Report: Swans U23s 0 Everton U23s 2
A brave, battling effort from Swansea City Under-23s was not enough to reach the final of the Premier League Cup for a third-straight season as Everton emerged victorious at the Liberty Stadium.
The Toffees strike duo of Fraser Hornby and Bassala Sambou were on the scoresheet to keep up the Premier League 2 champions’ hopes of doing the double.
Despite having to make all three available substitutes before half-time due to injuries to Mason Jones-Thomas, Ben Cabango and Marc Walsh, a Swans side featuring eight teenagers in the starting line-up gave a good account of itself in trying circumstances.
In fact, seven of the matchday squad had featured in the under-19s’ FAW Youth Cup final success against TNS last month.
It proved to be a cagey opening, with both sides having decent spells in possession without genuinely threatening to find a way to open the scoring.
But, when the visitors got their first clear chance they took it clinically in the 14th minute.
Anthony Gordon’s free-kick found its way to Hornby, and the striker calmly guided his low first-time shot beyond Gregor Zabret into the bottom corner.
Swansea responded with a better passage of play, which ended with Joao Virginia holding Liam Cullen’s curling effort from 20 yards.
They followed that up with an excellent cross from Tivonge Rushesha, which whipped across the Everton six-yard box, only for find no white shirts closing in.
However, the Toffees remained a threat and Cabango made a timely intervention to deny Bassala Sambou a tap in after the lively Josh Bowler had escaped the attentions of Matthew Blake.
Zabret made a sharp save to deny Everton a second in the 34th minute, palming away full-back Ryan Astley’s shot after Swansea had switched off at a short corner.
By this point the hosts had lost Jones-Thomas to injury, with Walsh making his under-23s’ debut in the winger’s place.
They were dealt another blow before the interval when skipper Cabango was also forced off and Cameron Evans summoned to replace him.
And, incredibly, the Swans had used all their subs by half-time as the unfortunate Walsh saw his debut curtailed by a hamstring problem, with Adam King coming on.
With Swansea still recovering from those setbacks, they survived a major let-off on the stroke of the interval as a mix up between Zabret and Brandon Cooper allowed Hornby in on goal, but the keeper denied the Everton striker.
The Swans began to grow into the game, growing in confidence and beginning to find some fluency in their passing play.
Cullen and Keiran Evans saw one promising attack snuffed out before, at the other end, Zabret saved from Bowler.
One productive avenue was proving to be Rushesha’s quality of delivery from advanced areas on the right, and another excellent cross found Cullen, but the striker could not quite control the bouncing ball.
Matthew Blake produced almost a mirror image from the opposite flank a few minutes later, but Cullen was flagged for a foul on Everton skipper Morgan Feeney.
And the visitors went straight up the other end to score the crucial second, substitute Matthew Foulds’ shot was parried by Zabret, and Sambou was on hand to turn in the loose ball.
The Swans had a big chance to set up a nervy finale when Cullen’s intelligent pull-back found Simon Paulet, but the Belgian blazed over.
Swansea City Under-23s: Gregor Zabret; Tivonge Rushesha, Ben Cabango (capt) (Cameron Evans, 42), Brandon Cooper, Matthew Blake; Tom Price, Kees de Boer, Simon Paulet; Mason Jones-Thomas (Marc Walsh, 28) (Adam King, 45), Liam Cullen, Keiran Evans.
Subs not used: Josh Gould, Adam King, Dan Williams.
Everton Under-23s: Joao Virginia, Ryan Astley, Brendan Galloway, Nathangelo Markelo, Morgan Feeney (capt), Lewis Gibson, Josh Bowler (Kyle John, 87), Dennis Adeniran, Fraser Hornby (Alex Denny, 83), Bassala Sambou, Anthony Gordon (Matthew Foulds, 67).
Subs not used: Joe Hilton, Manasse Mampala.