Everton Under-23s boss David Unsworth hailed Ramiro Funes Mori’s influence after his side beat Barnsley in the Premier League Cup on Monday.
Funes Mori played 74 minutes in the 1-0 win at Oakwell, in just his second game back as he continues his recovery from a serious knee injury.
Everton now progress to the knockout stages of the competition.
“I think that was Funes back to a bit of form,” said Unsworth. “He struggled against Arsenal the other week [a 4-0 defeat on 5 February], but obviously that was his first run-out. Today was a commanding performance. He looked the part.”
Mason Holgate also featured against the Tykes, playing the best part of an hour in a game that was settled by Antony Evans’ 73rd-minute strike.
Evans’ goal repaid the manager’s faith, after Unsworth handed him the captaincy in Morgan Feeney’s absence.
“Obviously with Funes and Mason playing, Morgan didn’t start,” explained Unsworth. “Antony’s been doing really well for us recently and I wanted to reward him with the added responsibility of being captain, and it certainly helped him. He took his goal well and his performance was fantastic.”
Unsworth was impressed with his whole side, however. The Blues dominated the second half after the hosts – who started with six players who have played in their first-team this season – edged the first period.
“It was tough conditions – the pitch was really lively, and it was different kind of ball than we usually use. It was quite light, and you had to be really sure on your touch.
“We grew into the game. I think we got better and better, created a lot of chances in the second half, and finally took one. I can’t remember them having a shot in the second half. We controlled it, and our fitness was fantastic.”
Goalscorer Evans, meanwhile, says he thrived on being handed the captaincy for the first time.
“I found out about an hour before the game,” he said. “Unsy told me in front of the lads and I just took it my stride.
“If he’s recognising my performances that’s great for me and I can build on that.”