfe and Lewis Dobbin.
Lienard thwarted Everton again shortly after when he kept out a goalbound header from Halid Djankpata.
The second Everton goal came just after the half-hour mark and again it was McAllister in the right place at the right time to convert a low cross from Okoronkwo.
Monaco really should have halved the deficit before the break but Mamadou Coulibaly rushed his effort from 12 yards and it cleared the crossbar.
There were chances at both ends in the opening 90 seconds of the second period. First, McAllister raced through on goal but pulled his shot wide and then Lucas Michal’s half volley was superbly palmed away by Crellin. It was a magnificent stop and left the young Frenchman with his head in his hands.
The tempo of the game was terrific and Dobbin’s pace on the right was causing the visitors all sorts of problems.
However, Monaco started to get the better of proceedings as the half progressed and they squandered another great chance when Romaric Etonde took too long inside the box and his eventual effort was deflected over for a corner.
Crellin was at it again in the 65th minute when he made an acrobatic save from a well-struck angled drive from Babai and then Eli Campbell launched himself at the ball to make a heroic block when Coulibaly looked odds on to score.
Undeterred, the dangerous Coulibaly cracked another effort at goal and this time it was Ryan Astley who got in the way.
It was all one-way traffic now and two goals in 60 seconds hauled the French side level. First, Etonde fired past Crellin on 75 minutes and then Mayssam Benama netted a leveller almost immediately.
The Blues were shellshocked but retook the lead eight minutes from time in bizarre fashion. Hunt took a corner from the right and the ball somehow eluded everyone at the near post and nestled in the back of the net.
There was also a touch of good fortune about the next goal. Dobbin scuffed his shot from the right of the box but the ball landed kindly at the feet of Okoronkwo, who made no mistake from close-range.
The Toffees took the spoils but both teams deserve credit for a thoroughly entertaining game of football.
On his side's defensive showing, Tait added: "Some of our blocks and clearances, particularly from the centre-halves were outstanding. The full-backs defended well and Billy Crellin made some great saves. Billy has that little bit of experience and he helps us."