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Strong debut for new Everton signing

Goalkeeper Joao Virginia kept a clean sheet for the Under-23s yesterday

Everton v Valencia - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images

Everton are yet to name a third goalkeeper for the senior side, and it looks like the competition is clear between Under-23s regular Mateusz Hewelt and new signing Joao Virginia.

Hewelt has been with the Blues since 2015, and is 21 now having made 58 appearances for the Under-23 side, conceding 76 goals with 17 clean sheets. He was on the bench for Everton in the dead-rubber Europa League game at Apollon Limassol last season, but is yet to make a senior appearance.

Virginia was plucked off the Arsenal youth squad this summer, and is only 18 and didn’t play for their Gunners senior side either, but has played in 41 youth games, conceding 58 goals with 13 clean sheets.

In a bid to give the new signing some playing minutes, he played for David Unsworth’s Under-23s yesterday in their Premier League 2 clash against Leicester City, and the Portuguese youth international keeper made a winning debut keeping a clean sheet in a 1-0 win.

The youngster was severely tested, with the Liverpool Echo reporting that the player received a standing ovation from his teammates as he entered the dressing room after the game. The goalie made a couple of remarkable saves in the first half as the young Blues looked disoriented, and late in the game preserved the win as well with another fine late save with Director of Football Marcel Brands watching along with first team goalkeeping coach Hugo Olivera also present.

Unsworth was well-pleased with Virginia’s efforts -

“What he’s done tonight is set a standard I’ve not seen at this level from a goalkeeper. Outstanding, absolutely outstanding.

“He’s a great lad, got great English, he’s commanding and what he’s done tonight is set a standard I’ve not seen at this level from a goalkeeper.

“That’s the standard we all must aspire to from a goalkeeping point of view and Alan (Kelly, u-23s goalkeeper coach) is delighted with him, as we all are.

“He got a standing ovation from the team because his performance warranted that.”

His save late in the game was a thing of beauty, as he turned a deflected shot around the post for a corner, and Unsworth will be reluctant to let him rejoin the senior squad on the basis of yesterday’s performance.

“It was an outstanding save (from Rubio), but it was also that he was so commanding from crosses and I’ve not seen it before, a performance like that from a goalkeeper at this level.

“If that’s the standard he’s bringing to the club then he’s going to be a great acquisition for us.”

Bassala Sambou got the winner with the Blues lining up as follows: Virginia; Markelo, Browning, Pennington, Galloway; Williams, Evans, Charsley; Hornby, Sambou, Broadhead.

Hewelt is going to have his work cut out if he is attempting to get into the senior squad ahead of Virginia, but this will be one battle to keep an eye on this season.