|Aston Villa 1 v 3 Queens Park Rangers|
Tuesday, 13th March 2018 Kick-off 19:45
Terry exposed on QPR’s Free and Eze night – Report
Wednesday, 14th Mar 2018 19:32 by Clive Whittingham
QPR produced their best performance and result of the season at Aston Villa on Tuesday night, beating the promotion chasers 3-1 in a rearranged fixture.
Funny how things work out sometimes isn’t it?
Queens Park Rangers were supposed to play Aston Villa last Saturday, immediately after a 5-2 rodgering by Nottingham Forest with confidence low, dissent high and a general consensus that the game was only taking place to see how many goals Steve Bruce’s team could score. After the weather intervened at the eleventh hour the match was shifted back ten days, during which Rangers played very well and were unlucky to only draw at home to promotion-chasing Derby, then all but secured Championship football for next season with a home win against hapless Sunderland – four points logged, confidence restored, performance levels raised.
Don’t get me wrong, it would still have been a bold man to predict that Rangers would cut loose and run a sword through Villa in quite the manner they did on Tuesday. From 37 guesses in our Prediction League, nobody went for 3-1, 3-0, or three anything in Rangers’ favour. Only one person thought we would score more than one goal and 22 people thought we’d get nil. The away form is notorious – just two wins all season, both at teams in the bottom three.
And while Rangers had regrouped after the Forest debacle, Villa had been cooking up a storm – three straight wins, eleven goals scored, league-leaders Wolves soundly dispatched 4-1 on this ground on Saturday, only one home defeat all league season long. Albert Adomah, a perennial scourge of the club he supports, and Gentleman Jack Grealish, who looks like he’s dressed for bed but makes this side tick, would have missed the original date but have both since returned and been in blistering form.
But QPR were less than impressed with Villa forcing them into a seven hour coach journey through the eye of last week’s horrendous weather to spend a night in a Birmingham hotel for a game that was blatantly going to be called off from very early on Friday afternoon, and along with that added needle and the confidence of their previous 180 minutes they too had a new team member who probably wouldn’t have started ten days prior.
Ebere Eze had finally been given a go from the start against Sunderland, scoring the only goal of the game in typically silky style. He kept his place, with Player of the Year-elect Luke Freeman benched after a couple of performances slightly below his incredibly high standards, and Villa - for all the experience in their team, all the money spent, all the big names - couldn’t live with him.
Eze, 19, making his second start at Championship level, was the best player on the pitch by some distance. There’s a sort of musical rhythm to his shoulder movement as he slaloms past opponents into space before, constantly, picking the right pass. His strength, calmness on the ball and faultless passing game set the tone of QPR’s best performance of the season. They outplayed Villa for the entire game, scored three goals for only the second time this season, won with plenty to spare and richly deserved it. They attacked with numbers and purpose, didn’t sit back until the absolute dying embers of the game, played at a tempo the older members of the home team couldn’t live with, and looked bloody good doing it. It was a stunning reward for the couple of hundred die hards who’d made the effort to support the team from the side stand.
That decision to rest Freeman from the start would have looked like one of those random calls birthday boy Ian Holloway gets pilloried for had things not gone well, but by recalling Pawel Wszolek and, finally (long overdue), Ryan Manning he’d gone for legs and hard yards. It worked perfectly, giving QPR an engine through midfield, providing width and multiple options for a pass when in possession. Mile Jedinak, in particular, looked like an old antique wardrobe by comparison. Luongo looked a lot better than he has done for a few weeks as a result, Eze had all the time and space he needed to wreak havoc, and there was no sign of the hopeful/less punts up to an isolated Matt Smith.
Grealish, while still Villa’s most impressive player, was suffocated well by Josh Scowen who was back to his early season best to the point where the Villa man lost his rag and was booked for pushing him in the chest in injury time – top ratting. Adomah on the left and Robert Snodgrass on the right, meanwhile, were kept out of the game by Darnell Furlong and Jake Bidwell who, like Scowen and Manning, both had their best games for the club. Rangers continue to look much, much more confident with a back four than the three they’d used previously, and with Furlong restored to the team.
