Following the disappointment of Everton Under-18s losing 3-1 to Fulham in the FA Youth Cup early last week it was a good time to face arch-rivals Liverpool in the Premier League Under 18 game on Saturday. The game took place at Liverpool’s academy in Kirkby.
The Blues did not get off to the best start in the 5th minute when left back Jack Butler was caught in possession and neither he nor covering centre back Charle Wilson could stop the marauding run of the Reds’ winger Izabodo-John. Fellow Liverpool forward Ahmed took the ball off the end of his toes as he prepared to shoot and fired past helpless Blues keeper Seb Jensen. 0-1.
Parity was restored in the 40th minute when a good high press by Isaac Heath and Martin Sherif saw attacking midfielder Owen Barker steal the ball, jink into the penalty area and pull a fine left footed ball back for Sherif to coolly slot home with his left foot. Just rewards for the effort to win the ball back and by Sherif in particular for the timely return of his position from the high press out wide to the centre of the goalmouth. 1-1.
Disappointingly, just before the hour mark, the Reds took the lead, again exposing the left side of Everton’s defence as the impressive Izabodo-John cut inside and hit a measured left foot drive from 20 yards beyond the reach of Jensen. 1-2.
Just when the result seemed beyond Leighton Baines’ young men, in the 90th minute Callum Bates won the ball back in the centre circle, fed fellow midfielder Matthew Apter with a neat short pass and the latter played a great ball matched by a great run by Sherif. The young Dutchman had timed his run, pointing where he wanted the ball, received it, kept composure and slotted it under the outrushing Reds ‘keeper. 2-2 and richly deserved.
The exhilaration that followed that last gasp equaliser was in stark contrast to the massive disappointment of the early FA Youth Cup exit away at Watford early last week.
During that game the Blues could have absolutely no complaints about the quality of the opening goal as The Hornets’ striker Jack Grieves unleashed an unstoppable fine volley from 12 yards out following an attack at Everton’s left side of defence. 0-1.
The young Blues did equalise in the 62nd minute when Francis Okoronkwo won a good header at the far post from a right wing corner and his header across goal was into the path of that man Sherif again. He swivelled smartly to fire a right footed shot into the corner of the net. 1-1 and all to play for.
That elation and optimism was short-lived as 3 minutes later Watford restored their goal advantage as, following a free kick on the right wing, George Abbott climbed highest to nod powerfully past Blues keeper Jensen.
The nail in the coffin came 7 minutes later as a breakaway from the halfway line by Watford’s Adrian Blake saw him carry the ball to 25 yards out and his shot that might have been comfortable for Jensen took a cruel clip off Blues’ Ishe Samuels-Smith and the ball, having wrong-footed the Blues ‘keeper rolled slowly into the net. 1-3.
A real disappointment as the current Blues squad is one of the most talented in recent years with a good balance about it. A lot of the players will be young enough and eligible for next year’s competition so don’t be surprised to see a better campaign next time around. Unlucky!