£13.5million forward Niasse nets hat-trick for visitors in PL2 tie...It was a tough night for Reading's Under-23s, who were defeated 6-3 by league leaders Everton at Adams Park - thanks in no small part to a hat-trick by multi-million pound signing Oumar Niasse.
The 26-year-old Senegal international, who joined the Toffees for a fee reported as £13.5 million in February, hit a first-half treble to overturn two early goals by Andrija Novakovich. Kieran Dowell, Liam Walsh and Dominic Calvert-Lewin - who joined in a £1.5 million deal from Sheffield United in the summer - each netted after the break, before Tom McIntyre grabbed a late consolatory goal for the Royals.
The Royals were fielding a young side even in Premier League 2 terms, with nine of the starting XI still teenagers and all five substitutes aged just 18. All of the 16 Royals in the squad were Academy graduates and they made a cracking start to the contest when Adrija Novakovich bagged a brace within the first quarter of an hour. But winter window signing Niasse, formerly of Lokomotiv Moscow, kick-started a comeback with three in reply as Everton extended their lead at the top of the table.
After an opening ten minutes that saw Everton enjoy the majority of possession, it was the Royals that had the killer instinct on the break... Josh Barrett picked up the ball on the half way line and drove deep into the Everton half, before picking out Novakovich in the centre with a fine cross. The forward swivelled well with the ball to lose his man, before firing a shot from the centre of the box into the top corner for the opener.
Four minutes later and the Royals had doubled their lead, with Novakovich converting his second of the night. It was the same combination again, as Ireland youth international Josh Barrett made a dangerous run down the right flank and picked out Novakovich in the middle, who rose brilliantly to power his header past Mateusz Hewelt in the Everton goal.
As the game ticked towards the 20 minute-mark Everton found a way back into the game through experienced forward Niasse. A Liam Walsh free-kick from the right wing found the Senegalese striker the middle of the Reading box. Siz yards from the Royals goal, he made no mistake by heading home to bring the Toffees to within a goal.
And the leveller came in the 38th minute; Niasse again converting from a few yards out. This time it was a mistake at the back from the Royals that handed Everton possession as the ball was quickly worked across the area to the Senegalese striker, who converted.
Three minutes later and the Everton turnaround was complete and the 26-year-old striker had his hat-trick. The ball was fed into the Reading box from the right wing with Everton in the ascendancy with Niasse collecting the ball quickly and clinically converting his finish to give table-topping Toffees the lead.
The league leaders continued the second half as the ended the first, with a high pressure game not allowing the young Royals side any time on the ball. It wasn’t long until the away side had increased their lead further - Dowell was the scorer, showing quick feet inside the Reading area before slotting home past Moore was unable to keep his low effort out.
The Toffees were really on top at this stage and all but ensured the three points when Calvert-Lewin converted emphatically on the five minutes short of the hour. The former Sheffield United striker found himself in a bit of space just inside Reading’s 18-yard box and worked the ball onto his right foot before unleashing a powerful shot which flew past Moore and into the top corner.
As the second half progressed the Royals looked to try and work themselves back into the game, but were rebuffed on a number of occasion by to backs-to-the-wall defending from Everton. Josh Barrett delivered a number of dangerous set pieces into the Everton box, the closest of which was almost converted when defender McIntyre latched onto the ball at the back post. The young centre-half headed the ball back across the face of the Toffees goal, but after a desperate scramble the visitors managed to clear.
Just as it seemed Kuhl’s side were beginning to find a way back into the fixture, Walsh fired home a sixth goal for the visitors. The midfielder found space 20 yards from goal before picking a precise finish to put the game well beyond doubt.
Reading did manage to pull one back late on when McIntyre headed in powerfully a minute from time to reduce the deficit. A good ball back into the box after Barrett’s corner was initially cleared, picked out the 17-year-old who headed beyond Hewelt and into the back of the Everton net, ending the affair on a more positive note.
Full Time: Reading U23 3-6 Everton U23
Reading U23: Moore, Vancooten, Richards, McIntyre, Jules, Rinomhota, Frost, Bennett, Novakovich, Cardwell, Barrett.
Unused subs: Southwood, Andresson, East, Davis, Smith.
Everton U23: Hewlt, Kenny, Jones, Davies (Dyson 68), Holgate, Connolly, Dowell, Walsh, Calvert (Duffus 68), Niasse, Charsley.
Unused subs: Gray, Yarney, Robinson