Quintilla gave City a new set-piece threat during promising debut display
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Just days after the sale of Jamal Lewis was sealed, Xavi Quintilla endeared himself to Norwich City fans with a promising debut display, thanks in large part for offering an excellent new set-piece option.
The 24-year-old former Barcelona trainee has taken a bold step and given a real show of faith in the project on offer under Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber by joining the Canaries in the Championship.
Quintilla was playing in La Liga for Villarreal last season but clearly sees an upwardly mobile City as a fine potential route into the glitz and glamour of the Premier League, arriving on loan with a view to making his deal permanent if promotion can be secured.
After a minor strain had kept him out of the strange League Cup loss at Luton the previous week, when Sam McCallum had done okay but not truly taken the chance to force his was in to Farke’s team on the opening day of the league season, the Spaniard was straight into battle at Huddersfield.
An assured touch and eagerness to get on the ball were soon apparent at the John Smith’s Stadium but he wasn’t finding his passing range early on, being involved in some sharp moves - one of which brought a roar of well done from keeper Tim Krul - but not quite getting Onel Hernandez away on the left and seeing another pass forward for Kieran Dowell just creep out of play.
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Quintilla also misjudged a nice switch from the right from Todd Cantwell during a scrappy opening 10 minutes and couldn’t keep the ball in play despite an acrobatic attempt right in front of his watching head coach.
It was in the 13th minute when his set-piece threat started to emerge though. Whipping an in-swinging free-kick into the box from the right had initially been headed behind for a corner, he trotted over and took that from City’s left as well and the out-swinger was met powerfully by a Ben Godfrey header - which made clear contact with the arm of a home defender in an outstretched position and should have been given as a penalty.
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Soon after his first real test game defensively, as Huddersfield right-back Pipa teased him with good control before managing to clip in a cross, which was claimed comfortably enough by Krul.
He delivered two corners from the left in quick succession in the 21st minute, the first Dowell was only just beaten to at the near post but the second was easily cleared from a similar area.
A sharp pass into Oliver Skipp in the 25th minute drew a foul from former City midfielder Alex Pritchard as the visitors threatened to break and a similarly well-weighted pass in the 39th minute sparked a counter which saw Dowell’s touch just let him down, causing Farke to slap his hands together in frustration on the sidelines.
In between that though there had been another moment of defensive concern, as Pipa exchanged a one-two with Juninho Bacuna and beat him for pace. Fortunately however the low cross fell to Skipp, who was able to clear and start a counter-attack which finished with Hernandez having a shot saved.
A lively first half concluded with a fine free-kick from the left to Dowell on the right, who again couldn’t quite bring the ball under his spell, with Max Aarons then conceding a foul. Quintilla was then lurking at the back post with Teemu Pukki in the 42nd minute, only for Dowell to put too much on his cross from the right.
It was a quieter second half for the debutant, as Norwich largely took control and the hosts ran out of steam after working hard to contain City.
He so nearly had an assist in the 51st minute though, with a lovely corner from the left met powerfully by Christoph Zimmermann, only for the header to fly just over the bar - with the skipper knowing he’d missed a big opportunity.
A right-footed cross soon after didn’t quite reach Pukki in space at the pack post and another corner from the left in the 54th minute beat everyone, only for the attack to continue and Aarons to be taken down in the area - but again no penalty was given.
The Canaries were piling on the pressure and Aarons had danced across the edge of the box but was unable to find Pukki, neither could Quintilla with a low cross and Cantwell’s attempts to keep the move alive was also thwarted.
He was offside running on to a deep pass from Kenny McLean in the 68th minute but after Adam Idah had broken the deadlock in the 81st minute, the left-back made sure not to push forward too much and to hold his defensive position, to keep finding space to receive passes as City tried to control possession as much as possible through until the final whistle.
VERDICT: Not quite as athletic as Lewis but clearly has excellent technique and a fine set-piece threat to add to the arsenal. Will need to show more strength defensively but is adjusting to the Championship pace and can be happy with his first appearance.
RATING: 7 out of 10