Standard Green calamity gives QPR best possible start – Report
Monday, 8th Aug 2016 11:42 by Clive Whittingham
QPR got off to the best possible start to the 2016/17 season with a 3-0 win against Leeds at Loftus Road on Sunday, thanks in no small part to recently departed goalkeeper Rob Green.
Piss weak Danish lager (brewed in Luton) doesn’t do opening days of the season, but if it did they would probably be the best…
The mantra for a Queens Park Rangers club suddenly finding that they can’t keep up with the ruinous pace of Championship spending after five years of their own outlandish money burning seems to be ‘if you can’t be good be organised’. The new motivational murals around the players’ area of the stadium talk about hard work beating talent when talent doesn’t work hard enough. But on Sunday, against Leeds United in the opening match of the 2016/17 campaign, Rangers were both.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has overseen a gruelling pre-season the likes of which few at QPR can ever recall before. The results of that were best summed up by the ground covered and control of the game earned by a central midfield two of Massimo Luongo and Karl Henry, and the lung-busting efforts of Sebastien Polter in attack who managed to completely dominate one of the division’s most physical centre back pairings by himself.
Polter deserved a goal more than most in an excellent all round team display. When Nedum Onuoha read the game better than his opponents and was able to intercept on halfway and charge into the Leeds half midway through the first half the German striker had a chance to get clear in the penalty box and turn inside two lame attempts at a block before reversing a cute finish onto the base of the post. He, and we, needn’t have worried. In four minutes of stoppage time at the end of the game he out thought and out muscled a Leeds defender, Lewie Coyle on this occasion, for the final time and volleyed in from a tight angle.
Polter has always been able to cause some havoc in a sort of comedic farm-yard-animal-in-an-antique-dealership way, but against Watford last week and then again against Leeds he looked like a proper, effective Championship centre forward. Compare his all action display, and the effect of it, with the efforts of Chris Wood at the other end – a player many QPR fans would have liked Rangers to sign, particularly when he was tearing up trees at Millwall, but somebody who went through the motions here and generally doesn’t punch his weight.
But there was more to QPR on Sunday than just blood and thunder. Polter’s dominance allowed Tjaronn Chery to influence a game from ‘ten’ in a way he often struggled to last season. Luongo was excellent on the ball and Grant Hall’s passing out from the back was crisp and inventive. Mo Sodipo, youth team graduate given a full debut wide left and clearly instructed to just run at his full back and try to deliver a cross at every opportunity, was effective for an hour before tiring. Although Ben Gladwin struggled, looking miles off the pace and too ready to allow Leeds’ left back Charlie Taylor to run in behind him, the arrival of Jordan Cousins from the bench sparked the right flank and when Nasser El Khayati replaced Shodipo in the second half there were eye-catching combinations between him and Chery down the left as well.
Those two second half subs turned the screw on a Leeds side that had been struggling to keep hold of QPR’s coat tails anyway. El Khayati saw one of his trademark curling shots to the far corner blocked by a defender and another well saved by Robert Green on his first return to Loftus Road after departing Rangers in the summer. Green saved nervously at his near post from Chery as well but there was nothing he could do when Cousins drew a naïve foul from Leeds’ wonderfully named youngster Ronaldo Veira in the penalty area and Chery converted from the spot. The visitors had simply been overawed and when Polter made it three later on it was no more than Rangers deserved.
Without the ball there was a clear shape and game plan. Much has been made of Hasselbaink’s fondness for a ‘high press’ but Rangers only went when it made sense and when they went they went together. Otherwise they held their shape, and their line well. Only once, deep in the second half, were they breached, and Leeds sub Marcus Antonsson made a mess of a one on one with Smithies after springing the offside trap. With the ball the game plan was basic, but well executed and attractive.
QPR knew what they were doing, and were fit enough to do it for the full 90 minutes. A pre-season two weeks longer than any that had gone before it, better organised friendlies than we’ve had for many years, and a fitness regime described as punishing by even the squad’s more experienced members of the squad has apparently stood us in good stead. Small, basic things that we should take for granted, but this is a club that has lost 4-0 to Bolton, 5-0 to Swansea and 1-0 to Hull City on this ground on the opening day of recent seasons and last year was soundly beaten 2-0 at the division’s eventual whipping boys Charlton. By comparison, this summer has been revelatory.
