Norwich City U23s 2 Valencia U23s 0
PUBLISHED: 21:04 06 September 2016 | UPDATED: 22:37 06 September 2016
Norwich City Under-23s have made a winning start to their Premier League International Cup campaign, beating the development side of Spanish giants Valencia.
The Canaries made a flying start to the match, with a goal from Carlton Morris and an own goal forced by Josh Murphy putting them 2-0 up at half-time.
They then held on to the victory thanks to a superb performance from goalkeeper Paul Jones in the second half, frustrating the Spaniards on several occasions.
First-team players Alex Pritchard, Murphy and Sergi Canos were included in City’s starting line-up, alongside the experience of defenders Seb Bassong and Michael Turner, midfielder Graham Dorrans and keeper Jones.
Pritchard was returning from the stomach strain which had ruled him out since his debut at Blackburn on the opening day of the season, shortly after signing from Tottenham in a deal worth around £8million.
The attacking midfielder was withdrawn at half-time alongside Dorrans, with Saturday’s Championship clash with Cardiff City in mind.
Canos played the opening 64 minutes of the first team’s disappointing 3-0 defeat at Birmingham before the international break, having scored twice in the 6-1 thrashing of Coventry in the EFL Cup.
While Murphy replaced the Spaniard as a substitute at St Andrews and went on to score twice in the U23s’ 6-1 win at Peterborough in the Checkatrade Trophy last week.
The Canaries made their debut in the Premier League International Cup last year, losing 3-0 at home to PSV Eindhoven and 2-1 at Leicester, but beating eventual winners Villarreal 1-0 at Carrow Road thanks to a screamer from full-back Louis Ramsay.
The competitions brings together 12 of the best English academies with 12 of the top development squads in Europe, including from Athletic Bilbao, Porto, Benfica and Wolfsburg.
Pritchard saw a curling shot held in the seventh minute, as City tried to counter quickly against technically impressive opponents.
The former Spurs man then demonstrated his experience and class in the 15th minute, dropping his shoulder in midfield to create space and setting Morris clean through, with the striker winning the foot race to the ball and chipping round the visiting keeper.
Dorrans looked rusty at times, having not played since picking up a groin problem at the end of pre-season, but played Murphy clean through only for the ball to clip the flying winger’s heel.
Pricthard thought he had doubled the lead for the hosts in the 24th minute, curling a free-kick which he had won on the edge of the box just wide.
City keeper Jones had to be alive to be alert to the threat of a long-range free-kick from Eugeni Valderramna soon after and did well to turn the effort around his post.
That proved important, as the Canaries scored their second in the 28th minute.
Canos’ corner from the right was headed away but Murphy did brilliantly to rob Valderrama before the ball went out on the opposite side, before charging back into the box and thumping a low cross which cannoned into the net off the ankles of Valencia left-back Antonio Latorre.
Alberto Gil did his best to get the visitors back into the game, thumping two shots wide and drawing a clumsy tackle from Bassong, but City held on to their two-goal advantage until half-time.
Dorrans and Pritchard were withdrawn at the break, being replaced by Ray Grant and Ebou Adams, and the Canaries lost their way without the influential duo.
Turner thought he had made it 3-0 in the early stages of the second half, turning home a spilled Josh Murphy shot, but was adjudged offside.
Canos cut in from the right in the 49th minute and forced a good save from Ferran Ferri, who tipped over, but then the Spaniards started to find their groove.
Efete made a brave block to deny Valderrama in the 53rd minute and Ignacio Gil De Pareja thumped a powerful effort at Jones so after, who was set for a busy half.
The summer signing from Portsmouth gratefully grabbed a poor effort from close range from Jordi Sanchez in the 58th minute and soon after the keeper flew to his right to tip a shot from Ivan Cifuentes round his post, then doing similarly from a header from the same player soon after.
The 30-year-old was grateful to Turner in the 73rd minute, after a poor goal-kick saw substitute Rafael Mir cross from the right to Sanchez, who was denied by a sprawling block from the centre-back – as City weathered the storm.
Ferri got down well to deny Adams in the 80th minute, before blocking a Murphy shot at his near post and gratefully diving on a weak Bassong shot from the resulting corner.
Jones made another excellent save in the 83rd minute, sticking out a strong hand to deny a low shot from substitute Rafael Mir, with the forward throwing his hands in the air in frustration to see the keeper make yet another save.
Canos was withdrawn soon after and replaced by Diallang Jaiyesimi, who almost made an immediate impact. His determined play on the right allowed Adams to tee up Morris, who turned in the box but saw his left-footed shot denied by a sprawling save from Ferri.
The Canaries held out for the win but it was Jones who could take much of the credit for keeping hold of all the points, making one more diving save to deny Aridai Carbrera when the attacker was offside, just for good measure.
Norwich can now look forward to home clashes with Celtic and Aston Villa in their remaining group games, with a good chance of progressing to the knock-out stages.
Norwich U23s: Jones; Godfrey, Turner, Bassong (C), Efete; Dorrans (Grant 46), Thompson; Canos (Jaiyesimi 83), Pritchard (Adams 46), Jo. Murphy; Morris. Unused subs: Ramsay, Hallett (GK), Sambu, Ashley-Seal.
Valencia U23s: Ferri; Morales, Jimenez, Ayala (C), Latorre; Soler, Valderrama (Araujo 64); Gil (Mir 46), Cifuentes (Cabrerea 73), Gil de Pareja; Sanchez. Unused subs: Vidal, Sivera, Sierra, Villalba.
Attendance: 250 (estimated)
Referee: Christopher O’Donnell