The final kick of the match perfectly encapsulated an evening of frustration for Liverpool’s youngsters.

As the Everton defence, pressurised throughout, teetered on the brink, the ball fell to Reds substitute Elijah Dixon-Bonner on the edge of the area.

But while his powerfully-hit shot evaded the rearguard and Blues goalkeeper Harry Tyrer, it whistled agonisingly past the post, prompting heads in hands throughout the Reds team.

It was that kind of night for Barry Lewtas’s side as they were held to a 1-1 draw in a feisty Premier League 2 mini-derby at the Pure Stadium in Southport on Monday night.

Having fallen behind after just 61 seconds through a Ryan Hughes strike, the young Reds responded with an excellent performance that merited more than Tyler Morton’s equaliser 10 minutes before the interval.

However, a combination of stout Everton defending, outstanding goalkeeping and indifferent finishing meant honours were shared despite the home side playing the closing moments with 10 men after substitute Katia Kouyate was shown a straight red card for a nasty foul on Dixon-Bonner.

Morton the merrier

With January traditionally a month of change at Academy level – U23 players go out on loan, U18s are elevated to the upper age group – the first game of the New Year saw further opportunities for some of the younger players.

Tyler Morton, though, had already caught the eye with two goals in four appearances since making his debut at this level in November.

And it was the 18-year-old who ultimately ensured the Reds’ endeavour wasn’t without at least some reward.

After Everton failed to properly clear from a Jake Cain free-kick, Sepp van den Berg had a shot blocked and Morton clipped the rebound from the edge of the area into the top corner.

It was the highlight of another encouraging performance from the midfielder, whose technique was matched with a willingness to hold his own against the physical might of the Everton engine room.

The same too, could be said of the excellent Leighton Clarkson. Pep Lijnders, Vitor Matos and John Achterberg, all watching from the stands, will surely have been impressed.

Van den Berg continues to improve

While there was a youthful look to parts of Liverpool team, there was experience - of sorts - at centre-back.

Billy Koumetio may only be 17 but has already featured in the Champions League, while Sepp van den Berg has played in the League Cup and FA Cup.

Neither, though, has proven themselves quite ready to challenge regularly for the first team, despite the ongoing defensive travails for Jurgen Klopp.

The duo were given a test here by the powerful and dangerous Everton forward Ellis Simms, with Van den Berg in particular impressing.

The Dutchman, who only turned 19 in December, has addressed the inconsistency of last season and has been gradually improving away from the senior glare, twice showing good timing to deny raiding Everton left-back Niels Nkounkou.

Indeed, with a number of clubs pondering a loan move this month, Van den Berg is now seemingly primed for the next step of regular exposure to senior football.

Koumetio, meanwhile, was able to demonstrate his power on occasion, and would have scored shortly after the break but for a remarkable point-blank save from Everton keeper Tyrer.

Pitaluga shows poise

The previous day, Liverpool’s first team were indebted to a Brazilian goalkeeper to ensure a point against Manchester United.

Here, the Reds were similarly grateful for the exploits of 18-year-old Marcelo Pitaluga, making only his second U23s appearance following his arrival earlier in the season.

If there wasn’t much he could do about Everton’s opener, the teenager impressed with his all-round game.

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With the Blues a regular threat on the counter-attack, twice Pitaluga thwarted Simms and also pushed around a free-kick from goalscorer Hughes.

Like compatriot Alisson Becker, he also showed willingness to sweep up behind the defence, evidenced by a crunching challenge on Einar Iversen after the Everton man was sent scampering clear.

Liverpool U23s are next in Premier League 2 action on Saturday against Derby County at Kirkby.

LIVERPOOL U23s (4-3-3): Pitaluga; Clayton, Koumetio, Van den Berg, Gallacher; Morton, Clarkson, Cain; Bearne (Dixon-Bonner 71), O’Rourke (Stewart 65), Longstaff. Subs: Jaros, Boyes, Savage. BOOKINGS: O’Rourke, Clayton, Van den Berg.