Norwich City's Under-21s fell to a 2-1 defeat away to Oxford United in the first group match of the EFL Trophy on Tuesday evening.
The young Canaries took the lead in the 63rd minute, with Shae Hutchinson latching onto a precise through ball from William Hondermarck before converting with confidence.
Cameron Brannagan, who had been introduced to the second half as a substitute, equalised for Oxford by controlling a drop-ball from the referee and shooting from distance, following a spell of players receiving treatment.
United continued to look more dominant as the second-half progressed, and Shandon Baptiste made the pressure count with a well-placed strike late on for 2-1.
Tom Scully had the first chance of the game, shooting wide with a left-footed volley from outside the box following a balanced opening 13 minutes.
The U21s midfielder remained the centre of attention in a quiet first half, picking up an injury that forced him off the field inside the 20th minute, before re-entering the play moments later.
The home side slowly began to grow into the game, seeing their first sight of goal through Rob Hall’s strike, driven directly at William Johnson.
Norwich had another couple of efforts in response, Rob Nizet winning a corner with a shot from the left wing, and Ciaren Jones heading the resulting set-piece wide.
Hall continued to look like United’s most dangerous attacking outlet, but failed to trouble Johnson with a free-kick that went straight at him on the 42nd minute.
The Canaries ‘keeper was called into action again on the brink of half-time. Hall twisted and turned onto his right foot inside the box before seeing a shot blocked by Akin Famewo. The following corner came out to Baptiste via Rob Dickie, and the former’s curling effort from distance forced Johnson into making a fantastic, outstretching save to his left.
The second half began in the same vein the first 45 ended, with Johnson immediately being called into action to deny Dan Agyei with a strong palm to his right, getting down well to keep the scores level.
Agyei again came close to giving The Yellows the lead, heading Anthony Forde’s cross on target, only for Johnson to get up well and parry it over the bar from close range.
With their first real chance of the second half, Norwich broke the deadlock. Hondermarck threaded an esquisite pass through to Hutchinson who had read the offside trap well. One-on-one with Jack Stevens, Hutchinson slotted calmly into the bottom right corner for 1-0.
Oxford United's equaliser had a slightly bizarre origin, as Brannagan, on as a substitute, latched onto the referee's drop-ball to slam a shot into the bottom left corner, after play had been paused for Dickie and Famewo to receive treatment.
With six minutes remaining, United doubled their lead through Baptiste. Picking the ball up from a cross into the 18-yard-box, he curled it expertly into the far corner. It was one of the few occasions on the evening that there was little Johnson could do about it.
Six minutes of time were added on at the end of the 90, but Oxford held onto their slim lead with little trouble.
City will face Crawley Town and Portsmouth in the remaining two games of their EFL Trophy group.
Oxford United: Stevens, Dickie, Hall, Fosu (Sykes 56), Long, Forde (Brannagan 65), Mousinho (C), Baptiste, Hanson, Agyei (Lofthouse 65), Beroke
Subs not used: Eastwood, Moore, Allardyce, Goodrham
Goals: Brannagan (76), Baptiste (84)
Bookings: Dickie (53)
Norwich U21s: Johnson, Nizet, Thomas, Famewo (C), Jones, Milovanovic, Scully, McAlear (Khumbeni 90), Hondermarck (Dickson-Peters 83), Hutchinson, Martin (Jackson 90)
Subs not used: Dronfield, Rose
Goals: Hutchinson (63)
Referee: Christopher Sarginson
Kick off time: 7.45pm
Venue: Kassam Stadium