Norwich City U23s 0 Athletic Bilbao U23s 3: Todd Cantwell features but young Canaries slip to PL International Cup defeat
Todd Cantwell played the full 90 minutes in a welcome return to the Norwich City ranks but the young Canaries slipped to a 3-0 Premier League International Cup home defeat on Wednesday against Athletic Bilbao Under-23s.
Cantwell was a notable absentee from the first team party who travelled to Tampa for warm weather training, and the Dereham prospect was clearly earmarked for a run out after his recent hamstring injury.
Alfie Payne and captain Timi Odusina were also on duty for David Wright’s side, following their recent involvement on the bench at Sheffield Wednesday.
But Bilbao were far too sharp as an attacking force, with Asier Villalibre grabbing a brace and Jon Rojo completing the win in City’s opening pool clash.
The tone was set early on when Adam Phillips’ vital block halted Gaizka Larrazabal. The former Liverpool youngster then escaped when a weak pass was intercepted only for Larrazabal to lash a rising shot over.
City were feeding on scraps with Caleb Richards spurning a half chance when he failed to control Anthony Spyrou’s deep cross.
Canaries’ keeper Billy Johnson parried Inigo Vicente’s free kick but the home keeper was beaten when Villalibre guided a low shot into the bottom corner from six yards on the half hour mark.
Oier Zarraga poked a close range chance wide shortly after, before Johnson bravely denied Larrazabal with his legs as the Basques’ threatened to add to their lead.
Wright’s side did finish the half the stronger. Spyou’s shot was pushed behind before City were unable to get the final touch in a goalmouth scramble from the resulting corner.
The Canaries needed a strong start to the second period but fell further behind in the 48th minute when Villalibre was again in the right place to slot from close range, after Antonio Salado’s initial shot was saved by Johnson.
Rojo sealed the win when he smashed a shot past Johnson at his near post.
• City U23s: Johnson, Thomas (Kamal 64), Richards, Lomas, Odusina, Payne, Coley (Scully 70), Phillips (Milovanovic 81), Spyrou, Aransibia, Cantwell. Subs (not used): Jones, Blair (GK).
• Athletic Bilbao U23s: Iruarrizaga, Sillero, Rojo, Murua, Bernaola, Prados, Larrazabal (Artola 74), Zarraga (Cabo 81), Villalibre, Vicente (Gurzeta 85), Salado. Subs (not used): Agirrezabala (GK), Arberas, Nunez, Garcia.
• Goals: Villalibre (30, 48), Rojo (75)
• Referee: David Rock
• Attendance: 1,130
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