They took the lead early and deserved it. Eze showing Taarabt-like touch and awareness to glide past a couple into space in the ten spot and feed it wide to Jake Bidwell whose dangerous cross from the left was headed firmly into the back of the net at full stretch by young Manning – a whole season of frustration came pouring out in his celebration.
Smith had already tested home keeper Sam Johnstone at his near post with a speculator, and then planted a header straight at him when he could have done better, but a second goal wasn’t far off. Beautiful move, on the half hour, Luongo backheel, Furlong moving it on, Wszolek to the byline, stylish cut back, quick step over (a step over!) and there, riding out of the shadows with a gun in his eye and a blade shining oh so bright, was Jake flippin Bidwell to hammer in his first league goal for QPR in this his seventy third appearance.
QPR are no strangers to leading at Villa Park, which as ever for a night game looked absolutely immaculate. They were 2-0 up here in the first half of a January 2012 meeting with Djibril Cisse running riot on debut but had to settle for 2-2. A season later they led 1-0, hit the bar, got it back to 2-2 in the second half only to lose 3-2. There was a subsequent 3-3 which Rangers led 1-0 and 3-2 at various points but the running theme of the first two games was conceding a poor defensive goal in first half injury time – Darren Bent in the first instance, Gabriel Agbonlahor off a Julio Cesar shocker in the second. Faced with a similar situation in two minutes of time added on at the end of the first period Alex Smithies came up with an unorthodox one handed save to beat away a free header from Gentleman Jack having earlier tipped an Adomah cross-shot over the bar.
Pitfall one successfully dodged, pitfall number two was surely sitting back and trying to hold what we had, turning the second half into the sort of long drawn out affair Top Gear Magazine used to describe the acceleration on Carol Partridge’s new Renault Megane. Massive credit to Rangers for not going down that route, and again it was Eze who was absolutely key to it – retaining, recycling and using possession high up the field. At one point surrounded by three men and tight to the touchline over by the dugouts he slipped away into the night with the ball leaving behind only a rumour that he’d ever been there in the first place. Bit uptight though isn’t he? Could do with being a bit more laid back I reckon.
An anticipated ten minutes of fire and brimstone to battle through at the start of the second half didn’t materialise. Steve Bruce tried to induce it, taking off a full back (Neil Taylor) to get a second striker on alongside in form Lewis Grabban. Keinan Davis is built like a man raised on raw meat but Nedum Onuoha and Joel Lynch, in for the injured Jack Robinson, stood strong and firm bar one incident down by the corner flag where Lynch went all postal on us, tried to kill a man to death and was booked. Grabban was later replaced by Scott Hogan, again to no effect.
All the usual pessimism and dread and coping mechanisms were being passed around the couple of hundred Rangers fans huddled together down the side, but the neutral in our group was saying long before the end that QPR were in no trouble at all and had played brilliantly. A tremendous reward for the faith shown and the money spent by our fans in the face of such dire away form all season.
There’s an elephant in the room here of course. A big, lumbering, slow elephant, whose evening started with Manning beating him to a cross for the first which he missed hitting the net because he’d completely lost his footing and broken a fall onto the solid ground with his face.
Yes, as if this wasn’t all absolutely bloody wonderful enough, the whole thing played out like Big Racist John’s living nightmare: a heavy defeat to a backing track of constant abuse from QPR fans with a confident young black man running absolute rings around him. And we were all there to see it and take part in it at close quarters. The stunned silence among 30,000 home fans, and the one-sided nature of the scoreline and balance of play, afforded the opportunity for 90 minutes of telling him exactly what we thought of him to his face.
He heard it. He heard it all. And he hated it.
A big fat fuck you was duly delivered in the form of a third goal. Freeman on from the bench, ending their torment at the hands of Eze but providing a new threat in the form of QPR’s best player this season, was fed by Furlong after a beautiful chipped pass by Luongo. Freeman quickly worked space inside the penalty area, sent Johnstone off to his right with the eyes, and then reversed the ball into the bottom left hand corner instead.
