|Leeds United 1 v 0 Queens Park Rangers
Wednesday, 4th October 2023 Kick-off 19:45
Leeds make hard work of beating a bang average QPR
Thursday, 5th Oct 2023 21:38 by Tim Whelan
After Saturday’s debacle it was good to get back to winning ways, but the size of the win over Queens Park Rangers wasn’t by the wide margin that we might have expected after taking an early lead. But in the end that wasn’t the biggest talking point of the night.
Daniel Farke made four changes to the starting line-up, answering the calls on social media to bring back Rodon for Cooper and give us a more balanced central defensive partnership. And as he always plays one of Ayling and Cooper for the captaincy, that meant Shackleton had to make way. Elsewhere Archie Gray was back, and Anthony was selected to make his full debut.
Leeds were utterly dominant in the first half, and it took only nine minutes to take the lead. Rutter cut in from the left past three defenders and curled a delightful ball right into the path of Summerville, which the Dutchman controlled before slipping his shot past the advancing Begovic into the corner of the net.
And the same combination came close to doubling our lead when Rutter got to the byline and pulled the ball back for Summerville, but this time Begovic was able to make a smart save from the close-range shot. At this point we might have expected a comfortable victory in the style of the Watford game, with the opposition having to abandon their defensive plan after going behind, leaving plenty of gaps to exploit.
But we were denied another goal-fest as QPR still showed little desire to come forward, perhaps hoping to somehow sneak an equaliser, or maybe just settling for minimising the damage to their goal difference. For the rest of the game we kept on creating decent chances, but just didn’t mange to convert any of them into the second goal that would have put the game to bed.
Rodon sent a header narrowly wide from a corner when he probably should have scored, but although there were plenty of decent passing moves from Leeds, once again we found it difficult to break down a packed defence. The second half was a little bit more even possession-wise, as QPR woke up to the fact that to get anything from the game they would have to score, which left us a bit more space at their end of the pitch.
The Rs even managed to have their first shot of the evening from Ilias Chair, which was well struck and on target, but straight at Meslier. With a little bit of the zip going out of the Leeds performance Farke decided to make his first changes on 65 minutes. Piroe had been having another fairly quiet game and made way for Bamford, allowing Rutter to drop a little bit deeper. And Anthony’s debut came to an end, with James coming on.
These two substitutes would be involved in almost all of our brighter moments in the rest of the game. First James had a free run down the left before cutting inside, but his shot took a deflection which took all the pace off the ball, so Begovic was able to get down for a comfortable save. Then an excellent long ball out of defence from Rutter set Bamford free in the QPR half, and with no colleagues up in support he took the shot early, but Begovic was equal to it and pushed the ball wide.
Shortly afterwards James cut in from the left and his attempted cross took a wicked deflection off a defender’s back before looping up in the air, but Begovic just managed to tip the ball over the bar. And from the resulting corner Struijk somehow managed to hook the ball over the bar as it bobbled in the six yard box.
Poveda came on for Summerville, and Kolli emerged from the QPR bench to claim the prize for the evening’s silliest hairdo, despite the competition from Ayling and the QPR manager. With the score remaining at 1-0 the anxiety levels started to grow, as we feared that with one unlucky break the visitors might snatch a point they scarcely deserved.
And so it nearly came to pass as the ball came into the area and Dykes nipped in front of Rodon to poke the ball goalwards, but thankfully Meslier stood tall and deflected the ball away from goal with his chest. Just when we thought that might have been enough, eight minutes of injury time were announced, but to be fair there had been quite a few stoppages.
And the main controversy of the evening was still to come. Struijk’s sent a long clearance downfield, and as a defender misread the bounce Bamford was left well clear. He flicked the ball over Begovic’s head as the keeper raced out of his area, but then had to take evasive action to avoid a set of studs that were about to crash into his knee, which scuppered his plan to run round and knock the ball into an empty net.
The referee produced a straight red card, despite Begovic’s pleas that he shouldn’t have been sent off because his lunge hadn’t actually made contact. This sent the QPR forums into meltdown, with ridiculous claims that Bamford is a diving cheat and even a petition that he should be banned from football.
First of all there was no advantage in him diving in that situation. It was outside the box so we wouldn’t get a penalty, and had he run round Begovic even he would have probably scored. A second goal would give QPR no time to come back, so there was no point in deliberately getting the keeper sent off instead of scoring.
As far as I can see it was still a red card even without the contact, as it was a dangerous lunge, and Bamford’s run on goal was interrupted by the evasive action he had to take (bearing in mind he was just back from injury and had already been clobbered earlier in the game). With QPR having used all their substitutes Dykes had to go in goal, but Bamford failed to test him from the free kick, sending it straight into the wall.
The length of time it took for Begovic to leave the field meant an extra three minutes for the stoppage time in stoppage time, but such was our anxiety about holding on that we were more concerned about taking the ball into the corner than having some fun against the outfield player in their goal. We even sent Cresswell on for Rutter to help to shore up the defence, with Kolli making a fuss about Rutter not leaving the field via the nearest touchline.
Finally the whistle brought an end to 101 minutes of football and we could all breathe a big sigh of relief. The main thing is that we took the three points from the game, which took us back into the top six, though the gap to the top two remains at nine points. And at least Farke has now worked out his best defensive formation, so we can perhaps be hopeful of another success on Saturday against Bristol City.
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