By Matt Jones
Everton’s Under-23 side took a massive step towards the Premier League 2 title on Monday, as they beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 at Goodison Park thanks to a swashbuckling second period.
After a moribund opening 45 minutes, the hosts took over, with goals from Ademola Lookman and Bassala Sambou giving the Toffees a two-goal lead. Kazaiah Sterling halved the deficit, but a Kieran Dowell stunner and a goal from Dominic Calvert-Lewin made the game safe for David Unsworth’s men.
Everton now have a five-point advantage to Manchester City at the summit with just two fixtures remaining.
While those who made the trip to Goodison Park on Monday night would have been delighted to see some familiar faces in the Everton starting XI, the influx of new players made for a fractured effort from the Toffees.
Indeed, a front three of Lookman, Calvert-Lewin and Dowell failed to find much fluency in the early stages.
The visitors were the more threatening for much of the first period. Marcus Edwards posed problems aplenty with his forays infield and he should have given Spurs the lead at the end of a slaloming run; Mateusz Hewelt then had to be alert to keep out Shilow Tracey’s low strike.
Everton’s best spell came before the interval, as Lookman finally found some space on the left. The 19-year-old’s swirling cross was met by Calvert-Lewin who thudded a header wide; he should have scored.
At the interval Muhamed Besic, typically tenacious in his endeavours, was withdrawn for Harry Charsley. And the younger man’s introduction, plus a switch in system, helped the Toffees take control of the contest.
There was little Lookman knew about his opener, though. The returning Brendan Galloway burst forward from centre-back and flashed a ball across goal, it hit the young forward flush in the chest and ricocheted into the Gwaldys Street net.
It was a goal that emboldened the young Blues and they were quickly two goals up. Sambou, who settled into the pace of the game quickly after his introduction, dashed infield and battered a left-footed shot into the top corner.
There were some small signs of nerves from the hosts, as Edwards surged into the area to set up Sterling, who got Spurs on the scoresheet. But the Toffees had another gear to go into.
Dowell epitomised that. Having struggled to make an impression for much of the match, the winger scored a trademark goal, working some space on the edge of the box and bending a sumptuous effort into the top corner. He needs to harness that talent more frequently.
Spurs were demoralised by the third goal and their previously robust defensive shape was coming undone. Focus dwindled too, with a howler from the Tottenham ‘keeper gifting possession to Calvert-Lewin, who had the simple task of rolling the ball into an unguarded net to add gloss to the scoreline.