STOKE CITY’s Under-21s had a difficult start to 2013 as they were thrashed 5-0 by Norwich City at Nantwich Town’s Weaver Stadium on Friday night.
The visitors’ twin brother wingers, Josh and Jacob Murphy, were the stars of the show as the latter notched a second-half hat-trick.
Josh Murphy and Jamar Loza grabbed the other goals on a difficult night for City’s youngsters.
The Potters were quick out of the blocks as they lined up with Karim Rossi up front with James Alabi, while the visitors had the England youngsters on either side of their five-man midfield.
It was those two who combined on six minutes to give the Canaries’ the lead, though – Jacob Murphy sprinted infield from the right-hand side, before sliding a ball through that Jordan Keane looked to have covered, only for the full-back to scuff his clearance and allow Josh Murphy in.
The pacey wingman finished clinically past Dan Bachmann to give the early advantage to Norwich.
Stoke looked rattled by the early setback and Bachmann was forced into a good save when Loza found space in a right channel and fired in a low drive.
On 16 minutes, Loza then dropped deep to collect the ball and drove a speculative shot at goal which Bachmann saved, while up the other end, Jordan Richardson failed to test Jed Steer with a free-kick 25 yards out.
Norwich looked sharper in possession in general and Loza was afforded another chance when his pace saw him get away from Stefan Glanski on 28 minutes, but Bachmann was his equal as he tipped the ball behind for a corner.
On 35 minutes, Norwich full-back Harry Toffolo found himself in advanced position in the box after a clever pass from Cameron King, but he was eventually crowded out by Potters defenders and nudged his shot wide.
The Canaries were having all of the attacking play, with Josh Murphy turning provider this time for his brother, whose shot went over the crossbar on 37 minutes.
Stoke pushed for a way into the game as the half came to a close, and hustled their opponents into their own half with more consistency, but clear chances were difficult to come by, although Rossi did meet one of Adam Thomas’ corners but Steer held it comfortably.
Rossi had the second-half’s first opportunity two minutes in when he crafted it himself – a powerful shot from outside the box that flew just wide of the left-hand post.
However, it was Norwich who struck early in the half again, and once more it was the Murphy twins who dovetailed to double their advantage.
Josh Murphy found space on the left and played a superb ball across to Jacob, whose finished didn’t lack confidence, leaving Bachmann stranded and Stoke a mountain to climb.
Those two were beginning to dominate proceedings on their own, and once again they combined for Norwich’s third – Josh Murphy picked out an even better pass for his brother to race onto and slot past a helpless Bachmann.
Four minutes later, a Norwich counter-attack almost produced a fourth goal – Josh Murphy found himself in acres of space on the right, and squared back to Michael Clunan whose shot rebounded off the post.
After Alabi just failed to break into the box following Stoke’s best passing move of the game, Clunan nearly put the result beyond doubt up the other end as his curling effort whistled wide on 64 minutes.
Stoke were having a decent spell, however, and after some uncertainly in the Norwich box Glanksi hit a left-footed shot at goal from the edge of box but screwed it wide.
Norwich punished them with the fourth goal on 69 minutes as Jacob Murphy completed his hat-trick, smashing the ball home with his trusted right foot as it fell to him 20 yards out.
The Potters introduced two trialists in John Marsden and Dominic Vose to try and wrestle some momentum, but the tireless Loza was only prevented from adding a fifth for Norwich on 80 minutes thanks to a goal-line clearance, and Clunan’s free-kick moments later was saved acrobatically by Bachmann.
Loza then got the goal his play deserved in 85th minute to heap on the misery for Stoke – after picking up the ball 20 yards out, he proceeded to curl a delightful shot into the top corner off the woodwork.
Stoke had been waiting for the final whistle to come and battled right until the end, but were ultimately outclassed on the night as Norwich ran out winners.
Stoke City: Bachmann; Keane, Heneghan, Glanski, Clarkson; Thomas (Marsden 71), Richardson, Dawson, Musungu (Vose 71); Alabi, Rossi.
Norwich City: Steer; Francomb, McNeil, Gafaiti, Toffolo; Jacob Murphy (Sheriff 79), Durojaiye, Clunan, Josh Murphy (Hall-Johnson 71); King (Morris 76); Loza.