Five star Foxes send QPR down with a whimper – report
Monday, 25th May 2015 13:14 by Clive Whittingham
QPR bowed out of the Premier League with a 5-1 defeat at Leicester City on Sunday, ensuring they will finish bottom of the table after 38 games.
Another away defeat, another demoralising thrashing, another day in the life of Queens Park Rangers.
Having lost their first dozen away games of the year scoring just six times, Rangers have finished the campaign with a 6-0 and now a 5-1 on the road. They’re dead last, with the league’s worst defensive record (73 conceded), worst goal difference (-31), worst away record (two wins, 16 defeats) and worst team. It has, once again, all gone so horribly, horribly wrong in W12.
Nobody ever gets any work done on the last day of school, and so it proved here. Clint Hill and Yun Suk-Young allowed Riyad Mahrez to retrieve a clearance unchallenged on the edge of the area and launch a speculative shot which Karl Henry, pathetically, ducked out of the way of. Alex McCarthy, picked in goal ahead of the concussed Rob Green, could have thrown his hat on the ball but spilled it instead into the path of Jamie Vardy to slam in the easiest of his five goals this season. That rather set the tone: Leicester the class valedictorian, QPR kicking their heels at the back worrying about the future.
It didn’t get much better. Leicester’s second goal was almost as shambolic, defensively, as the first – Jeffrey Schlupp given the freedom of the left wing to run into space and cut a low cross back, Marc Albrighton alert and on the move on the opposite flank while Leroy Fer stood and watched. The former Aston Villa man, making a name for himself at right wing back these days, lashed an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner.
Two nil at half time, and it could have been so much worse. Leonardo Ulloa, who’d started up front with Vardy and ahead of Mahrez, showed up Richard Dunne’s rapidly declining movement and usefulness in the very first minute, standing the Irish veteran up then curling the ball around him and a foot wide of the far post. Later the former Brighton man volleyed over after Albrighton had once again shown up Leroy Fer’s defensive deficiencies with an embarrassing nutmeg and cross. McCarthy held a header from Vardy under the crossbar and Ulloa shot wide with the keeper beaten in first half injury time.
There was a list of problems a mile long for Chris Ramsey to deal with at half time. Fer, as he has done whenever selected there, showed he doesn’t have the defensive game, or the desire to get up and down the line, to play wide left. Joey Barton, as he has done all season, spent the half kicking the ball straight to Leicester players. This included from every single set piece which he insisted on taking – one free kick in a decent crossing position was curled several feet over the bar as he took on a stupidly ambitious shot, then when referee Michael Oliver awarded one in shooting range he drilled a limp effort into the wall. Still, he was given a standing ovation by the QPR fans every time he came across to take a corner in the second half, so some people clearly enjoy seeing the possession turned over frequently and every set piece wasted.
But it was the performances of the few players who might still be here next season that caused the most concern. Yun, for instance, had his worst game for the club at left back. McCarthy in goal is also a real worry. A fantastic goalkeeper, potentially, with all the distribution and command of the area that Rob Green lacks, he’s played almost no competitive football for more than a year now and on his two outings so far this year he’s looked accident prone and rusty. Against Sheffield United and Leicester – not exactly the great Dutch team of 1978 – he’s shipped eight goals and been culpable in too many of them.
Only Matt Phillips, who smacked a trademark 20 yarder fractionally wide of the post with Schmeichel beaten midway through the half, emerged from the senior pros with any modicum of credit on Sunday.
Perhaps it would have been different had that gone in and made it 1-1. Straight after half time Rangers had another opportunity, young Reece Grego-Cox on his full debut arriving on time at the back post, unmarked, but unable to steer a gilt-edged chance on target for his first goal for the club.
The youth team graduate had been moved to the left flank by this stage, with Fer played through the middle. He’d enjoyed some bright moments but struggled to make an impact in the first half against a big, experienced, physical back three of Wes Morgan, Robert Huth and Marcin Wasilewski. The move to the left was presumably an attempt to tighten Rangers up defensively – somebody willing to run back and defend replacing somebody who wasn’t – but it didn’t work and Leicester quickly added two goals from that side of the field.
The warning signs were there when Clint Hill tried to shepherd a ball out for a throw in, had it taken from him by Ulloa and Nedum Onuoha had to run in behind McCarthy and head the resulting deflected cross out of the danger zone. Ulloa then claimed the third goal as the ball flew left and right through the penalty area before eventually deflecting into the top corner off the Argentinean striker when Wes Morgan tried his luck from 12 yards out.
Within 60 seconds Mahrez had twisted and turned Grego-Cox inside out on the left corner of the penalty box and crossed low for the outstanding player on the pitch Esteban Cambiasso to guide into the bottom corner for 4-0. Cambiasso was mesmeric, looking and playing like a man ten years younger, gliding around the field, never giving the ball away, always probing and asking questions, guiding his team around the park. The Leicester fans’ decision to turn up wearing condoms on their heads in tribute to him was odd, but you can see why they’re keen for him to have another 12 months with the veteran midfielder.
