QPR roar back to stun Wolves - report
Thursday, 20th Aug 2015 18:03 by Clive Whittingham
QPR came roaring back from two goals down to win 3-2 against Wolves at Molineux on Wednesday as Chris Ramsey's men got their first win of the season in fine style.
A game to sum up the Championship and Queens Park Rangers. A madcap affair that shows why you should never bet on the former and you can't take your eyes off the latter. A lovely, beautiful nonsense.
Wolverhampton Wanderers were meant to be the sure thing on the Wednesday coupon. A settled team, fancied for promotion, comfortable in its skin after two successful years playing together – they are, as the LFW match preview put it, everything QPR are not.
Rangers arrived in a state of flux. Players going out, players coming in, players who are supposed to be leaving still here for one reason or another, players who are supposed to be arriving crawling towards the done deal line through a myriad of complications and excessive financial demands. One point from two league games, a two goal lead blown in the first home match of the campaign, pressure already building on head coach Chris Ramsey.
And initially that's exactly how it looked. Benik Afobe, linked with Norwich, headed wide from close range inside the first minute when it seemed easier to score. In the next attack David Edwards got free down the left and crossed low, former Wolves man Karl Henry hurried his clearance and Kevin McDonald struck a low shot that was crowded out before it reached Rob Green. Then McDonald played Afobe in and he fired over, albeit having been flagged offside. Three minutes in, it could conceivably have been 3-0. QPR were horribly exposed. A defeat of incredible magnitude seemed certain.
It took a quarter of an hour for the first goal to arrive. Matt Phillips thought he should have had a free kick down the QPR left but referee Peter Bankes, rightly, said no and the home team broke away down their right. James Henry's cross was deflected by Paul Konchesky and the ball fell to Afobe on the six yard line who took one touch and then dispatched it into the bottom corner.
You could have built a new garden city in the yawning chasm between QPR's back four and midfield. Ramsey had picked Grant Hall ahead of Clint Hill at centre half to add pace to the defence against a team whose forward line is more track sprint team than football strike force, and added Ale Faurlin's guile to the base of the midfield, but it wasn't a conspicuous success to start with. David Edwards was allowed to wander in from the Wolves left into the space between defence and midfield completely unchecked. Every time the home team had the ball he, and McDonald, were in ten square yards of space bang in the middle of the QPR half.
Edwards had already had a low 20 yard shot blocked away when left unmarked in the edge of the box when McDonald drew his foot back from almost the same spot and found the bottom corner with crisp precision after a poor headed clearance from James Perch under a routine back post cross.
Ramsey, beleaguered, drenched by the Black Country rain, seemed to already be preparing a substitution. Not even halfway through the first half and Michael Doughty was summoned, stripped and briefed. The world's biggest bath plug was required to hold what was left of the water.
But… there were positives. In fact, when QPR did get a foot on the ball and start to play they looked every bit as dangerous as Wolves. Ben Gladwin paid for his lacklustre display against Cardiff with his place in the side allowing Massimo Luongo to move further forward from the start and join the other outstanding player from the first week of the QPR season, Tjaronn Chery. Together they formed a formidable front three with Matt Phillips, behind Charlie Austin as a lone attacker. With Faurlin's trademark inventive, incisive through balls restored to the centre of the park the football was attractive and threatening.
Allied to that, Wolves had picked Damian Martinez, an Argentinean on loan from Arsenal, in goal ahead of Carl Ikeme and from very early on in the game he looked like a source of joy and profit for the Londoners. By the end QPR had registered 20 shots on goal, half on target, as they quickly twigged that any sort of attempt was a danger to a keeper who looked completely overawed by the game, and wholly uncomfortable with the sodden conditions. Luongo's sharp, smart turn on six minutes created space for a routine shot that Martinez allowed to squirm underneath him and to within an inch of the line before he re-gathered. Later he needed two attempts to gather a low shot from Chery. The faint strains of circus music drifted around the Molineux whenever he went near the ball.
