Austin and Faurlin inspire comeback – Report
Thursday, 17th Dec 2015 21:07 by Clive Whittingham
League leaders Brighton extended their unbeaten run to a remarkable 21 matches at Loftus Road on Tuesday night, but not without an almighty scare from the hosts at the end of an excellent game of Championship football.
The euphoria of coming away from a genuinely good, honest, entertaining game of football has been a rare sensation around Queens Park Rangers for several years.
Pulsating 2-2 draws with Manchester City and dramatic comebacks against West Brom have been vastly outnumbered by Premier League fixtures so hopelessly one sided as to be humiliating, or Championship games so devoid of life you feel like you're having the moisture sucked from your skin just by sitting and looking at them.
That was quickly levelled up by Hoilett being awarded a free kick for an obvious dive. Matt Phillips was let off without a card for one bad tackle, then Angella was immediately carded for a less serious offence – his first of the game.
It is, however, important not to get carried away. We’ve been burnt by hope and optimism before. Yes, Hoilett and Phillips were greatly improved. Yes, Ale Faurlin is fast approaching his mesmeric best once more, despite three ACLs in three years. And yes, it looks like we’re going to be a good deal better to watch, more committed and more awkward to play against under the new manager than we have been previously.
But this is still a team with issues. Lots of them. This match would finish as a draw, primarily because Austin was playing. If he'd still been injured, QPR would have lost. That despite Brighton coming into the match with five serious injuries to their first team players after tragically losing Solly March for the season to a bad injury up at Derby.
The visitors looked rudimentary at times – a noticeably big, square arsed, physical team – but they had qualities in key areas. James Wilson up front, in particular, had a touch and movement about him that firstly showed he’s from a higher pedigree than this and secondly made you wonder what on earth he’s doing here while his parent club are boring the tits off the paying public in Manchester.
Most of all Brighton were well organised and having soaked up what QPR had to offer in the first half they quickly surged into a two goal lead in the second.
Nedum Onuoha was furious about the first, chasing referee Tierney down the field to remonstrate about an alleged push from Dale Stephens on Sandro just as the Brighton man executed a bicycle kick into the net after a corner had been nodded back across the goal. Sandro may well be playing a lot better than he was, and at least he’s able to complete 90 minutes and has a fully valid work visa these days, but he’s still no kind of “beast” as his nickname suggests and he needed to be far stronger rather than looking for a free kick.
One goal didn’t have to be disastrous, but the deficit quickly went to two. Within a minute, possibly with the blood still coursing through his veins after taking the lead, Rajiv van La Parra tried a, frankly faintly ridiculous, shot from the best part of 35 yards. Wet night, skiddy pitch, little deflection off Grant Hall – all true. But for that ball to end up in the net as it did, squirming under Green despite flying basically straight at him down the middle of the goal, from that distance, is absolutely not good enough.
I’ve seen it suggested that he was unsighted. Unsighted is when a ball flies through a crowded penalty area. Unsighted is somebody standing directly in front of the goalkeeper. Unsighted is a ball being reversed round the otherside of the wall from a free kick. This ball still had 20 yards to travel after it had gone around Hall, and it wasn’t exactly struck with Les Ferdinand v Oldham velocity. We probably could have got a warning to Green via telegram in the time it took to reach the goal but in it went anyway.
It’s not a one off. It’s not even a two off this year. He’s had a wretched 2015. Even in recent clean sheets against Reading and Burnley there were times when he was motionless on his line, seemingly thinking about other things, as balls rebounded off the cross bar or bounced dangerously in his six yard box. QPR have already lost Alex McCarthy to this fascination with a mediocre goalkeeper at the expense of better, younger, cheaper understudies and will lose Alex Smithies the same way if it continues.
In a way, what followed made Green’s latest gaff all the more galling. QPR fought back brilliantly to claim a draw, and all ten outfield players did their part to make it happen. But for being let down by their goalkeeper, again, they’d have been celebrating a deserved victory.
The reaction of the crowd, and the players, to going two goals down was impressive and key. In the six minutes immediately after what should have been a killer second goal, Rangers had created three excellent chances and taken one of them. First Austin planted a firm header on target from a corner, then he skilfully flicked the ball up for himself on the edge of the area before drawing a sharp save from Stockdale down in the corner with a crisp volley. It’s always a shot on target from him, he’s always making the goalkeeper work. He drags the team along by its bootstraps sometimes and when he finished emphatically into the roof of the net after turning on a smart Matt Phillips cross in the six yard box it looked like he was about to do so again.
Faurlin, too, was really coming into his own at this stage. Sandro had been replaced by Henry leaving the Argentinean free to press slightly further forward and start dictating play. Dictate he did, wonderfully. There was a metronomic quality to it – ball into Faurlin’s feet, pass stretches Brighton right, back into Faurlin’s feet, pass stretches Brighton left. Despite being a goal down, QPR stuck at it and played good football. You could tell from the noise around the ground, better than it’s been for months, that this was far from over.
There were scares, Wilson turned Hall and Green missed the resulting bobbling ball completely for another brown trouser moment.
But Rangers should really have equalised 13 minutes from time when Fer got up early at the back post to meet a cross from Grant Hall, of all people, and somehow direct the ball wide when it seemed easier to score. I still think I’d be picking Massimo Luongo ahead of him, particularly in this new style which would suit him well.
Hasselbaink had a final change to make, and introduced Seb Polter. The German’s QPR career has been a thoroughly odd affair so far. Signed, and then completely discarded, under Chris Ramsey’s regime, he has hardly played at all for the first team this season and yet everybody seems to have seen enough of him to decide he’s absolute pony. He may well be, although somebody who played and scored quite so much for the German national junior sides must have something about him, but then Devon White was rubbish. You can be “rubbish” and effective. Here he won a corner with his first touch only to then glance a header well off target when it looked like he was going to power in an equaliser.