Grego-Cox was subsequently moved across to the right wing where he enjoyed his best spell of the game, getting Schlupp the left wing back on the back foot, doing him for pace and skill a couple of times and delivering very decent crosses into the box. He can reflect on a tough afternoon with some good, some bad, and plenty of lessons learnt. It was just about all QPR had to cling to.
That, and what is almost certainly Charlie Austin’s last goal for the club – a typically powerful, towering header from a rare well-delivered Barton free kick just before the hour. Austin laughed while saluting his goal, almost embarrassed by it. Nothing for Charlie Austin to be embarrassed about though – 18 in 36 in his first ever Premier League season and a richly deserved England call up. He’s shown a real willingness and ability to hone his skill and work on his game as he’s stepped up through the league.
When you look at Jamie Vardy’s work rate and impact in the Leicester team, you wonder how much better Austin would have done with a striking partner doing his running and donkey work – Jamie Mackie dare I say – and leave him to focus purely on life in and around the penalty box.
Later Brandon Comley came on for Karl Henry to make his first senior appearance for QPR. He looked raw, and fraught, clearly alive with adrenaline and nervous tension. But he was effective - winning tackles, covering the defence, completing passes – it really showed up just how few ‘legs’ there are in this QPR team. Too many ageing pros with declining engines, not enough pace, not enough tempo, has been a problem all season and a sprightly teenager shone a bright light on it once more. Cole Kpekawa, a physical left sided defender, was also given a run near the end instead of Yun who’d been dreadful.
Nedum Onuoha planted a firm header wide of the back post from a deep Barton corner – a sitter – with a quarter of an hour left but the game was long since over, the party in full swing, the Mexican waves rolling around the stadium and QPR left to skulk home with their tales between their legs. For so long it looked like Leicester were certain for the drop, and QPR stood a chance of staying up. The flags, the crackling atmosphere, the palpable sense of relief – it was like when they used to wheel the speedboat past the losing contestants on Bullseye.
Looking at Leicester, comfortable in their shape and system, full of quality players, always on the front foot, it’s hard to imagine how they were ever in trouble in the first place – admittedly in the face of meek opposition on this occasion. They added a fifth for good measure – Andrej Kramaric, on for Jamie Vardy, finishing crisply across McCarthy and into the far corner. Another defensive shambles – undone by a simple punt down the field.
Who knows where QPR go from here? It feels like a long way back.
Leicester: Schmeichel 6; Wasilewski 6 (De Laet 45, 6), Huth 7, Morgan 7; Albrighton 8, Cambiasso 9 (Drinkwater 76, 6), King 7, Schlupp 6; Mahrez 7, Ulloa 7, Vardy 8 (Kramaric 65, 7)
Subs not used: Konchecksy, Hammond, Schwarzer, Wood
Goals: Vardy 16 (assisted Mahrez), Albrighton 43 (assisted Schlupp), Ulloa 51 (assisted Morgan), Cambiasso 52 (assisted Mahrez), Kramaric 86 (unassisted)
QPR: McCarthy 4; Onuoha 4, Dunne 3, Hill 3, Yun 3 (Kpekawa 85, -); Phillips 6, Henry 4 (Comley 80, 6), Barton 4, Fer 3; Austin 6, Grego-Cox 5
Subs not used: Hoilett, Murphy, Doughty, Petrasso, Furlong
Goals: Austin 57 (assisted Barton)
QPR Star Man – Matt Phillips 6 Tempted to say it’s not applicable after such an insipid display but Phillips was one of few who played at a professional level. Went close to a spectacular goal in the first half. One of only a handful you’d like to see stick around for next season.
Referee – Michael Oliver (Northumberland) 8 Everything right, but difficult to award a nine or a ten when there was so little to actually referee. Totally uncompetitive game, barely a tackle made.
Attendance – 31,467 (1,500 QPR approx) A fantastic atmosphere throughout, which you would expect given the circumstances. Worth mentioning former Leicester maverick Alan Birchenall who does the public address announcements before the game and at half time, when he’s not doing fancy-dress themed sponsored runs around the pitch that is. He made a point of coming over to the away end before kick-off and praising the QPR fans who’d come north to support their team, despite them already being relegated, despite the problems on the trains, despite the situation at the club, despite everything else. He encouraged the Leicester fans to applaud the travelling faithful as “real football fans who just want to follow their club”. I thought it was a really classy thing to do, reflecting very well on Leicester, and meant that – with one or two moronic exceptions to the left of the away end near the gangway entrance – there was plenty of respect and good-hearted banter between the two sets of fans, rather than any piss taking or nastiness to it. Leicester know it could easily have been them in the same position. Thank you to Birchenall for his kind words and well done to the QPR fans who did make the trip and were in good voice despite being let down – yet again – on the field.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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