Last minute El Khayati brilliance condemns Charlton – report
Sunday, 10th Apr 2016 19:56 by Clive Whittingham
QPR snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against relegation-haunted Charlton Athletic at Loftus Road on Saturday.
Clubs in Charlton Athletic’s position often lose games like this, like this.
Desperate for a win, enjoying the bulk of the possession, creating the better chances and yet beaten by a goal completely out of the blue from a side with nothing to play for with virtually the last kick of the game just seconds after they’d been clean through on the goal at the other end.
It was Igor Vetekele, one of several unheralded and not particularly good footballers with Belgian connections foisted on the South London club by its disgracefully inept owners, who streaked clear in stoppage time to apparently win the visitors the match. He allegedly cost them £2.4m but there wasn’t much evidence of that quality in his finish, even allowing for the latest world class save from QPR’s in-form goalkeeper Alex Smithies.
Seconds later, QPR substitute Nasser El Khayati brought the ball into the penalty area down the Charlton right, widened the angle expertly and then finished with style and panache into the far top corner to win the game for his new club. This was the former Burton Albion man’s first in Rangers colours, and was worthy of winning a far better game than this one.
For the thousand or so long-suffering Charlton fans in the Upper School End, nothing but sympathy. We remember our own tough times and boardroom battles and wish them the very best as they watch their club, which played in the Premier League and hosted England internationals at The Valley very recently, disappear for what’s almost certain to be a long stay in League One. But for the absentee Belgian businessman who has damaged them to this extent, and his ever growing list of puppet managers, there will be no tears. I hope this costs him a fortune.
The visitors were eight points adrift at the start of play, so weren’t in a position to die wondering. Nevertheless, Jose Riga’s men did nowhere near enough before half time. Ademola Lookman, a bright and pacy 18 year old, drew a camera save from Smithies midway through the first period after Nedum Onuoha had headed a ball that was destined for his keeper out for a Charlton throw.
But that was it by way of threat from the Addicks. Yaya Sanago’s 33 minutes of half-arsed ambling about followed by an early departure with a non-descript muscle injury was almost as typical of his parent club Arsenal as their own collapse from 2-0 up in the lunchtime fixture at West Ham. When the crew is up against it, and the breaks are beating the boys, you’re in trouble if it’s an Arsenal player alongside you. That meant giant Dane, and Seb Polter lookalike, Simon Makienok was introduced, but he doesn’t punch his weight and the ironic cheers from the Charlton fans on the rare occasions he did win headers said a lot.
QPR had nothing to play for – 15 points away from anything interesting at the start of play. Given that, it’s been a pleasant surprise that standards have been maintained for as long as they have – Rangers had only lost three of 15 prior to this and had won five of their last seven at home. Eyes have seemed firmly set on next season but here, and perhaps on Tuesday at Leeds, was the first indication that perhaps minds are starting to drift towards the summer beach holidays.
Tjaronn Chery wasn’t as involved as he has been in recent matches, Seb Polter wasn’t as effective, Junior Hoilett was trying things that weren’t coming off and Matt Phillips wasn’t even doing that. Karl Henry, restored to the middle of midfield, copped his usual amount of over the top criticism for frequently hanging onto the ball too long before passing it backwards, but more often than not he and his partner Massimo Luongo were looking up to find few options and static team mates ahead of them.
Still, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s team was the better of the two on show before half time. A second minute free kick won by Polter drifted right through the goal mouth, Luongo smacked one over after Junior Hoilett had retrieved a deep cross for him, Polter scuffed a decent chance after a low cross from right back James Perch, then Perch himself headed straight at Charlton’s impressive, leggy goalkeeper Nick Pope.
They led at half time thanks to a goal that rather summed the first 45 minutes up. Matt Phillips cut infield and decided to cross with his left foot, Junior Hoilett ran across from the opposite side in an apparently offside position, and the ball bounced limply past Pope and into the net. The celebrations, such as they were, stunted by the nature of the goal, the quality of the game, and referee Andy Madley’s prolonged interest in disallowing it. Almost apologetically, the ball was eventually returned to the centre spot and QPR held the half time advantage.
