NORWICH City’s under-21s were beaten 2-0 by Everton in a close-fought match at Carrow Road as second half strikes from Apostolos Vellios and Conor Grant proved enough to claim all three points for the visitors.
A positive performance from City saw both Josh and Jacob Murphy have great chances to put the Canaries ahead in the first half, but Vellios struck shortly after the break to give Everton a 1-0 lead, tapping in from close range after Ibou Touray’s corner.
City enjoyed the majority of possession and chances as they looked to get something from the game, but Grant’s half-volley nine minutes from time sealed the win for Alan Stubbs’ side.
U21s Manager Scott Marshall told Canaries.co.uk afterwards: “It was pleasing the way we were trying to pass and trying to play, so there were a lot of positives for us in the game.
“We gave away a really cheap goal from a corner kick, and it’s always frustrating to give away a goal in that manner. All of a sudden they had something to hold onto.
“We were on top of the game and pushing for an equaliser then, but they got a second, and at that late stage it gave us a bit of a mountain to climb.
“They had physically strong, accomplished professionals, and for us to do so well is a positive. Young Cameron King did well, we always get something from Josh and Jacob Murphy, and the senior professionals in our side were great too, it’s just a shame we couldn’t get the result tonight.”
Marshall named David Fox, Marc Tierney, and Simon Lappin as City’s three permitted overage players, whilst there was also a start for young goalkeeper Jed Steer.
Everton also had a number of overage players in an experienced side – Thomas Hitzlsperger, Sylvain Distin, and Jan Mucha all starting, along with Magaye Gueye and Vellios.
In a slow opening period neither side were able to carve out any meaningful chances until Everton’s Conor McAleny cut in from the left flank to drill an effort inches wide from 18 yards.
The lively Gueye also tried his look with a similar chance on the opposite wing, but it was Vellios who should have given the visitors an early lead in the second half, however he dragged a delightful reverse pass from McAleny wide of Steer’s goal on 16 minutes.
The Canaries then picked up the pace as they enjoyed plenty of the ball in the Everton half. First Josh Murphy bamboozled the Toffees right back only to drag an angled effort wide on 25 minutes, then striker Jamar Loza drove a powerful effort at goal only to see Mucha gather at the second attempt.
Josh’s twin brother Jacob then went close to putting City ahead in spectacular fashion just after the half hour mark, firing a powerful left foot effort at goal from 25 yards, which required a full stretch save from Mucha to keep it out.
Toffees striker Vellios then had a free kick easily saved by Jed Steer before the visitors were forced into a double change – Hallam Hope and Conor Grant replacing Francisco Junior and Conor McAlney as the sides went into half time all-square.
HALF-TIME: Norwich City U21s 0, Everton U21s 0
Veteran defender Sylvain Distin was replaced by youngster Matthew Pennington after the break, and Everton wasted no time in putting City under pressure.
They gave the Canaries an early warning sign when Grant headed Hope’s cross onto the bar, but moments later Ibou Touray’s corner fell to Vellios just yards out and he made no mistake from close range to give Everton a 1-0 lead.
City tried to respond immediately with some expansive football – Tierney’s left wing cross fell to Loza who tried an overhead kick that flew wide, before Fox had a long range effort go over the bar on 57 minutes.
Marshall’s side continued on the front foot without really creating many clear cut openings – bar Simon Lappin’s 74th minute free kick, which sailed over the crossbar with troubling Mucha.
Reece Hall-Johnson was then introduced as a replacement for Josh Murphy with 15 minutes to play, but the Everton defence was proving difficult to break down.
In the 78th minute Jacob Murphy came agonisingly close to giving City the lead – his 20 yard drive taking a wicked deflection off Shane Duffy and forcing Mucha into a fine reaction stop to push the ball wide.
Fox drove a free kick at goal soon afterwards, but the killer goal came for Everton in the 81st minute. Substitute Grant’s first-time left foot finish beating Steer from 12 yards to make it 2-0.
Ewan McNeil shot into the side netting late on for the Canaries, but a stubborn Everton defence proved too difficult to break down on the night as the visitors saw out a 2-0 win in a close-fought match at Carrow Road.
FULL-TIME: Norwich City U21s 0, Everton U21s 2
CITY: Steer, Barker, Tierney, Fox, McNeil, Sheriff, Jacob Murphy, Lappin, Loza, King, Josh Murphy (Hall-Johnson 76)
SUBS NOT USED: Clunan, Matthews, Morris, Norman
EVERTON: Mucha, Browning, Touray, Lundstram, Distin (Pennington 46), Duffy, Gueye, Hitzlsperger, Vellios, McAleny (Hope 45), Junior (Grant 44)
SUBS NOT USED: Taudul, Forrester