Toffees hold on to win first group fixtureDespite a charismatic fightback from our Under-23s, it was Everton that took the points on our youngsters’ first outing in the Premier League International Cup.
The Royals, who are pooled with Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao as well as the Toffees in the group stage, came close to completing a comeback at Haig Avenue on Thursday evening – but the Toffees held on to their early advantage to win the first of the three group fixtures.
Reading came close to registering a perfect start, but heads were in hands when Fosu’s low, driven effort cannoned behind off the woodwork after some good work down the left by Zak Jules; soon after Liam Kelly drew a good save after overlapping down the right. And as a consequence, the Royals had to try to battle back after conceding twice to David Unsworth’s boys within the first quarter of an hour.
The first of those goals came courtesy of striker Calum Dyson, who picked his spot calmly after the ball fell his way inside box from a short backpass, allowing him to slot the Toffees in front.
And then, with just 12 minutes on the clock and soon after Reading had come close at the other end, the lead was doubled when Antony Evans was handed the simple task of tapping in from close range.
Jack Stacey, up from the right full-back position, was overlapping well on the flank and fired a fraction over from an Andy Rinomhota flick as the Royals came close to cutting the deficit. From a similar position, Everton midfielder Evans got down the hosts’ right flank and skewed an effort wayward at the other end.
That wastefulness was punished by Fosu just a minute later, as the winger struck a firm effort into the bottom corner from an acute to chop the arrears in half, giving Reading a route back into the match.
With the wind in their sails, the Royals were a whisker away from levelling before the break, only for Fosu to be denied from a smart block 12 yards out and captain Aaron Kuhl saw his rebound fly wide of the upright.
Within a minute of the restart, Andrija Novakovich couldn’t quite hit the target from a narrow angle after a penalty shout for hand-ball had fallen on deaf ears.
The hosts’ margin could have been extended early in the second period, but Jonathon Bond made successive saves from Ryan Ledson and Gethin Jones – and the post also came to the rescue as the Toffees tried to scramble in a third.
Sub Harry Cardwell had a chance to level but was just beaten to the ball by the goalkeeper as Liam Kelly lofted in a cross. Rinomhota showed quick feet in a congested box and fired a matter of inches past the near post and into the side netting.
It was Reading that finished the stronger and, deep into stoppage time, goalkeeper Mateusz Hewelt effectively saved Everton a couple of points with a remarkable double-save to deny firstly Danzell Gravenberch and then Cardwell from close range after Jack Stacey had had his initial effort blocked out.
Everton U23: Hewelt, Jones, Robinson, Foulds, Feeney, Yarney (Henen HT), Ledson, Baningmie (Walsh 53), Dyson, Evans (Duffus HT), Charsley.
Unused subs: Gray, Bainbridge, Holland, Broadhead.
Reading U23: Bond, Stacey, Jules, Hyam, Gravenberch, Kuhl, Kelly, Rinomhota, Barrett, Fosu, Novakovich (Cardwell 65).
Unused subs: Southwood, McIntyre, Andresson, East, Sheppard.