|Queens Park Rangers 1 v 2 Aston Villa|
Saturday, 18th November 2017 Kick-off 15:00
QPR downed by one of their own - Report
Sunday, 19th Nov 2017 13:21 by Clive Whittingham
QPR supporter and former Harrow Borough winger Albert Adomah scored twice as Aston Villa came from 1-0 down to win 2-1 at Loftus Road on Saturday.
Plenty for people on both sides of the argument to get their teeth stuck into here.
If you’re optimistic, if you’re happy with Ian Holloway, if things are going in the direction you think they should be going, then this was a near miss.
Against an Aston Villa side that’s had millions of pounds lavished on it, QPR started well and took the lead. Matt Smith was given a start up front, seemingly to unsettle Villa’s 24-year-old goalkeeper, perennial loanee Sam Johnstone, and he did just that in a crowded six-yard-box at an eighteenth minute Luke Freeman corner – Jamie Mackie stabbing in from close range as the ball bobbled around the goalmouth.
Although the R’s conceded an equaliser right on the very stroke of half time from the penalty spot, and the decision was correct, it was one that most referees wouldn’t see and came a matter of seconds before half time. Albert Adomah took Alex Smithies out of the equation with an emphatic finish but Rangers were so close to going in at half time in front which could have made a big difference.
Despite that, and the half time loss of Massimo Luongo to injury – replaced by Ryan Manning – they twice came close to a crucial second goal. First Matt Smith attacked a cross from the left with a first-time half volley that beat Johnston but flashed wide of the post. Then in the final ten minutes he used the pace on a ball from the opposite flank to flick a powerful header goalwards from 12 yards out only for the ball to fly plum into the arms of the keeper in the middle of the goal. Joel Lynch also headed a well-flighted Freeman corner wide. Inches either way on any of those and Rangers would have had another decent result, creditable performance and feel-good moment at Loftus Road, where they’d only been beaten once in the league this season prior to Saturday.
If you’re pessimistic, if you don’t rate Ian Holloway, if you’re worried about where this season might go, then this was a deserved defeat, a product of familiar failings, and a more comprehensive loss than the scoreline suggests.
Although Rangers played quite well in the first half, with the usual midfield trio of Josh Scowen, Luongo and Luke Freeman getting amongst a physical and powerful opposition team well, they needed goalkeeper Alex Smithies to be on his best form and make four great saves. Chris Samba - wild and often unbalanced on his first return to Loftus Road since a dreadful, brief spell here in 2013 – had already volleyed over, Conor Hourihane shot wide and Albert Adomah missed the target before Smithies’ loose goalkick gave Josh Onomah a sight of goal and the keeper redeemed himself with a great stop.
Moments later he saved equally well from Keinan Davis, Villa’s lone striker, though Robinson seemed to have been fouled in the build-up. Mackie was definitely fouled prior to the next chance, referee Darren England waving a nonsense advantage on with Luke Freeman surrounded by four players and Villa quickly broke with Davis testing Smithies again – Whelan’s booking after the event scant consolation. Smithies saved a header from Adomah and Alex Baptiste flung himself full length across the goal to block another shot from Onomah with Villa appealing for handball. This was all in the last eight minutes of the first half so the penalty, when it finally came, for a handball by Robinson stopping Hourihane's goalbound shot, felt inevitable if irritatingly timed.
The loss of Luongo took the home team out of the game further and in the second half. Villa, like Wolves, Sheff Utd and particularly Nottingham Forest before them, started to hammer QPR in their obvious weak spot to the right side of the defence and got great reward for it. Teams have sussed out now that if you get in behind whoever Ian Holloway has playing wide right – Jordan Cousins for the first hour here – and drag Alex Baptiste into a wide area then it becomes less of a penalty box and more of a buffet. Villa were missing strikers Jonathan Kodija, Scott Hogan and Gabby Agbonlahor for this one but still rained 26 shots down on the QPR goal over 90 minutes – some total for an away team.
Adomah, a QPR fan, scored his second running through that wide open left channel on the hour but Rangers had already needed a great Jake Bidwell block to deny Robert Snodgrass at the far post and the left back had to save the day again straight after the second goal when Baptiste got skinned once more, Lynch inexplicably allowed a ball to roll beyond and away from him in the heart of the penalty area and Snodgrass seemed certain to score before Bidwell’s rescue act. No Joel Lynch bollocking for his regular punching bag on that occasion needless to say. Robinson was booked for a foul in back play as Hourihane shot over. Davis headed just wide with Smithies probably beaten.