Five minutes before half time Rangers got back into the game. Phillips, moving to the left flank as the three-man supporting cast behind the lone striker rotated their way out of their designated markers, crossed well for Charlie Austin to arrive late in the penalty box and head home powerfully.
Wolves wings clipped slightly, QPR tails in the air, the whole thing turned into something Kevin Keegan might watch while rubbing massage oil over himself. Phillips shot straight at Martinez and then lashed a free kick over the bar from a decent position – Hause booked for hauling down Luongo in the build up. Perch, of all people, had a shot blocked. At the other end Edwards, free again, caused panic with a low cross and Nedum Onuoha nervously hacked the ball straight at his own keeper. Nouha Dicko drew a save from Green at his near post.
It was carnage now, flowing from one end to the other. QPR looked terrific with the ball and a danger to themselves and others without it. Swashbuckling in attack, Keystone Cops in defence.
Luongo and Chery were a class apart - every touch so precise and clean. At one point in the second half a ball was fired into Chery on the centre spot and with one deft touch he not only killed it dead and moved it out of his feet, but completely took both Wolves central midfielders out of the game as well. He tired, as did Ale Faurlin, but it looked so beautiful and worked so well Ramsey left them to it, sacrificing the defensive lapses it caused at the other end. It was like Luigi De Canio was back in the dugout, and there was plenty of half time interest in a repeat of the similarly farcical 3-3 draw the Italian served up on this ground on a previous visit.
Two things happened at the break to swing it in the visitors' favour. Firstly Ramsey, so harshly criticised so far this season for, among other things, his decisions during games with substitutions and tactical changes, successfully closed the gap between his defence and midfield. Edwards and McDonald, who'd grazed unchecked and looked like Cruyff and Gullit during the first half, had far less influence in the second. Secondly, presumably because of an injury, Wolves took off Nouha Dicko and sent on Adam Le Fondre – a highly-rated Championship predator who, nevertheless, seems to spend his entire career consigned to the substitute's bench at a loan club. Having threatened to tear QPR limb from limb, Wolves suddenly looked strangely toothless.
Afobe drew a save from Green in the first attack but Rangers were level within minutes – Luongo battling hard to win the ball through three tackles in quick succession, Phillips again causing fear and loathing in the Wolves defence with a low cross from the right that came through a crowd of players untouched and rolled delicately into the far corner of the net.
Rattled, Wolves started to lose their discipline. Connor Coady fouled Karl Henry and having sent the centre backs up for the resulting free kick seemingly as an afterthought Rangers were almost rewarded with a third goal when Nedum Onuoha headed powerfully towards goal only for Martinez to save with his legs.
And still it continued, breathlessly from end to end, Luongo and Chery the calming influences, Phillips the constant threat, Charlie Austin exhibiting a back-to-goal game not previously thought to be part of his repertoire. It was riotously exciting and thrilling in a way that top flight football so rarely is in this country these days. Like a monkey's tea party.
The travelling faithful in the side stand feared Ramsey's Cardiff experience had made him timid with his substitutions. Faurlin seemed to be blowing hard. Bankes booked Nedum Onuoha for the tackle of the match on the hour and Green, having stood so far off to his right he was closer to the corner flag than his left hand post, was nowhere close to getting back across to Afobe's free kick as it flew over the wall and, mercifully, into the side netting. Henry was also booked on his return to the club he supports – a sensible, cynical, tactical foul as Wolves threatened another counter. Would QPR run out of legs? Would we be talking about that poor pre-season again?
Standing toe to toe with their opponent, Rangers continued to exchange blows. Chery ran through on goal but his tame finish was easily saved. Immediately Konchesky was sucked out of position and turned but Afobe shot wide when he, too, should have done better.
