Jekyll and Hyde QPR limp to another away loss – report
Tuesday, 16th Dec 2014 00:14 by Clive Whittingham
QPR’s latest away-day horror show played out much as expected at Goodison Park on Monday evening as they slumped to a 3-1 defeat against Everton.
A new system, more adventure, more possession, more shots, more threat. But, ultimately, more of the same. Now nine away matches, nine defeats, three goals scored, 21 conceded.
Harry Redknapp, hopefully tongue in cheek, suggested before this match that QPR had “tried everything” to get a result away from home this season. All they’d achieved for it was a rash from having their tummy tickled too often.
But you can’t fault Redknapp’s ambition here: setting up with Eduardo Vargas down the middle in the absence of the suspended Charlie Austin, flanked by Junior Hoilett and Matt Phillips. Jordon Mutch and Leroy Fer started in a three man midfield with Joey Barton which became a five out of possession.
The absence of Steven Caulker, adding kindling to that smoldering Christmas Party/Sunday Lunch story, did not result in a recall for Rio Ferdinand: Nedum Onuoha stared alongside Richard Dunne. Credit Redknapp once more: no favourites allowed.
It was different, it was attacking, and at first it looked like it was going to trouble Everton, who had only won four times in the league all season, hadn’t won in four matches before this one and looked tepid and nervous early on.
Hoilett, linked with a January move away from a club he joined with such high hopes but has rarely performed for, changed pace on an inward run from the left and set Vargas up for a shot that was blocked on the edge of the area after two minutes. Then Suk-Young Yun won a free kick after an enterprising move down the left and a whipped delivery from Vargas bobbled just wide of the near post off first Richard Dunne and then home defender Phil Jagielka.
The corner, typically, was badly worked short onto Yun’s un-favoured right foot but the South Korean still dug out a cross which troubled Everton and Phillips volleyed over when the ball dropped on the edge of the area.
The natives, who’d booed their tribe off at the final whistle of a recent home draw with second-bottom Hull City, were restless. Audible boos as attacking free kicks were worked short, and eventually back to goalkeeper Tim Howard. Roberto Martinez in the emperor’s new clothes?
There were occasional threats. Steven Naismith seized a well-judged pass wide left on a counter attack and crossed low through the penalty box just out of the reach of Romelu Lukaku charging in. Then, midway through the half, the Toffees briefly kicked into gear with first Naismith having a shot blocked inside the area – possibly by Dunne, possibly by Lukaku – then immediately Kevin Mirallas cut in from the left and shot a foot over Robert Green’s bar.
But Everton’s opening half hour could be better summed up by an early foray forward by Seamus Coleman where he hit the deck under no contact from Joey Barton and the ball rolled out for a goal kick. Tim Howard’s flap from a deep free kick, returned to the area by Hoilett, fell to Vargas in space eight yards out only for the ball to be blocked on the line. It would have been ruled out for offside, but Rangers were at least posing a threat not seen on the road so far this season.
And then the ego landed.
Joey Barton, boyhood Everton fan, has always wanted to play for the blue side of Liverpool and after half an hour here he started to fulfil that dream. There was no doubting the quality – and improbably ferocious power – in Ross Barkley’s outstanding thirty second minute opener that went fizzing past Rob Green via a slight deflection off Mauricio Isla from 25 yards out. But the whole thing had started with a typically sloppy pass, conceding possession with team mates committed ahead of the ball, from QPR’s captain fantastic who continues to act, play and talk like somebody with ten times as much ability as he actually has. He started his evening by giving the ball away after 38 seconds and that set the tone. Not fit to captain a pedalo, let alone our football club.
A blow, but not a terminal one. That came three minutes before half time. A bouncing ball on the edge of the area from poor play by Yun posed little danger until Barton intervened again: deliberately, needlessly and moronically elbowing Steven Naismith straight in the head. The Scottish international knew what his opponent had done and objected vehemently. Barton, as he always does, played the innocent. He was guilty as sin and the reward for his pure stupidity was a free kick from Kevin Mirallas that hit Vargas in the wall, wrong-footed Robert Green entirely and flew into the far corner.
Game over. Joey Barton, who to some QPR fans can still do no wrong, should retreat to the bench and the Twitter and stay there.
Everton’s far more understated – tattoos apart – holding midfielder Muhamed Bešić, meanwhile, gave a perfect example of how to play the position. Straight after half time he raced into his own area to head a decent counter attack cross from Junior Hoilett over the bar with Rangers honing in on a goal to bring them back into the contest. Bešić completely dominated the midfield, albeit with carte blanche from referee Neil Swarbrick to foul who he liked with no recourse. The outstanding performance in a match packed with midfielders who cost far more than he did. Man of the match by a street.
Any hope that prod may have provided the travelling faithful was swiftly extinguished by a disastrous 60 seconds. Dunne, who tipped the balance towards being QPR’s man of the match with a fend off on Kevin Mirallas at the start of the half that was more jaws of life than human arm, erred badly. The Irishman lashed the corner resulting from Bešić’s header hopelessly over the cross bar and then at the other end miscontrolled an appalling skied clearance from Rob Green, presenting possession back to the hosts who worked it wide to Mirallas. His cross picked out Naismith at the far post at the front of a queue of unmarked players left free to run into the area by Phillips and Barton failing to track back and the Scotsman’s header went in via a fine save from Rob Green and an unlucky deflection by Onuoha. Arguably an own goal. Undisputedly absolutely pathetic. The world’s biggest towel lobbed in from the sport’s quietest corner.