But just as the bitching and moaning about Les Ferdinand, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, the club’s transfer policy and the lack of a striker signing over the summer was premature and way over the top, so it is important not to get carried away with a surprisingly comfortable victory in the first of 46 league matches.
I would say QPR will face better sides in the Championship this season than Leeds but in fact I’ll go further – I doubt they’ll face many worse.
Wood’s ineffectiveness up front and Luongo and Henry’s dominance of the midfield starved their two headline summer signings, Matt Grimes on loan from Swansea and Kemar Roofe for £3m from Oxford, of any ball at all. Grimes curled a second half free kick over the bar from long range with Smithies just about covering it after a foul by Ben Gladwin – already booked for a bad tackle in the first half this was the second time he’d lunged in horribly since and he was lucky not to be sent off by referee Oliver Langford before Hasselbaink sensibly withdrew him. A mistake from Nedum Onuoha – rare on the day, one of his better outings at right back this – gave Roofe a clear run into the QPR half but Onuoha and Caulker were quicker, fitter and sharper and able to get back and block away the danger.
Leeds would finish the game without a shot on target at all but it was at the other end of the field that they looked in the most trouble.
They gifted QPR a goal after five minutes in entirely predictable fashion. It suits Robert Green and his agent to pedal the line that QPR only stopped picking him last season because they didn’t want to activate a contract extension. Moaning about somebody making decisions for monetary rather than football reasons is a bit rich from a player who only ended up at QPR because of an unbelievable contract offer in the first place, and had chances to leave for less money and play Premier League football that he didn’t take up, but it also conveniently ignores the fact that his form had been woeful before he was dropped and Alex Smithies nearly snuck into the Player of the Season reckoning having only played half the campaign as his replacement.
A big bright light was shone through all the holes in Green’s story nice and early here. Onuoha won a header at the back post from Chery’s first corner of the game and carnage ensued in the six-yard box. The ball bobbled and bounced around for an eternity before Green got the wrong side of Onuoha and hopelessly flapped it down and into his own net via defender Sol Bamba’s thigh. QPR fans have seen that from him time and time and time and time again over the past four years and the taunting “Greeno, Greeno” chants afterwards were more in relief that it’s no longer happening to us. In fact, we’ve seen exactly this goal before, at that end of the ground v West Brom a couple of Christmases ago – stuck to his line, appealing for a non-existent foul, flapping the ball into his own net under a bit of pressure. Maybe Leeds might light to take up my previous suggestion of using a ball with a bell in it for him.
I actually found it exhilarating watching Green on Sunday. Literally every time the ball went anywhere close to him I thought something positive may come of it for QPR. His kicking was, as usual, amateur standard. On three occasions he miscued the ball straight into touch. Defenders who wanted the ball thrown to them were ignored, then players who were marked and in no position to receive possession suddenly found him rolling it out to them. The gormless “why does nobody want to read my poetry?” look was affixed throughout. Four years of suffering this sort of fuckwittery has left me with the stomach lining of a 54-year-old air traffic controller but it’s not our problem any more, quite the opposite in fact.
Smithies could have played in a dinner jacket such was the lack of threat Leeds posed, but when he confidently strode through a crowded six-yard box to make a clean claim under duress in the second half the difference was there for all to see. When Leeds attempted to break a persistent spell of pressure just before the second goal a typical Smithies kick three quarters the length of the field gave Polter a chance to win a throw deep in Leeds territory and keep the momentum flowing – seconds later came the penalty.
Garry Monk has an excellent reputation in the game as an innovative coach, thoughtful manager and student of the game. He used his time after leaving Swansea to tour Spanish training grounds for his own education and development. There was some surprise, given that he was often linked with Premier League jobs when they came up last season, that he’d chosen to go to Leeds and work for Massimo Cellino whose record with managers is well documented.
