David Unsworth said “every player brought their A-game” as Everton Under-23s secured a deserved 2-0 derby success at Anfield on Monday night.
Nathan Broadhead scored twice as the young Blues delivered a dominant performance against city rivals Liverpool to maintain their four-point lead at the top of Premier League 2.
The Welsh winger put the finishing touches on a pair of excellent team moves to secure maximum points for the Toffees.
He slotted in from an inviting Josh Bowler delivery on eight minutes before expertly sweeping home substitute Anthony Gordon’s cutback late in the piece.
Boss Unsworth was delighted by how his young players stood up to the challenge at Anfield – and detailed how they executed the gameplan to a tee.
“It doesn’t get much better,” Unsworth said. “I told the boys any victory here is a wonderful result and you must enjoy it.
“It’s a really deserved win after a great performance and I’m really proud of our players.
“Everyone brought their A-game and that’s all you can ask when you play a good team.
“We’ve been working a lot on wide players getting crosses in. We thought that was an area we could exploit. We’ve been asking our wide players to go on the outside all week in training, so it’s great when you see something like that come off.
“Nathan finished his chances off really well, so that was very pleasing, too.
“We actually could have scored a few more goals, we had the best chances throughout. It could have been three or four, and that wouldn’t have flattered us at all.”
The young Blues took just eight minutes to hit the front.
Bowler showcased his electrifying pace to burst past full-back Adam Lewis before fizzing in a devilish centre. Broadhead was there to tap in at the back post to give Unsworth’s side a deserved lead.
The Toffees had been the more threatening side since the first whistle and came within the width of the crossbar of breaking the deadlock five minutes previously.
Broadhead’s teasing free-kick was met by the head of Lewis Gibson – the defender’s effort looped over Liverpool keeper Caoimhin Kelleher and struck the underside of the upright.
After Broadhead’s opener, the Toffees continued play on the front foot and another fabulous ball from Bowler was headed fractions over by Fraser Hornby.
Liverpool full-back Ki-Jana Hoever produced his team’s first effort of note – his rising shot from the edge of the box failed to trouble Joao Virginia in the Everton goal, however.
Reds midfielder Rafael Camacho then fired a daisy-cutter wide of the post as Liverpool gradually grew into the game.
The Toffees continue to look dangerous each time they mounted an attack, however, and when another Bowler delivery was headed across goal by Broadhead, Liverpool skipper George Johnston made a vital intervention to clear with Hornby waiting to pounce.
And just before half-time, Broadhead almost had his and Everton’s second.
Virginia’s clearance was misjudged by defender Corey Whelan, Bassala Sambou almost latched onto it but Kelleher raced off his goal-line to attempt to clear. The loose ball fell to Broadhead 20 yards out and his lob went agonisingly wide of the post.
Nine minutes after the break, the young Blues again came close to doubling their lead.
Dennis Adeniran, who relentless energy impressed from first minute to last, collected the ball midway inside his own half and hurtled forward. He slipped in Sambou but the striker could not keep his shot down.
Everton were well in the ascendency at this point and when Nathangelo Markelo hammered at goal from the edge of the area, Kelleher did well to tip over. From the resulting corner, the Reds stopper was alert again to keep out Ryan Astley’s header.
Liverpool probed but struggled to create anything clear-cut and the young Blues sealed the victory in style three minutes from time.
Hornby did superbly to hang in the air and win a header halfway inside the Liverpool half - his flick-on found Sambou who played in Gordon down the left flank.
The winger picked out the advancing Broadhead, who guided the ball into the net to wrap up an excellent night’s work for Unsworth’s men.
The manager saluted his team’s “complete performance” and says they must now strive to maintain their exceptional levels for the rest of the campaign.
The Toffees are four points clear of second-placed Brighton & Hove Albion with four league matches left to play.
“The back four were outstanding again,” he said. “You see Ryan Astley playing in a position [right-back] where he is not used to, and he was excellent.
“It always gives you a great platform when the spine of your team and the back four are working as hard as they do. It gives the front players license to forage forward.
“They were backed up by a great midfield displays by Dennis Adeniran and Nathan Markelo, while the front two [Hornby and Sambou] were immense tonight. The work they got through for the team, - not just going forward but defensively as well – was fantastic. It was a great night for us.
“It’s a terrific win but we haven’t won anything yet. We will have a good couple of days rest and regroup. We’ve got to see the job out now.”