Senior players impress in dominant Norwich City U21s triumph over Southampton
- Credit: Archant
Belgian midfielder Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe starred as Norwich City Under-21s put in a dominant performance to beat Southampton at Colney.
Odjidja-Ofoe, Ryan Bennett and Tony Andreu were the three over-age players permitted to bolster the young Canaries for the Barclays U21 Premier League clash.
Goals from young strikers Jamar Loza and Carlton Morris sealed the victory against the U21s of the highly-rated Saints academy, which has produced the likes of Gareth Bale and Luke Shaw in recent years.
City's U21s coach, Paul Wilkinson, said: 'Vadis, it's the third time he's played for us in the last month I think, so he's used to the way the boys play and it was nice to see him get on the ball a lot.
'It was a good game, Southampton are never easy, always a difficult game against them but I thought we bossed it and first half really we should have been further in front than what we were. Then second half it was a little bit difficult for a time, they had one or two breaks and opportunities but we got the deserved second goal and in the end we ran out deserved winners.'
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The visitors, managed by former Canaries first-team coach Martin Hunter, were never able to get a foothold against a dominant home side.
Loza fired City ahead in the 11th minute after a poor kick from Saints senior goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga held up in the wind. Jacob Murphy seized on the loose ball and slid Loza in to the right of the penalty box, who powered a shot into the roof of the net from 10 yards.
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Odjidja-Ofoe then came to the fore, demonstrating the midfield verve which Canaries fans had been expecting from the summer signing before he injured knee ligaments in October. The central midfielder displayed plenty of energy, nice touches and varied passing to set the tone for the match.
Good inter-play between Loza and Morris threatened to double the lead in the 20th minute but Gazzaniga rushed out to smother the shot and then recovered to divert the follow-up from Morris behind for a corner.
Southampton steadied their ship to prevent City extending their lead before the break, Andreu then stole the spotlight early in the second half, twice forcing decent saves from Gazzaniga and playing Murphy through, who was also thwarted by the Argentinian keeper.
Bennett played an hour as he stepped up his comeback from a hamstring injury, but was not replaced until after he had helped to double the lead in the 58th minute.
Murphy hooked a cross into the box, which Bennett powered goalwards with a header at the back post but Gazzaniga again made an excellent save and Loza had to divert the loose ball to Morris in the six-yard box, who forced the ball into the net.
Odjidja-Ofoe and Loza were both denied by further good saves in the second half and the former Club Brugges man saw a lob headed off the line in the closing stages – as the City U21s extended their unbeaten league run to seven matches.
Wilkinson was also pleased with the efforts of Bennett and Andreu, adding: 'Ryan was always going to play an hour, it was his first game back. We've got a couple of games coming up, whether he'll be involved again I don't know but it was important for him to get minutes under his belt and to be available for the first team for the end of the season as quickly as possible.
'It was good for Tony, it's been a little bit stop-start since he came in so it was good for him to get 90 minutes under his belt and with us having so much of the ball, he had a lot of touches and a lot of the play and that's important for him.
'He did well and as I said to them all, it's so important that we try and keep playing well and keep some momentum. The first team have got momentum, even the under-18s have had a bit of momentum, so it's important throughout the club if we can maintain that until the end of the season.'
Follow David Freezer on Twitter @davefreezer.