Three nil now and with Villa Park almost completely empty we were left alone with public enemy number one. Bruce had made all three subs so there was no escape – we know how the self-styled Captain, Leader, Legend likes to engineer departures from games at times that suit his ego of course but that opportunity was denied him here. The abuse flowed almost as constantly and smoothly as QPR’s football through midfield. Five minutes to go, Terry looked towards the away end and spat on the ground. Huge cheers. We were getting to him. Minute later, some weird hand gesture in our direction that seemed to be him miming lifting an imaginary trophy – maybe one he’s invented to award to himself. Huge cheers again. Close run thing between this or a night with Rachel Riley.
We can, and have, and will again, talk about the parking in disabled spaces, the shagging a team mate’s wife behind his own wife’s back, the using his position as England captain to make yet more money by hawking out Wembley boxes on the side at £4k a throw, the using his position as Chelsea captain to make yet more money by running dodgy bootleg tours of Cobham, the propensity to piss in pint glasses in nightclubs and then cob it all over the dance floor, the drunken abuse of distraught American tourists near Heathrow Airport when he’d used 9/11 as a chance for an all day drink up, his dad’s cocaine dealing, his mum’s shop-lifting, going up to collect a cup in full kit and shin pads at the end of a final he'd missed through suspension for deliberately kicking an opponent in the back, and that monstrous moment of hubris and ego when he stopped a Premier League game at a time pre-arranged (by him, at his suggestion, for his idea) so he could leave the field to a standing ovation in the same minute as his shirt number.
But for now, on this Tuesday, all that mattered was his performance: dominated in both boxes by Matt Smith, who seemed to have made it his mission to head every Aston Villa corner away by himself; repeatedly tricked and humiliated by Ebere Eze on his second ever league start. Turning slower than milk and with the same acceleration as the average three bed semi, he was saved from further humiliation only by the more mobile James Chester alongside him. Chester got his reward for doing the job of two men by hooking in an injury time corner to make it 3-1 which sparked a brief panic during which Smithies saved well from Adomah but eventually proved scant consolation. Terry, face like thunder, had only the QPR fans in his ear for company.
Match Gallery: 17 photos
We may face him again one day and he may play better than this. He may well beat us, and celebrate in front of us, and send out pithy Instagram pictures about how he always beats QPR (this was actually the third time Rangers have beaten Terry’s team in seven league games with a draw chucked in there as well) and we’ll have to suck that up. He could well be lifting a play-off trophy for Villa in two months’ time. But for now we have this wonderful Tuesday, and he’ll always be the England international captain who called one of our players a “fucking black cunt” on the pitch during a game.
I guess whoever Aston Villa have scouting future opponents will have been fairly shocked by what QPR produced against his team. Not half as surprised as those of us who’ve been trawling the country with them all season. Well done my R’s.
Villa: Johnstone 5; El Mohamady 5, Terry 4, Chester 6, Taylor 5 (Davis 56, 5); Jedinak 4, Hourihane 5 (Bjarnison 81, -); Adomah 6, Grealish 6, Snodgrass 4; Grabban 5 (Hogan 67, 5)
Subs not used: Lansbury, Bree, Onomah, Bunn
Goals: Chester 90+1 (assisted Snodgrass)
Bookings: Grealish 90+2 (fighting)
QPR: Smithies 8; Furlong 8, Onuoha 7, Lynch 7, Bidwell 8; Wszolek 7 (Perch 72, 6), Scowen 8, Luongo 7, Manning 8 (Cousins 74, 6); Eze 8 (Freeman 79, 7); Smith 7
Subs not used: Washington, Baptiste, Ingram, Osayi-Samuel
Goals: Manning 12 (assisted Bidwell), Bidwell 33 (assisted Wszolek), Freeman 82 (assisted Furlong)
Bookings: Lynch 59 (foul), Bidwell 90+2 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Ebere Eze 8 What have we got ourselves into here?
Referee – Tim Robinson 8 Dodgy old linesman on our side struggled to keep up with play and came up with some random ones as a result but Robinson, who’s usually a right pedantic arsehole and awarded four penalties at Hull v Norwich at the weekend, was very good here, albeit in a one-sided game.
Attendance – 30,228 (250 QPR approximately) Had worse nights.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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