You’d excuse someone walking by Camping World Stadium in Orlando on Sunday evening for thinking they had stumbled upon some type of title decider. Everton and Millonarios, both fans bedecked in their traditional blue colors were in full voice outside of the stadium in the build-up to the Toffees first official pre-season match.
When the match actually began. however, it seemed only the Colombian side were up for the event. Millonarios dominated possession in the opening 15 minutes, forcing Everton to sit back and absorb pressure.
Playing a 4-2-3-1 with James Rodriguez sitting in front of Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure and behind Moise Kean, the Toffees struggled to generate pressure on the ball and found themselves running sideline-to-sideline early on.
When Everton were able to get possession they looked early for new signing Andros Townsend, who was Everton’s brightest player in the first half, but his crosses didn’t generate any clear opportunities.
Millonarios, on the other hand, created a number of good chances early, with Asmir Begovic being called on to make a wonderful diving save to his right as well as being forced to grab a number of crosses.
However, the Toffees finally broke when the Colombian’s converted a corner kick for a 1-0 lead 19 minutes into the match. Everton fans would have hoped to have leave their set piece marking woes in the past, but it seems the change of manager hasn’t flipped a switch in that department quite yet.
How not to defend a setpiece. #EFC pic.twitter.com/VgOmUCXGIc— Royal Blue Mersey (@RBMersey) July 25, 2021
After the goal Everton attempted to press higher up the field, which resulted in a few half chances but nothing that worried the Colombian keeper. However, the Toffees found themselves loose in transition and Begovic was called on for a number of saves in order to keep it a one-goal match.
The Toffees did come alive late in the half with two great chances on goal just missing. First, Lucas Digne showed off why he is so instrumental to the Everton attack when he got forward and put in a beautiful cross that Moise Kean rose to meet. The Italian couldn’t keep his header down though and the ball flew just over the bar. It was a glimpse of positivity for the former Juventus man in an otherwise frustrating half.
The second opportunity also began with Digne who recovered a cleared corner kick before cycling it back out wide to James. Rodriguez swung a cross in that avoided everyone inside the 6 before falling to Andros Townsend just outside the back post. The new Toffee brought the ball in on his left-foot but his curling shot caught the top of the bar and bounced out. That was the last good chance of the half and the Toffees went into the dressing room down 1-0 after 45 minutes.
| A great ovation for @jamesdrodriguez from both Blues and @MillosFCoficial fans!— Everton (@Everton) July 25, 2021
➡️ https://t.co/WVuwu66nC2@EvertonInUSA @Florida_Cup pic.twitter.com/9OOUtbDRqD
Coming out of the half, the Blues made a number of changes with Jon Joe Kenny, Andre Gomes, Demarai Gray, Nathan Broadhead and Anthony Gordon coming on for the second 45 minutes.
It wasn’t just a change in personnel in the 2nd half, as Everton switched into a 4-4-2 with Gray and Broadhead pairing together up top, with Gordon and Iwobi manning the wide positions. The two strikers were able to dictate the passing lanes and win the ball back higher up the field.
A number of times early in the second half the Toffees almost found themselves in behind but were foiled at the last second. Flipping to the right hand side, Alex Iwobi found much more of the ball in the second half and was able to drive at the Millonarios defense. It was just such a situation that led to the Everton equalizer.
Allan recovered the ball and found Andre Gomes slid it between the center-back and the left back. Broadhead darted in and found himself getting to the ball just before the on-rushing Millonarios keeper. Keeping his calm, Broadhead took a mature and composed touch around the keeper who ended up getting none of the ball and taking out the young striker.
A gaggle of Everton players volunteered for the spotkick but new signing Gray stepped up and slotted the shot away expertly to bring the Blues level.
Gray can certainly take a penalty, the debut goal is a reward for his performance since coming on.#EFC pic.twitter.com/DOQKTyDstf— Royal Blue Mersey (@RBMersey) July 25, 2021
The game got a bit slower and both teams struggles to find any rhythm as both sides made a number of changes, but the Toffees certainly grew into the match.
Broadhead in particular made a big impression. Besides drawing the PK, the young striker showed wonderful off-the-ball movement and turn of pace. He beat his defender at midfield and got himself 1 on 1 with the keeper with 11 minutes left but was unable to steer it around the keeper.
The last ten minutes ended uneventfully and the Toffees were forced to head to penalty kicks to determine a winner.
Both teams took their penalties well with the only misses coming when Begovic was able to make one save and Anthony Gordon struck the crossbar.
Begovic ultimately got to be the hero as he converted his own penalty to make it 10-9 before turning around and making the save on the Millonarios keeper to get the victory.
The Toffees take the field again on Wednesday when they take on Mexican side Pumas at 6 PM ET.