There couldn't possibly be another 20 minutes of this without a goal being scored. It went Rangers' way when it came. Luongo was at the heart of it again, gliding across the slick turf from right to left and laying the ball off to Phillips who, from the left again this time, tried his luck from 25 yards and caught Martinez flat footed. The ball nestled snugly in the keeper's bottom right hand corner.
Ramsey had been criticised for shutting the shop up too early against Cardiff, blowing a two goal lead in the process. That seemed unfair, given the volume and quality of the chances created by Rangers in the last 20 minutes of that game. Once more he sent Michael Doughty on here for Tjaronn Chery and this time it worked nicely. Doughty's work rate and defensive game is ideally suited to this situation and he impressed, but this QPR shop has a shutter made of wicker rather than metal and the game's frantic, end to end nature continued unabated.
McDonald's shot from inside the area hit Nedum Onuoha in the face, bounced past Rob Green and kissed the outside of the post on the way out. Massimo Luongo ran through on Martinez but, like Chery before him, finished tamely and was denied the goal he richly deserved. Scott Golbourne came forward from left back and stung Green's palms with a driven effort. It was enough to give you the stomach lining of a 54 year old air traffic controller. We could all have well done without Paul Konchesky's lousy back pass which Green did well to reach and clear ahead of Afobe.
Rangers brought on Mad Seb Polter for the closing stages, charging him with running the ball to the corners and kicking any troublesome Wolves players up in the air. He carried out his duties to perfection. Wolves, frustrated, ended up conceding free kicks of their own – Connor Coady was booked for a hack at Austin.
Bankes added five extra minutes, seemingly because he was enjoying the game so much rather than because there had been a load of substitutions or injuries in the second half (there hadn't) but there was to be no last-second heartbreak for Rangers this time and the players celebrated on the pitch with their manager at full time.
Credit to the players for sticking with the game plan and playing with such freedom and attacking intent, even in the face of a potentially overwhelming start from the hosts. Credit to Ramsey for throwing caution to the wind and going for it in such a manner. Rangers have played three times in and around Birmingham since Ramsey took over, winning two, drawing one, scoring ten and conceding six. If that's the sort of football Ramsey wants to play then more power to his elbow. This was incredibly entertaining.
On now to the inevitable 2-0 home defeat by lowly Rotherham.
Wolves: Martinez 3; Iorfa 6, Stearman 6, Hause 5, Golbourne 6; Henry 7 (Van La Parra 63, 6), Coady 6, McDonald 7, Edwards 7; Afobe 8, Dicko 7 (Le Fondre 46, 5)
Subs not used: Ikeme, Price, Doherty, Ojo, Ebanks-Landell
Goals: Afobe 17 (assisted Henry/Edwards), McDonald 24 (unassisted)
Bookings: Hause 45 (foul), Le Fondre 74 (foul), Coady 90+4 (foul)
QPR: Green 7; Perch 6, Hall 6, Onuoha 6, Konchesky 5; Faurlin 7 (Polter 89, -), Henry 7; Luongo 8, Chery 8 (Doughty 78, 7), Phillips 8; Austin 7
Subs not used: Hill, Gladwin, Lumley, Emmanuel-Thomas, Hoilett
Goals: Austin 38 (assisted Phillips), Phillips 52 (assisted Luongo), 72 (assisted Luongo)
Bookings: Onuoha 60 (foul), Henry 64 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Massimo Luongo 8 Absolute class act. The decisive moments often ended with Matt Phillips, but the whole attacking performance hummed and revolved around the Luongo and Chery combination. Terrific work, skill and awareness in the build up to both Phillips goals.
Referee – Peter Bankes (Merseyside) 7 Thought he got the Onuoha booking badly wrong, that looked a good tackle to me, and where on earth he got five minutes at the end from when the second half had three substitutions, three goals and no injuries I don't know. Overall though, pretty decent.
Attendance – 21,032 (1,000 QPR approx) Creditable away following in number, and in full voice during the second half if a little quiet at first. Wolves fans, like their team, went the other way – raucous to begin with, silent and drifting away long before the end.
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