I guess it’s a no lose situation for him. If he does lose, the matches and his job like everybody whose gone before him, people will, rightly, blame Cellino. If he succeeds despite one of the country’s worst owners his stock will rise still further. But this is a manager, let’s not forget, who has had one job in football, at one of the best run clubs in the country, with an established Premier League team that he knew well already, and he was sacked after a long run of poor form that threatened a relegation.
If Monk thinks Swansea’s trademark passing out from the back style is going to work with this back four and this goalkeeper he’s in for a few more afternoons like Sunday. Kyle Bartley pinged a few nice cross field balls but Sol Bamba looked like the village drunk with the ball at his feet and Green’s distribution was laughable as usual. With Leeds also standing three yards off the QPR players and letting them have the ball – it was hard to remember a single challenge from a visiting player you could reasonably describe as ‘firm’ and Grimes was unlucky to be booked – it was difficult to know whether the Yorkshire side were more dangerous to themselves in or out of possession. As well as the shambolic first goal, and Polter hitting the post, there was a bizarre moment when Viera cleared the ball straight into Chery and back onto the foot of his own post with Green beaten. A substitution was required just 20 minutes in to try and stem the tide – Beradi punching the dugout on his way off – but it made little difference.
Monk spoke about the lessons his team would learn from the experience but he might want to learn a few himself. Only when Sacko was introduced from the bench late in the second half to start posing Bidwell a few issues did they look anything like threatening, and by then the game was long lost and Polter subsequently iced the cake. I’d say he’s got a tough job on his hands but with Cellino around I doubt it will be in his hands for that long.
This could and should have been more than three. Not bad for a team the doom mongers say has no goals in it.
QPR: Smithies 6; Onuoha 7, Caulker 7, Hall 7, Bidwell 7; Gladwin 5 (Cousins 56, 7), Henry 8, Luongo 8, Shodipo 6 (El Khayati 68, 6); Chery 7 (Perch 88, -); Polter 8
Subs not used: Lynch, Washington, Ingram, Kpekawa
Goals: Bamba og 5 (assisted Chery/Onuoha), Chery 73 (penalty, won Cousins), Polter 90+3 (assisted Onuoha)
Bookings: Gladwin 25 (foul), Bidwell 31 (dissent)
Leeds: Green 3; Beradi 3 (Coyle 22, 6); Bartley 6, Bamba 4, Taylor 6; Viera 6, Diagouraga 4; Dallas 5, Grimes 5 (Antonsson 61, 4), Roofe 5 (Sacko 75, 7); Wood 4
Subs not used: Cooper, Turnbull, Mowatt, Phillips
Bookings: Grimes 57 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Massimo Luongo 8 Controlled the midfield along with Henry, covering miles between them to form a solid platform on which the victory was built. Very nearly gave it to Polter, who ran his blood to water. Word of warning though, four of Luongo’s six assists and three of his five Man of the Match Awards from this site last season came in the first six weeks of the campaign, before a succession of international trips to the other side of the world with Australia in the autumn. Let’s look in again on Mass in November time…
Referee – Oliver Langford (West Midlands) 6 Gladwin should probably have been sent off. Three very poor challenges, two of them after he’d already been booked, ordinarily you’d be paddling round in the early bath water for that. Bidwell’s booking for dissent – throwing his arms around after a 50/50 call went against him – is fair enough under the new clamp down as long as it’s applied consistently. Given that Bamba was allowed to give Langford a gobfull after the penalty award (which was blatant) and later chase the official half the length of the field yelling at him for not penalising Seb Polter for a foul I don’t think there was any consistency here. Overall though, not too bad.
Attendance 16,764 (3,100 Leeds) The usual packed out following from Leeds despite the ridiculous kick off time but a couple of blasts of ‘marching on together’ had been replaced by a scattering of boos by half time and a chorus of “what the fucking hell was that?” by the final whistle. Another long season at the hands of their megalomaniac owner awaits on this evidence. For QPR, beautiful new badge, the best home shirt for years, a 3-0 win, Tony Currie stopping off on his way home from a family wedding to say hello at half time – everybody in a good mood for once. Only 45 games to go.
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