A double from Kelsey Mooney inflicted an opening day defeat for Norwich City Under-23s as they were beaten 2-0 by Aston Villa at the Banks’s Stadium.
City were unlucky to be trailing at the interval after Mooney’s low finish on 37 minutes, with Ant Spyrou and Adam Idah causing the home defence all sorts of issues on the counter attack.
The Canaries probed for an equaliser after the break but Villa sealed the points with around 20 minutes of the game remaining as Mooney scored his second, this time from the penalty spot.
City lined up in a 4-4-2 formation and head coach Matt Gill made just the one change from his side’s last outing – a 3-2 victory over Dereham Town in pre-season last Monday, with Simon Power making his return from injury in place of Saul Milovanovic.
The game took a while to get going with the early phase played between both boxes until on 14 minutes, City managed to breach their opponents backline. Ciaren Jones played a decisive pass forward to Idah who released strike partner Spyrou. He rounded the goalkeeper but couldn’t get enough on his finish as Villa managed to clear.
Moments later, only a final touch was missing from a Villa delivery as Mitchell Clark’s teasing cross evaded every Villain in the six-yard box.
Villa began to see more of the ball as the half wore on but it was City who looked the more threatening of the two teams, especially on the counter attack. Once again on the half hour mark, Idah was found and spun his marker before cutting the ball back to Spyrou who knocked the ball into space before shooting just wide.
Idah had a go of his own moments later after Devonte Aransibia had played him in but the Irishman could only find the side-netting with his strike.
But City found themselves behind at the interval, with a lapse in concentration at the back their undoing. The mistake allowed Jordan Cox to pick out Mooney who steered the ball past Jon McCracken and into the bottom corner.
Villa almost picked up where they left off early in the second-half. Mooney went close initially when he connected with a low cross but Timi Odusina managed to deflect the ball over the bar and the same man then headed the resulting corner just wide.
City were growing into the second-half and were beginning to put their opponents under increasing pressure although the final touch and pass was lacking.
And they were punished in slightly cruel circumstances with just over 20 minutes remaining. Jones was penalised for minimal contact on Mooney in the area and the Villa man stepped up to send McCracken the wrong way for his second of the match.
City had plenty of possession in the final 15 minutes but they struggled to break through the Villa defensive line and create anything of note as their opening game of the 2018-19 season ended in defeat.