Norwich City U21s 0 Liverpool U21s 0
- Credit: JASON DAWSON
Norwich City's Under-21s were held to a 0-0 draw by Liverpool in front of over 9,000 spectators at Carrow Road in their latest Barclays Under-21 Premier League clash.
Unlike previous U21 games this season, there were no senior first-team players involved for the Canaries.
Jamaican international Jamar Loza – who scored five in City's 7-2 win over Southampton last month – was joined by Reece Hall-Johnson and Conor McGrandles as the only players to have some experience with the senior squad.
Former Blackburn goalkeeper Jake Kean also started, having signed for City on a free transfer in the summer.
Norwich went into the game in decent form – winning two of their last three – and faced a Reds team sitting bottom of the table, with two games in hand on teams above them.
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The most recognisable name in the visiting team was that of winger Sheyi Ojo, who scored three goals in 18 appearances for Championship club Wolves earlier this season and impressed at that level for Wigan last season.
The hosts almost took the lead in the first minute of the game, Scotland U17 international Glenn Middleton seizing on a loose ball, teasing Liverpool full-back Corey Whelan and then firing over the crossbar with his right foot.
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There was an early scare for Kean as Jerome Sinclair closed down a back-pass and forced Joe Crowe to help his goalkeeper clear the danger.
With first-team manager Alex Neil watching on from the directors box, alongside majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones and chief executive David McNally, Loza was next to go close for City as he also fired over the bar with a right-footed effort in the 17th minute.
The 21-year-old then appealed for a penalty a minute later as he chased through a clever flick from Todd Cantwell, but couldn't get his body the right side of Liverpool skipper Dan Cleary.
Attacking midfielder Cantwell was at the heart of much of City's good play and was next to go close to opening the scoring, after being brought down on the edge of the area by Pedro Chirivella following a good burst forward by Jamie Eaton-Collins on the right wing.
Cantwell dusted himself down and fired a low free-kick just wide of the right-hand upright in the 30th minute.
The Reds started to come into the game more in the closing stages, with a cross from the left from Sam Hart evading everyone in the Norwich penalty area.
Right winger Harry Wilson then played Whelan clean through in the 38th minute, forcing Arinse Uade into a recovering tackle to force the ball out for a corner.
Middleton had the final chance of the half in the 41st minute, thumping the spinning ball goalwards after a deflected Eaton-Collins effort, but Ryan Fulton kept the powerful shot out to keep the score at 0-0 at the break.
The visitors started the second half the better, Ojo tearing through before firing well over the bar and Alex O'Hanlon doing similarly on the counter-attack in the 52nd minute, dragging his shot just wide of Kean's right-hand post.
Kean was then on the end of a heavy aerial challenge from Sinclair four minutes later, causing him to drop Hart's cross from the left, but the danger was cleared.
Eaton-Collins was fortunate to not see his error lead to the opening goal soon after, trying to dribble his way out of danger on the edge of his own penalty area only to lose possession. Fortunately for the winger, Sinclair pulled his low right-footed shot just beyond the far left-hand post, after being released by O'Hanlon.
Kean was forced to save with his feet at his near post from Sinclair soon after, as Liverpool started to dominate the match.
With first-team coach Gary Holt barking orders alongside U21s coach Dmitri Halajko in the dug-out, the Canaries were trying to get forward but finding the pace of the visitors on the counter-attack a problem.
One such move saw a lovely one-two between O'Hanlon and Chirivella open up a shooting opportunity for Wilson from 15 yards but Kean made a good diving save to his left to keep the scores level.
Substitute Michee Efete was straight into the thick of the action, forcing a save from a corner in the 76th minute and then charging back to help defend, bringing down Hart on the edge of his own box and being booked. Chirivella's dangerous whipped cross from the resulting free-kick then had to be headed away by Afolabi Coker under intense pressure.
Crowe was also booked in the 83rd minute, for a crude tackle to stop Ojo going clean through, as City desperately tried to keep their opponents at bay.
Crowe was then forced into an excellent block as Chirivella followed up the resulting free-kick after it was cleared, before Kean was forced to save again from Sinclair.
Finally the young Canaries mounted some late attacks, Middleton's low cross evading everyone in the Liverpool box, including Efete at the back post. Middleton also forced a save after another run down the left wing but it was the Reds who were to go closest in the final minutes.
Fortunately for the hosts, substitute Brooks Lennon misread a lovely cross from the left from Hart and looped his shot over the crossbar from close range in the 93rd minute, as both sides had to settle for a point.
Norwich U21s: Kean; Hall-Johnson (C), Coker, Crowe, Uade; McGrandles, Grant; Eaton-Collins (Efete 67), Cantwell, Middleton; Loza. Unused subs: Killip (GK), King, McIntosh, Fleming.
Liverpool U21s: Fulton; Whelan, Cleary (C), Maguire, Hart; Chirivella, Virtue; Wilson, O'Hanlon (Lennon 89), Ojo; Sinclair. Unused subs: George (GK), Trickett-Smith, Polgar, Brewitt.
Referee: Chris Pollard