Everton beat UNAM Pumas from Mexico 1-0 in their second and last game of their 2021 United States tour.
The Blues started the game much better than on Sunday, showing the benefits of improved communication as they played with more poise and control in the first half. A lot of the game was played in the middle of the park as both sides had spells of possession where they had some decent looks at goal.
Demarai Gray’s running stood out in the first game and there was more of it today too. Playing as the left wide midfielder in a 4-4-2, he showed some outstanding moves controlling the ball, none as good as the precise pass through the middle that allowed Moise Kean to run in free. The Italian striker saw his first shot saved as he bore down on goal, but kept his eye on the ball as it squirmed loosed under the goalkeeper Julio Jose Gonzalez, and was able to tap home to give the Blues the lead.
Everton dominated the possession to about 60%-40% in the first stanza as their high press caused turnovers in dangerous areas and allowed them to get some four shots on target from a total of six shots. Kean had one on goal as early as the third minute, and once Iwobi got running he was able to create a chance that could have put the Blues up by a pair just before the break.
Kean was a lot more active and available today, and should have won a penalty as well when a scissor-kick attempt in the box saw the ball go off a raised arm, with the referee choosing to call for a foul for a high boot.
The quick, short passing preached by Benitez that we saw in some of the training videos was on display today to great effect as the Blues were able to make progress and generate attacks through the middle of the pitch, which is not something we’ve seen for a couple of years at least.
The second half brought on nine different players and a change in formation, the Blues going to the 4-3-3 with Gordon - Broadhead - James across the front, and what might be starting midfield formation of Gbamin - Allan - Doucoure in the middle of the park.
Pumas continued to press the Blues up high and it was a good test for Everton who made their fair share of mistakes and turnovers to continue to give them chances to equalize. Joao Virginia pulled off two excellent low saves on a pair of shots from distance by Lopez, he looked good against Manchester City last season too, and should go on loan to a contending team in the Championship to get regular minutes.
Everton were able to withstand the late pressure and even though they had a couple of chances to increase the lead, it was a comfortable win for the Blues.
We’re starting to build a picture of what the Toffees are going to look like this season, but this next friendly against Manchester United will be more telling than this pair of games.