Same old, same old from travel-sick Rangers - report
Wednesday, 3rd Dec 2014 20:40 by Clive Whittingham
QPR's miserable away form continued at Swansea City on Tuesday night with a 2-0 defeat leaving the R's ensconced in the relegation zone.
Queens Park Rangers’ failings in away games this season have been so repetitive, the games they’ve been involved in so monotonous, that I’m actually tempted to just copy and paste a report of one of the previous defeats and change the names.
Set up for 0-0, make no attempt to score a goal of your own, hand possession back to the opposition, concede a goal or four and slope off into the night. It’s a formula that Harry Redknapp is sticking to stubbornly in the face of overwhelming evidence that it’s not doing his team much good. The latest defeat, a 2-0 setback at Swansea City on Tuesday evening, means it’s now eight defeats from eight road trips in all competitions this season, with just two goals scored and eighteen conceded.
QPR have found a variety of different ways to make a pig’s ear of games away from Loftus Road this season, within the framework of Redknapp’s maddening approach to these so-called “bonus games”. A 4-0 reverse at Tottenham could be partly attributed to an ill-fated dalliance with a back three formation while a loss by the same margin at Manchester United was all about a pathetic, defeatist attitude to the fixture. At West Ham you could have questioned Rangers’ work ethic and effort levels, at Chelsea you could bemoan bad luck and a near miss and at Newcastle you could question why Rangers felt the need to be quite so lethargic, one-paced and negative against a team that – despite its recent winning run – isn’t actually that good.
At the Liberty Stadium in South Wales you probably just had to hold your hands up and admit that Swansea City are a far, far better football team than QPR. Stronger in every single department. Not so much taking candy from a baby as taking it from somebody in a medically induced coma.
The R’s could have done things to aid their cause. Stringing a five-man midfield out in a line with only Charlie Austin ahead of them meant that whenever the ball did make it far enough up the field for a QPR midfielder to take possession of it he found no movement or option for a pass ahead of him. Consequently the instinctive reaction of Rangers players receiving possession was to turn 90 degrees, or even a full 180, back towards their own goal and find a man to pass to there. All this does is allow the opponent to push further up, throw more caution to the wind, and eventually seize possession back when Rangers are left with only the pass back to Rob Green and a long kick down field option to take. It was like watching a Rugby League training drill at times, where forward passes are penalised by the referee. At points it seemed as though both teams were kicking the same way.
It was also mystifying just how and why Swansea’s formidable centre forward Wilfried Bony was allowed to run straight through the middle of the defence and into the penalty area on quite so many occasions. Bony had expert support from the excellent Gylfi Sigurdsson but was nevertheless, playing as a very obvious, beacon-like lone centre forward and therefore you don’t need Carol Vorderman to work out that one centre half should mark him and the other should take the next attacker or go to the ball. Redknapp recalled Richard Dunne after a ban alongside Steven Caulker and moved Nedum Onuoha to right back instead of Mauricio Isla but the new look back four allowed Bony these clear runs on goal all evening – three times Robert Green had to race from his line and make brave one on one saves from the giant Ivorian. It wasn’t even as though Bony’s runs were particularly deft or cunning, peeling off into wide areas or arriving late into the penalty box to meet a cross – he was just ploughing a straight line right down the middle of the field directly towards the goal. It was terrifying.
And having miraculously made it into the last 15 minutes of the game without conceding a goal – thanks largely to a Man of the Match display from Green – you could probably argue that Redknapp was slow with his substitutions. Swansea were vastly superior as it was but Garry Monk had also added two fresh players before Rangers made a change, and by that time the home side had taken the lead. With Charlie Austin lacking support, Joey Barton giving the ball away as if he’d been sponsored to do so for charity, and both Leroy Fer and Niko Kranjcar looking like leggly liabilities without the ball, a proactive substitution before falling behind seemed like a better idea than a half-arsed reactive one after conceding.
It may also have been very different had Fer converted either of the chances he had. The first, before half time, was from close range after Kranjcar had caught the Swansea defence napping – you could certainly forgive them for mentally clocking off in this one – and hooked dangerous ball back into the heart of the goal mouth from tight to the byline. The Dutchman could only divert it straight to goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski. Deep in the second half, from QPR’s first corner in the whole match, the ball fell Fer’s way on the corner of the six yard box but his instinctive, goal-bound volley was deflected behind.
But QPR struggled to exist as an attacking threat in the game all evening. A second half injury stoppage brought a visibly furious Charlie Austin to the touchline to discuss the thankless task he’d been given with the coaching staff. Moments later QPR’s top scorer snatched at a 20 yard volley and smashed the ball over the bar – the only sight of goal he had all night.
Overall you could do little else but conclude that QPR were just beaten by a far superior side.
