Everton Under-21s suffered a late 2-1 defeat at the hands of West Ham United on Monday evening.
Luke Garbutt’s fine equaliser had set up a promising end to the game, but an 89th-minute winner from Sebastian Lletget earned the visitors all three points in week two of the Barclays Under-21 Premier League.
Following up a 2-0 win at Wolves, the Blues welcomed the Hammers to the Merseyrail Community Stadium for their first home game of the new season.
It proved to be an end-to-end encounter, with Everton starting the more lively.
Hallam Hope grabbed the earliest of opportunities, but both of his efforts curled wide. Chris Long did manage to test goalkeeper Raphael Spiegel inside 10 minutes, but his drive from the edge of the box was palmed over.
The Londoners had their first sight of goal on 20 minutes, when Dylan Tombides forced Mateusz Taudul into a strong save.
And it wouldn’t be the last time the Pole would be needed.
Five minutes later, the lively Lletget twisted to fire low inside the box only for the 19-year-old goalkeeper to thwart with his outstretched boot.
He was on hand moments later to palm a deflected looping effort from sneaking in under the crossbar, before he would be tested from 12-yards minutes before the break.
Handball in the area by Matthew Pennington presented George Moncur with the penalty. The midfielder opted for power over precision only to see his effort cannon back off the top of the goal.
West Ham came out from the interval on top, with Lletget arrowing a drive right into the joining of bar and post before Hope dived to block the forward’s close-range effort soon after.
Pressure continued to mount on the Blues’ goal, but it was only breached by a stroke of misfortune. Full-back Callum Driver floated what looked like a cross from the right-wing, but whether it was misjudged or carried by wind remains unclear – what mattered was it flew over Taudul and nestled into the net.
Eliott Lee almost provided a second, but the Hammers were to be denied by the woodwork for a third time before Everton could level.
Turning his man on the edge of the box, Garbutt swung his favoured left foot into the ball and drilled it into the top corner on 72 minutes.
The goal set up an exciting end to the contest, with Taudul again called upon to save from range before Lletget had the final say seconds before injury time.
Collecting the final pass in a probing move, the forward finished low and into the bottom corner to the dismay of the home side.
Next up for Alan Stubbs’ troops is a trip to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City on Monday 26 August.