Snodgrass, a man with a lot to say for himself for somebody not good enough to get in the current abysmal West Ham team, was perhaps lucky his yellow card on the hour was only that. Having tried, not for the first time, to extract a free kick from Darren England by diving over Jake Bidwell, the Scottish winger reacted to the non-award by leaping up and smashing Bidwell in the back of the head seconds later. Having spent all afternoon spraying the match officials with abuse he’s lucky the referee was so sympathetic with him.
But Villa were too good for QPR. Too big, too strong. Adomah, Onomah and Davis were all excellent, although as discussed with QPR’s frequent right-sided defensive collapses they certainly had all the space they needed to impress. It would have been very harsh on Steve Bruce’s team had either the Smith or Lynch headers forced an equaliser, though given Bruce’s histrionics on the touchline I’m sure we’d have coped with the injustice. A nervous save from Johnstone denying Freeman was the only other serious attempt on goal – a late chance to deliver a free kick into a crowded box didn’t beat the first man, infuriatingly.
You can say that Villa are meant to be better than QPR, given the money they’ve spent, but they’re not unbeatable, they were missing key attacking players, and Rangers beat similarly monied Wolves here recently regardless. Rangers didn’t help themselves on this occasion.
I don’t understand why Darnell Furlong isn’t getting more game time. When Sheffield United started trying to raid down the left, pull Baptiste out of position and create space in the middle for David Brooks, Furlong came on and stopped it immediately. He played very well that night and yet hasn’t played at all since, meanwhile we’ve now had 180 minutes of watching Forest and Villa repeatedly cut QPR apart down the right side of the defence. When Furlong could have been introduced to try and wrestle back some semblance of control down that side, Conor Washington was brought on instead, and barely touched the ball in half an hour.
As usual, the truth probably lies somewhere in between the polarised opinions. Smith header v Wolves creeps inside the post, everybody happy, Holloway a genius. Smith volley v Villa goes three inches the other way, everybody unhappy, Holloway an idiot.
For me conceding the first when we did, and then losing Luongo at half time, were the key moments. Go in 1-0, keep him on, who knows. Any doubts about the Australian’s importance or role in this team surely dispelled by this second half. This was another Championship match where the teams throw stuff at each other in a haphazard way for 90 minutes and then we have a count up at the end – on another day it could have been any other outcome.
But Rangers can have few complaints. At 2-1 there was always a chance and the margin of defeat was fine in the end, but Villa were better, deserved to win and could have won by more. Defeat leaves QPR awkwardly placed. We saw last season how quickly a losing run can spiral out of control when Rangers twice lost six on the bounce. Villa, Tuesday’s opponents Derby, and then next Monday’s visitors Brentford were all involved in both those collapses. Rangers need to find a way to win away for the first time since February on Tuesday night, or get over their problems with London derbies, televised games and playing Brentford, to avoid very quickly finding themselves going into a tough game at Preston with four straight defeats behind them.
QPR: Smithies 8; Baptiste 4, Lynch 5, Robinson 6; Cousins 6 (Washington 63, 5), Bidwell 6; Sowen 6, Freeman 6, Luongo 6 (Manning 45, 5); Mackie 5 (Sylla 72, 6), Smith 7
Subs not used: Furlong, Wszolek, Lumley, Wheeler
Goals: Mackie 18 (assisted Freeman)
Bookings: Robinson 53 (foul), Manning 76 (foul)
Villa: Johnstone 6; Hutton 5, Samba 5, Chester 7, Taylor 6; Snodgrass 6 (Jedinak 81, 7), Whelan 6, Hourihane 7, Adomah 8 (Bjarnason 90+1, -); Onomah 8 (De Laet 86, -); Davis 8
Subs not used: Lansbury, Grealish, Steer, O’Hare
Goals: Adomah 45+3 (penalty, won Hourihane), 58 (assisted Hourihane)
Bookings: Whelan 38 (foul), Snodgrass 60 (foul), Taylor 90+1 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Alex Smithies 8 Back to the dark days of last season where the goalkeeper is man of the match in a defeat. Made a series of saves to keep QPR in the game, particularly in the first half – albeit the best of them came from his own suicidal short goal kick.
Referee – Darren England (Barnsley) 6 Seem him get a lot of stick post-match, but honestly I thought he was pretty good in a tough game to referee. Penalty decision was correct, and well spotted. Just before that though he’d waved away an obvious foul because he felt Luke Freeman running with the ball surrounded by four Villa players with no support was somehow an advantage.. Thought he was quite generous with Snodgrass, who was diving around all over the place, went for Bidwell with his elbow after (rightly) not getting a free kick and only got booked, and spent his entire time on the pitch spraying abuse at the match officials. But overall not too bad.
Attendance – 16,934 (2,800 Villa approx) Good to see the place a bit fuller but the goal just before half time killed the atmosphere as much as it did the QPR performance. There was a real air of inevitability about the way the second half transpired.
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Pictures – Action Images
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