Report | Everton U23s 0 Swansea City U23s 4
Liam Cullen scored four times as Swansea City Under-23s thrashed Everton to secure their place in the Premier League International Cup quarter-finals.
The in-form striker continued his recent red-hot streak in front of goal; netting a quickfire treble inside the opening 20 minutes to put the Swans firmly in control at Finch Farm.
He added another in the second half to put the icing on the cake and send the development side through to the knockout stages of the competition for the first time in three years.
For Cullen, it was his 10th goal in four games in 2020, while he took his tally in this competition to seven, and 17 for the season overall.
Needing to avoid a defeat by three or more goals against last season’s league-and-cup double winners in order to advance, the Swans comfortably ensured top spot in Group D with seven points from a possible nine.
It also gave them their first away victory in the competition since December 2016.
Jon Grey made five changes to the side that began the Premier League Cup defeat by Charlton last time out.
Josh Gould returned in goal and Tivonge Rushesha, Cameron Evans and Matthew Blake were also recalled, while Tom Price made his first appearance since returning from his loan spell at Aberystwyth.
The Swans quickly relieved the pressure on themselves as Cullen opened the scoring after three minutes with a neat finish.
The centre-forward entered the game with six goals from three games in 2020, and he doubled his and the visitors’ tally just four minutes later.
Everton goalkeeper Joao Virginia was penalised for handball outside the penalty and Simon Paulet squared the resulting free-kick to the Wales Under-21 international, who curled brilliantly into the bottom corner.
And a dream first half for Cullen and the Swans continued in the 20th minute, as the 20-year-old latched onto a long ball and outmuscled Jarrad Branthwaite before firing home a third goal.
He went close again as the half drew to a close; drawing a fine save out of Virginia, who also did well to keep out Oli Cooper from Mason Jones-Thomas’ precise through ball soon after.
Everton appeared rejuvenated when they returned for the second half; enjoying more possession and looking more assured.
However, their momentum was stalled just before the hour mark, as Cullen made it four goals in an under-23s game for the first time.
The hosts looked to respond as Morgan Feeney headed over from a free-kick, while Ellis Simms crashed a fierce effort into the side-netting.
But the visiting defence stood firm to secure a clean sheet and round off a memorable night at Finch Farm.
Everton U23s: Joao Virginia, Kyle John, Matthew Foulds, Nathangelo Markelo, Morgan Feeney (capt), Jarrad Branthwaite, Lewis Dobbin (Rhys Hughes, 67), Beni Baningime (Alex Denny, 67), Ellis Simms, Seb Quirk, Manasse Mampala (Con Ouzounidis, 67).
Subs not used: Nico Hansen, Ryan Astley, Joe Anderson, Tyler Onyango.
Swans U23s: Josh Gould; Tivonge Rushesha, Cameron Evans, Brandon Cooper, Matthew Blake; Jack Evans (capt), Tom Price (Josh Thomas, 81); Oli Cooper (Marc Walsh, 76), Simon Paulet, Mason Jones-Thomas; Liam Cullen (Arnor Gudjohnsen, 73).
Subs not used: Lewis Webb, Jake Thomas, Jacob Jones, Daniel Williams.