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      U21s Report: Palace lose out in fierce Dinamo Zagreb encounter

      Crystal Palace U21
      Mooney 43'
      Dinamo Zagreb U21
      Brkljaca 14'
      Ilecic 65'

      Crystal Palace Under-21s will require a positive result from their final Premier League International Cup group-stage game against Braga next week after suffering a narrow 2-1 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb in Dulwich.


      • Paddy McCarthy names same outfield side as in defeat to Manchester City
      • David Omilabu’s fierce cross-shot forces Dinamo's Antonio Rajic into early save
      • Jackson Izquierdo produces pair of impressive low stops to keep Dinamo at bay
      • Mark Brkljca hammers shot in off the post to give visitors the lead after 15 minutes
      • Stop-start first-half ensues as Dinamo provide physical opposition
      • Fionn Mooney combines with Jack Wells-Morrison to level on the stroke of half-time
      • Half-time: Crystal Palace 1-1 Dinamo Zagreb
      • Important challenge from Tayo Adaramola denies Luka Vrbancic
      • Lenny Kecic scrambles in to restore Dinamo's lead midway through the second-half
      • Kecic then blazes over for Dinamo from close range
      • Palace push forwards as tensions bubble in feisty close to the game
      • Topil – already substituted – awarded second yellow card
      • Caleb Kporha has effort from tight angle smothered by Rajic
      • Late half-chances fall to Palace's Omilabu and Danny Imray, but neither can convert
      • Full-time: Crystal Palace 1-2 Dinamo Zagreb
      U21 Match Highlights: Crystal Palace 1-2 Dinamo Zagreb

      Despite defeat to Manchester City, Under-21s manager Paddy McCarthy kept faith with the same outfield side as earlier in the week. The only change to his XI saw Jackson Izquierdo introduced in goal for Joe Whitworth, who was in the first-team squad at Old Trafford.

      Palace set to their task with early purpose, David Omilabu forcing Zagreb ‘keeper Antonio Rajic to palm away a stinging cross after some quick thinking from David Ozoh from a free-kick.

      The visitors themselves had a spring in their step, however, after an impressive 3-1 win over Stoke City in midweek, and were aware that another win at Champion Hill would put them in a strong position for qualification.

      The Eagles did not help themselves initially, with some early wayward passing gifting a shooting opportunity to Matekovic from the edge of the box, but Izquierdo plunged low to his left to turn the ball around the post acrobatically.

      From the subsequent set-piece, Palace were indebted to their goalkeeper once more, the 18-year-old enjoying a strong first Under-21s start and plunging in front of Dinamo forward Fran Topil, to whom the ball had dropped kindly.

      The early warning signs were sadly not heeded, and after 15 minutes Mark Brkljca, intercepting the ball near to the Palace area, fired in a rasping effort across Izquierdo and in off the base of the post.

      The Premier League International Cup is designed to give domestic academies the opportunity to hone their trade against different styles from teams abroad, and in Dinamo Zagreb, McCarthy’s young Eagles came up against a physical side with plenty of technical ability, but who were also unafraid of committing a tactical foul or two.

      A stop-start second quarter of the game ensued – as well as a sense of frustration in Palace players and staff alike – as clear opportunities proved hard to come by.

      Indeed, it was Dinamo who appeared to have created the best opportunity five minutes before the interval. Matekovic wriggled past two challenges and got his shot on goal away, but Izquierdo produced another impressive stop, spreading himself to keep out the forward’s placed finish.

      It was a crucial intervention as, moments before half-time, Palace were able to carve out a key chance at last – and it was one Fionn Mooney finished with aplomb.

      Playing a one-two with Wells-Morrison out wide and collecting the return just inside the area, the No.11 took two sharp touches to set the ball beyond the centre-back before dispatching a powerful low finish into the bottom corner – a fitting reward for Palace’s first-half endeavour.

      When the second-half kicked off, Dinamo once again had the first clear opportunity when Matej Sakota made inroads down the left wing. Thankfully, a fine last-ditch tackle from Tayo Adaramola – who had chased back nearly the length of the pitch – prevented Luka Vrbancic from having a clear strike at goal.

      Then, just as Palace appeared to be growing into the half, Dinamo retook the lead. A fifty-fifty challenge between Kofi Balmer and Lenny Kecic saw the ball break kindly for Vilim Gec, who squared a reverse pass into the path of Kecic to scramble home from inside the box.

      McCarthy introduced Imray from the bench to add further impetus up front, but Dinamo should have been out of sight with 20 minutes remaining, Kecic somehow conspiring to blaze Sakota’s pull-back over from close range.

      An already-feisty encounter threatened to bubble over as physical challenges continued to fly in. Dinamo’s Topil – already substituted at this point – was shown a second yellow card for his role in the aftermath of one off-the-ball encounter.

      Aware that a draw would still all but see them through, Palace pushed up the pitch in the final quarter, carving open several chances to cross via Kporha’s combination with Omilabu. Indeed, a one-two between them set Kporha free inside the six-yard box but, from a tight angle, his rising effort was smothered by the goalkeeper.

      As the seconds ticked away, Palace poured bodies forwards. Balmer met Wells-Morrison’s late corner at the near post, but the angle was against the defender, whose flick found the side-netting.

      In the fifth minute of stoppage time, Balmer’s long throw was flicked on by Ozoh and reached Omilabu. The No.7 had precious little time to react, swivelling instinctively but scuffing his finish, and it was kept out at point-blank range by Rajic.

      Seconds later, Izquierdo launched one final long ball forwards into the penalty box which Balmer flicked on. Rajic punched clear, but only as far as substitute Danny Imray, whose outside-of-the-boot volley – again, an instinctive effort – sailed wide of the mark.

      The defeat lacked nothing for endeavour or industry from McCarthy’s side, who will now hope to add end product to their display against Braga on Wednesday evening, knowing that they will need to at least avoid defeat - and potentially win, depending on results elsewhere - if they are to progress from Group C.

      Crystal Palace: Izquierdo (GK), Kporha, Balmer, Grehan, Adaramola, Rodney (Imray, 70), Wells-Morrison, Ozoh, Omilabu, Akinwale (Ola-Adebomi, 84), Mooney

      Subs not used: Gregory (GK), Addae, Watson, Cadogan, Raymond

      Dinamo Zagreb: Rajic (GK), Kanizaj (Ruskovacki, 88), Gurlica, Zivkovic, Majdandzic, Brkljca, Lukanic, Vrbancic (Tonon, 60), Topil (Gec, 60), Matekovic (Kecic, 60), Peros (Sakota, 46)

      Subs not used: Klarin (GK), Tabak