Norwich City U21s focus on beating Leicester to qualify for knockout stages of International Cup
- Credit: Richard Calver
Victory over Villarreal has fired hopes of qualification for the knockout stages of the Premier League International Cup for Norwich City Under-21s.
The young Canaries beat the Spanish side 1-0 at Carrow Road thanks to a spectacular second-half strike from full-back Louis Ramsay on Wednesday night.
The encouraging performance from a young side with an average age of just 18 saw City bounce back from a 3-0 loss to the U21s of PSV Eindhoven in their opening Group C match.
The Canaries play their final group match at Leicester on Tuesday, October 20, with coach Dmitiri Halajko confident victory will be enough to seal progress.
'That'll be the big one in a couple of weeks and I think if we were to win that, that would send us through,' Halajko said.
'There's been no other games in our group yet but we are the first English team out of all the groups to beat European opposition.
'So far everyone that has come over has managed to beat the English teams, so that's nice for us.'
The victory over Villarreal was sealed in front of over 3,500 spectators at Carrow Road, despite 16-year-old striker Benny Ashley-Seal seeing his penalty saved in the 56th minute.
'I think we got what we deserved,' Halajko continued. 'It was a close-fought match throughout, I thought we just slightly edged it. I think the result reflected the game, considering we missed a penalty.
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'I think we were good in possession and limited them to long-range chances, a few hairy moments towards the end, you are always going to get that when there's only one goal in it.'
Beating the Yellow Submarine youngsters was particularly satisfying for Halajko, given the current standing of the Spanish club, based on the country's east coast.
'They're flying at their club, they're top of La Liga, their B team's top of the division they're in and their under-20s are top of the division they're in so it doesn't get much harder than that,' the U21s coach added.
'They're higher than Barcelona and Real Madrid in all the leagues they're playing in, they've got some top quality players and we showed that when we're on it we're a match for teams like that.'
City's penalty was won by the pace of 15-year-old winger Glenn Middleton, making his debut at under-21 level, who is benefitting from being coached by legendary Canaries winger Darren Huckerby.
'Glenn's normal team is the under-16s and 18s,' Halajko explained. 'Darren is the manager of the 16s and he's been working with him really closely for at least two years now, looking at things like individual clips.
'So after each game they'll watch back those clips back together and Darren will obviously give his experience of playing in that position and give him some ideas, so certainly a massive part for him so far.
'It's perfect, it couldn't work better, Glenn's come on leaps and bounds because of it, Darren's a great coach, especially when it comes to working with individuals.
'He's got a really great rapport with them and he's certainly helped get the best out of him overall.'
There was a special word for Ramsay's strike from Halajko as well, praising the 18-year-old's effort from the left of the penalty area, after being teed up by Todd Cantwell.
'It was some goal, he's very happy,' the City academy coach added. 'He doesn't score loads, that's probably the first goal I've seen him score so he's saved it for a pretty good time and a pretty good way to do it.'