After Niko Kranjcar had blazed a first minute free kick wide from 20 yards out, Green was forced to make a one on one save when Bony freed Routledge in the area. Green saved well from him, and then again when centre back Kyle Bartley attacked the near post at a corner and flicked a powerful header towards goal. Dunne swooped in to clear danger when Yun Suk-Young’s poor ball had Bony in space and a prolonged period of crosses into the box and possession round the edge of the area was nightmarish for the travelling faithful behind the goal. When a basic two v one situation was allowed to develop unchecked down the Swansea left Sigurdsson finished the move with a heavily deflected shot that Green made rather a mess of and must have been thankful to see bobble wide. Niko Kranjcar was beaten in the air by tiny Leon Britton at a particularly low moment.
When Joey Barton was booked by referee Kevin Friend for fouling Wayne Routledge on the left corner of the QPR box ten minutes before half time, Robert Green needed to make a world class save down by his left post to keep out Sigurdsson’s free kick after the goalkeeper had lined his wall up too far right. The goal line technology said the ball was 95% in – but that 5% makes all the difference.
Eduardo Vargas drilling wide from the edge of the area right on half time suggested there may be better to come from the Londoners, but Bony allayed those hopes by storming through on the goal again two minutes after the restart after Barton had passed Sigurdsson the football. Later he had more time than he allowed himself having been left free in the area once more – a first-time side-footed pass back to Green a real waste. Frustrated, the Ivory Coast international struck a fabulous improvised volley that drew the save of the night from Green away to his right.
There was Fer’s near miss to raise QPR hopes but really the only thing on their side by this point was the clock – the R’s would have to hang on for just another ten minutes.
Sadly, the task was beyond them. With Nathan Dyer’s pace added to the attack from the bench, Swansea came hunting the breakthrough again and finally got it when Ki Seung-Yeung squared up Onuoha in the area, narrowed the angle suggesting he was going to cross, then drilled the ball past Green and into the net off the base of the far post.
As usual QPR suddenly looked a lot more urgent than they had for the previous 80 minutes, and immediately sent on Junior Hoilett for Joey Barton who’d had a particularly poor evening. But Swansea’s possession-based game is not one you want to be facing while chasing a game and in actual fact it was the home side who were able to score the next goal and pull off into the distance. Leroy Fer this time the midfielder caught in possession in a bad area while searching for options further forward, Dyer streaked away into space and his square ball across the edge of the box set up former QPR man Wayne Routledge for a smooth low finish and a goal his overall performance richly deserved.
The result moves Swansea to sixth and means that in seven away league games so far this season QPR have played five of the top six and nobody lower than tenth. With Everton and Arsenal to come before the turn of the year it means, weirdly, that the R’s will have played everybody in the top ten on the road apart from Man City in the first half of the season. Little wonder then, as a newly promoted side, that they’ve found points and goals hard to come by. Swansea, incidentally, easily the best team of those faced on the road so far.
But the fact remains that the approach QPR are taking to their away matches simply isn’t working, or even close to working. They don’t look capable of scoring, or keeping a clean sheet. They have to do something different, starting with finding a way to maintain possession higher up the field and actually pose problems to teams so they can’t just flood forward knowing they’re unlikely to get caught at the other end.
Unfortunately in the current set up you could see this result coming a mile away, and the Everton and Arsenal games will likely go much the same way.
Swansea: Fabianski 6; Richards 7, Williams 6, Bartley 6, Taylor 6; Britton 7 (Shelvey 79, 6), Ki Sung-yueng 7; Montero 7 (Dyer 70, 8), Routledge 8, Sigurdsson 8 (Carroll 87, -); Bony 8
Subs not used: Gomis, Barrow, Amat, Tremmel
Goals: Sung-yeung 78 (assisted Dyer), Routledge 83 (assisted Dyer)
Bookings: Taylor 70 (foul), Britton 75 (foul)
QPR: Green 8; Onuoha 6, Dunne 6, Caulker 6, Suk-Young 5; Barton 5 (Hoilett 80, -), Henry 5, Fer 5, Kranjcar 5, Vargas 6; Austin 6
Subs not used: Ferdinand, Phillips, McCarthy, Isla, Mutch, Zamora
Bookings: Barton 35 (foul), Fer 56 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Robert Green 8 Pretty obvious. Without a number of fine saves – the one from Bony’s first time volley in the second half the pick of them – this would have been a total shellacking.
Referee – Kevin Friend (Leicestershire) 8 Controlled the game well, few controversial incidents, all the yellow cards just about right.
Attendance – 20,145 (500 QPR approx) Very difficult to judge how many QPR fans there were there, but it was certainly more than would have been without the free coaches. Not sure what Little Tom Carroll ever did at QPR to justify being booed when he was introduced late on. The Swansea fans stuck with their team through a frustrating game and got their rewards.
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