Just after the hour a counter attack saw Fer breaking into space down the middle of the field, but his shot was off target under heavy pressure from Bešić who could easily have been penalised for a foul. Earlier Bešić had chopped down Vargas tight to the touchline for an obvious free kick that referee Swarbrick gave as an Everton throw – excellent as he clearly was, the Bosnian was given an easy ride by the match official.
Everton appeared to have switched off, safe in the knowledge the game was won. One of Barton’s Hollywood passes to the right finally found the target and Isla cut the ball back for Mutch who should have done more than side foot over the bar when left in space. The former Cardiff man, injury plagued since he moved to West London, needs to assert himself more when given the chance. He’s almost going through the motions on his rare outings at the moment when he should be tearing up trees and smacking people round the head with them trying to get into the team.
With the foot off the pedal, and in truth playing well below their best throughout, Everton were starting to cede possession and field position. With a quarter of an hour left to play the game opened up for Junior Hoilett, dead centre, in the penalty area, but he decided to continue dribbling, tricking, flicking and eventually losing the ball. This was confusing, because until this point the Canadian had done nothing but shoot from all distances and angles. A ball dropping out of the sky 35 yards from goal was hacked into the Gwlady’s Street end full on the volley followed by a slap of the hands and a “damn” as if he scores full volleys from 35 yards out all the time. Shots dragged wide from ridiculously long range with better options available peppered Hoilett’s performance and yet when the chance for a shot in a reasonable spot occurred he shit out. The sort of player that will go somewhere else and do well, but somebody who QPR can only persevere with for so long. A tragic disappointment.
No matter. Redknapp introduced Bobby Zamora for Matt Phillips, once again well below the standard everybody expects of him, and Niko Kranjcar for Leroy Fer, the pick of a lousy midfield. Everton felt they should have had a free kick deep in the QPR half but Swarbrick made a mess of the advantage rule, allowing the Londoners to break down field. Mutch showed excellent control and drop of a shoulder to try and bend the ball around Howard and Zamora, after the American keeper turned the shot aside, tapped in his first of the season.
The Toffees responded positively with a powerful shot by Coleman saved by Green but the home crowd remained restless despite the score. Any positives gleaned from a late rally surely negated by the knowledge that this was Everton playing poorly, winning 3-1. Something the home fans seemed acutely aware of.
QPR could have prayed on those nerves with a second goal - God knows Everton conceded enough territory to make it happen - but when you win a corner, 3-1 down, four minutes from time and inexplicably try and work a short routine that has never once worked before, and within two touches the ball is 70 yards back downfield with your own defenders again, you deserve exactly what QPR got here: fuck all.
It could have been four had the post not come QPR’s rescue deep into four minutes of injury time. A bad injury to Kevin Mirallas, inflicted by Jordon Mutch with a challenge he was yellow carded for, prolonged the game long enough for his replacement Kone to tee-up Eto’o, on for a lazy and ineffective Lukaku, to drive a low shot against the woodwork.
This is all finger-drumming stuff. QPR are always going to struggle against the better teams in the league away from home and so far, in eight attempts, this was the most of a struggle they’ve actually put up. Good enough, in the end, for a 3-1 defeat against an out of form Everton side, playing so poorly that even their own fans were abusing them while leading 3-0.
So far it seems Harry Redknapp and QPR are focusing on winning the home games against teams around them, which they’re successfully achieving, with – presumably – the idea that they’ll win a few of the away games against the league’s lesser lights in the New Year. But in the Premier League you cannot afford to hand the ball to any team - be it Man City, Everton, Burnley or Leicester – in dangerous positions and not pay for it. All three Everton goals this evening were scored in such a way – two of them from Joey Barton literally presenting scoring opportunities to Everton just when it seemed QPR were getting a foothold in the game.
Pressure back on Saturday’s home match with West Brom then but the league table, with QPR third bottom, shows that all the good home form in the world won’t keep you up while you’re handing out gifts like this on your travels.
The overriding feeling from this one is that Everton, in poor form, were a million miles from their best. And were still handed a 3-1 win. You can all do your own caption for this one.
Everton: Howard 5; Baines 6, Jagielka 5, Distin 6, Coleman 6; Barkley 7, Bešić 8; McGeady 5 (Pienaar 73, 6), Mirallas 6 (Kone 90, -), Naismith 7; Lukaku 5 (Eto’o 77, 6)
Subs not used: Garbutt, Alcaraz, Robles, Stones
Goals: Barkley 33 (assisted Barton), Mirallas 43 (free kick, conceded Barton), Naismith 53 (assisted Naismith)
QPR: Green 5; Isla 5, Dunne 6, Onuoha 5, Yun 5; Fer 5 (Kranjcar 77, 5), Mutch 5, Barton 4; Phillips 5 (Zamora 59, 6) Vargas 6, Hoilett 5
Subs not used: Hill, Henry, McCarthy, Feridinand, Wright-Phillips
Goals: Zamora 80 (assisted Mutch)
Bookings: Mutch 88 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Richard Dunne 6 Says a lot that the man with a big hand in the third Everton goal gets the top man award. I admired Eduardo Vargas early on, but I thought he faded out of the game when he realised it was loss. Dunne did as much as he could.
Referee – Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire) 6 Little to referee really but got plenty wrong – thankfully all of it relatively inconsequential. Bešić, brilliant as he was, was permitted to kick his way through the QPR team with no comeback including one in the first half where he hacked Vargas onto the track at the side of the pitch and an Everton throw-in was awarded. QPR’s goal should have been an Everton free kick at the other end – one of several examples of him making a mess of the advantage rule.
Attendance 34,035 (500 QPR approx) Any QPR fans in attendance entitled to an evening with Kelly Brook. Please see the desk for details.
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