He looks overly heavy, overly slow, unsure of his touch. But he also looks a handful. A physical Brighton defence had something else to worry about, which meant more space for Charlie Austin. That change had as much to do with the equaliser as what followed next.
Lewis Dunk was a sought after asset in the summer, coming close to a lucrative move to Fulham before they overpaid for Tim Ream instead. But it was hard to see the attraction here. Apparently still riled by Sandro’s first half tackle he spent much of the second half sliding into foolish tackles, conceding free kicks, berating the referee and so on. It was a surprise it took as long as the seventy fifth minute for a yellow card to come his way for another cynical chop at Junior Hoilett and no shock at all that he failed to see the 90 through.
The red card challenge, when it came, was exactly that. Having overrun a piss poor first touch slightly he decided to launch himself fully five yards across a wet pitch into Ale Faurlin’s standing leg. It was a sickening challenge in any circumstances, spiteful and entirely deliberate, but to do it to a fellow professional with the injury history Faurlin has was as low as it gets. I’m certainly not advocating that Faurlin’s three separate knee explosions qualify him for some sort of touch-rugby status, where he runs around with tags on and people are forbidden from tackling him, but he’s a high profile player, everybody knows the score with him, and to launch into him like that summed up the quality of the man for me. To then give the fourth official a prolonged volley of bile on the way off made it even worse. As did Chris Hughton’s defending the indefensible routine afterwards.
Faurlin, understandably, lost the plot. He owes a nice bottle of something to Brighton’s substitute Andrew Crofts who was first on the scene and immediately dragged him away from Dunk. Had he not done so, Faurlin would have no doubt been sent off as well. Crofts a credit to his club, Dunk less so. In the end Faurlin was booked. As, laughably, was Dunk. It meant a red card, of course, because he’d been a dickhead earlier but it was an absolute bottle job from Tierney and means he’ll now only be banned for one match when he deserved three and the rest. Only a referee as totally out of touch with the sport he's officiating, so totally lacking in feeling for the games he's in the middle of, could deem Dunk's tackle and Faurlin's reaction worthy of the same punishment. I expect him to be in the Premier League double quick - they love wet, by-the-book dweebs like this.
Now against ten, it took QPR just four more minutes to equalise.
Rangers are threatening from corners these days – they’ve scored three of their last four goals from them. That’s because Ale Faurlin is taking them, after four long hard years of watching Joey Barton waste every one we got. Here there Argentinean swung in a delicious left footer that was headed into the net by Austin, emerging from the goalline and angling his neck perfectly despite being wrestled around by Bruno, as he had been all night.
QPR celebrated a comeback well completed but the manager signalled his players back to halfway to push for a winner. That looked shrewd, when Tierney finally strapped a pair on and offered adequate punishment for a second half beset with time wasting by adding seven minutes to the end of the game. Four minutes into that Matt Phillips won the ball back well, moved into space in the Brighton half, unleashed a perfectly struck left footed shot from range, beat David Stockdale all ends up, and grazed the outside of the post.
A rousing, standing ovation greeted the team at full time anyway. Draws, even defeats, when the performance and effort level is at this level are perfectly acceptable. QPR, still wholly reliant on their talismanic forward, rich value for their point and apparently moving forwards once more. Foolish, foolish hope and optimism.
QPR: Green 5; Perch 6 (Angella 14, 6), Onuoha 6, Hall 7, Konchesky 7; Phillips 7, Sandro 6 (Henry 55, 6), Faurlin 8, Hoilett 7; Fer 6 (Polter 82, -), Austin 8
Subs not used: Smithies, Chery, Emmanuel-Thomas, Tozser
Goals: Austin 65 (assisted Phillips), 88 (assisted Faurlin)
Yellow Cards: Angella 38 (foul), Onuoha 53 (dissent), Faurlin 84 (retaliation)
Brighton: Stockdale 7; Bruno 7, Greer 6, Dunk 5, Calderon 8; van La Parra 7, Stephens 6, Kayal 6, Murphy 6 (Hünemeier 85, -); Wilson 7 (Zamora 78, 6) Hemed 6 (Crofts 79, 6)
Subs not used: Mäenpää, Forster Caskey, Manu, Chicksen
Goals: Stephens 53 (assisted Dunk), van La Parra 55 (assisted Green)
Red Cards: Dunk 84 (two yellows)
Yellow Cards: Dunk 75 (repetitive fouling), 84 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Charlie Austin 8 Well, his return was always going to make a difference to QPR, who’ve been playing with no strikers at all in his absence, but this was quite some impact. Two goals, constant menace to the Brighton defence, always a shot on target. Hell of a player.
Referee – Paul Tierney (Lancashire) 5 Apart from the general criticism of his appalling game management, and inability to carry himself with any kind of authority and assuredness, he was specifically poor on several occasions in this. As discussed, to only book Dunk for that second challenge was a bottle job – it was a straight red. He lost the plot at the end of the first half, resulting in Phillips being let off with a yellow card foul and Angella getting a booking for one that wasn’t. He aided and abetted the second half time wasting by stopping the play frequently, for long periods of time, for big grandstanding chats with players. He’s a pain in the arse really. Point added for at least adding a proper amount of stoppage time to the second half.
Attendance - 15,268 (2,800 Brighton approx) Cracking atmosphere by the end under the lights. Hasselbaink's preferred style of play should certainly be a crowd pleaser if it continues.
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