Bright start but poor set-pieces as Dowell returned for City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Kieran Dowell returned to the Premier League full of confidence and momentum, after finally shaking off his injury issues during the final quarter of last season.
The skilful midfielder was making just his third start of the campaign on Sunday though when Daniel Farke turned to the 24-year-old as part of the search for more attacking threat.
Dowell was brought in alongside Milot Rashica as City returned to a 4-2-3-1 formation against Leeds and made three changes to the starting line-up, with the Everton youth product played on the right wing.
His only other league start since promotion had been playing the opening hour of the 1-0 loss at Arsenal, also playing all of the 6-0 cup thrashing of Bournemouth in August.
Another opportunity to impress at Carrow Road had arrived, with Farke trying to conjure a response to a dreadful 7-0 defeat at Chelsea and five games without a goal.
What followed was a better performance than at Stamford Bridge but still another defeat, losing 2-1 to Leeds to make it eight losses from 10 games – with the goal coming from teen defender Andrew Omobamidele heading in a Rashica corner.
Dowell scored five goals during the final 10 games of last season but, like most of the City players, posed little genuine attacking threat of Premier League quality as confidence was again conspicuous by its absence.
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Ozan Kabak couldn’t make clean contact with an in-swinging corner from Dowell in the third minute and the former England Under-21 international was relieved to see Grant Hanley clear off the line five minutes later, after inadvertently keeping a Leeds attack going as he tried to win a tackle – although VAR would probably have ruled Dan James was offside anyway.
There were loud groans in the 14th minute as he made a total mess of a free-kick on the left, powering a curling effort behind the goal with City having pushed men forward.
The experience of midfielder Stuart Dallas was being used as injury cover at left-back by the visitors and he was causing Dowell problems with his attacking charges.
Dowell was free and waiting at the back post as Rashica fired a cross over in the 17th minute but Illan Meslier made the necessary claim.
Max Aarons didn’t continue his run as Dowell tried to execute a one-two soon after but a lovely ball into the right channel in the 20th minute allowed him to cut back onto his favoured left foot and cross, with Rashica throwing himself through the air but not able to head the ball.
Another corner – that he had won himself - was headed away but returned to him on the right by Mathias Normann, hooking the ball back into the box to spark a scramble, ending in Normann scuffing wide.
There was better defensive work in the 32nd minute as he got back to help Aarons deal with Jack Harrison but a scrappy first half ended with a corner from the right being too deep. Rashica retrieved though and tried a speculative effort from 35 yards that Meslier pushed behind to be safe just before the break.
Not known for his aerial prowess, Dowell beat England midfielder Kalvin Phillips in the air to flick on to Josh Sargent early in the second half.
He was over-ruled by Rashica for a free-kick on the left in the 50th minute, with the Kosovan thumping a low effort that Meslier got down to.
Dowell stuck with Dallas to make an important defensive block soon after and also set Rashica away with a lovely pass, only for the winger’s cross from the left to deflect to Meslier.
There were more groans in the 68th minute, as he curled a free-kick from the left straight behind, with his frustration obvious. A minute later and his day was over, being replaced by Christos Tzolis.
VERDICT: Let down by some poor set-pieces after looking bright and working hard initially. Understandable that wasn’t quite in his rhythm after limited chances and may have done enough in general play to get another chance at Brentford but City will need much more from one of their creative assets.
RATING: 5 out of 10