In truth it had been a poor match, the highlight of which prior to the goal had been a long throw down the line from Jack Robinson who was finally making his debut for the club 18 months after joining from Liverpool thanks to a nightmare injury situation. The ball went through the air like a missile, travelling miles and eventually coming into land on the sidings at Acton Main Line station. Robinson looked decent, if a little rusty, flying into challenges with real bite. That throw in could well be a useful weapon moving forwards though.
Second half was much more like what you would expect from a team with its Championship status at stake. Charlton committed more men forward and upped the tempo considerably, with Jordan Cousins bossing the midfield and Callum Harriott providing an athletic threat in wide areas. Two to rescue from the wreckage this summer perhaps.
Grant Hall was obviously pulled down at an early QPR corner – bit of a clue when you can see the lad’s nipples from the fourth row of F Block – but Madley showed no interest in awarding a penalty and Charlton swept to the other end and struck the face of the bar after Harriott skinned Robinson and curled one round Smithies searching for the far top corner. Then Vetokele seemed to have a chance to go clean through on goal himself but decided to sort of casually jog after the ball rather than spring into the space ahead and Hall was able to swoop in and clear the danger.
An injury to Perch on the hour boosted the visitors further. Already missing Gabrielle Angella and Clint Hill through injury, Rangers were forced to turn to rookie Cole Kpekawa to play centre half for the remainder of the game. In at the deep end, and really more of a left back, he looked nervous on his league debut and there seemed to be very little communication and organisation going on between him and Hall at the heart of the defence. Hall has his own issues to deal with at the moment - perhaps still with a poor personal show against Middlesbrough praying on his mind he has suddenly developed a worrying, Matt Connolly-like tendency to let the ball bounce in dangerous areas. Consequently, even more space started opening up for Charlton.
Cousins equalised almost immediately, unsighting Smithies by curling a cute low shot around a defender and into the far corner. Phillips, however, had been through on Pope at the other end moments before and finished meekly. Difficult to tell with Phillips at the moment whether he’s simply turned it in, perhaps annoyed that various proposed Premier League moves haven’t happened, or whether his form has declined and taken his confidence with it. Either way, poor show here once again and Rangers were much better for the introduction of Ben Gladwin on that wing after 71 minutes. Pope had to work a good deal harder to fling himself up to his right and turn aside a curling effort from Chery.
Level, Charlton went looking for a winner. A loose pass from Onuoha gave Harriott a chance to run at Kpekawa one on one but Smithies made a fine save. Lookman curled a free kick over after a cynical foul from Henry interrupted another attack, then he blasted over the bar when left in clear space in the penalty area after Onuoha had deliberately taken out Vetokele in back play – Onuoha was subsequently booked.
There were chances at the other end as Charlton started to throw bodies forward with more abandon, but Polter dragged a decent one horribly wide after being laid in by Chery. Gladwin looked decent wide right.
The drama that followed in five minutes of time added onto the end of the game was scarcely in keeping with the nonsense that had gone before it. Charlton now almost certainly down. QPR, just about, still moving forwards.
QPR: Smithies 7; Perch 6 (Kpekawa 61, 5), Hall 5, Onuoha 5, Robinson 6; Luongo 6, Henry 6; Phillips 5 (Gladwin 71, 7), Chery 6, Hoilett 6 (El Khayati 85, -); Polter 5
Subs not used: Washington, Ingram, Faurlin, Petrasso
Goals: Phillips 45+1 (unassisted), El Khayati 90+4 (unassisted)
Charlton: Pope 6; Fanni 5, Solly 6, Fox 6 (Lennon 83, -), Teixeira 6; Lookman 6 (Jackson 89, -), Cousins 7, Diarra 6, Harriott 7; Sanogo 4 (Makienok 31, 5), Vetokele 4
Subs not used: Henderson, Ba, Bergditch, Motta
Goals: Cousins 62 (unassisted)
QPR Star Man – Alex Smithies 7 Not many candidates here, so Smithies takes it for his match-winning injury time save which bumped him up to a seven. Jack Robinson probably the second choice.
Referee – Andy Madley (West Yorkshire) 7 Not too bad, bookings all correct, nothing overly officious or massively incorrect. Must say, this trend for referees to stand and stare unmoved at players basically having their shirts lifted clean off their backs at corners and not award penalties is starting to grate somewhat.
Attendance – 15,834 (1,000 Charlton approx) Very low turn out from a rival London side, but can you really blame the Charlton fans for staying away from this car crash?
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