|Queens Park Rangers 1 v 2 Sheffield United|
Saturday, 11th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Controversial penalty sends QPR to Sheff Utd defeat – Report
Sunday, 12th Aug 2018 19:49 by Jordan James Foster
Queens Park Rangers lost by the odd goal for the second consecutive weekend as they were punished by Sheff Utd for another naïve performance.
Steve McClaren’s post-match comments were overall positive, a complete contrast to many of those in attendance with the general gist being that the team are showing signs they are picking up the things he is trying to implement and it being an improvement on the dour showing at Preston.
Rangers were out-thought and out-fought last weekend at Deepdale, as they struggled to create any real chances before Preston's expertise in gamesmanship allowed them to see out and kill off the Championship opener.
There was a comment on this site last week about teaching “thick boys to do stuff with repetition” and there was a cruel sense of irony with the first home game of the season – perhaps the repetition we're seeing is in the wrong areas.
Idrissa Sylla and Paul Smyth came into the side as Matt Smith and Bright Osayi-Samuel both dropped to the bench and within the opening 25 minutes it was clear to see why McClaren is so desperate for Derby's Chris Martin.
Goalkeeper Matt Ingram has attracted a fair bit of stick over the last week due to his poor distribution at Deepdale but after a number of kicks that were aimed towards either full-back and went out of play, a long ball to Sylla which went to the opposite side to the forward and then a sliced clearance which went straight to a Sheffield United attacker it's clear to see why he attracted such criticism.
The visitors had obviously done their research and pushed right up from goal kicks with Billy Sharp and Leon Clarke picking up both Joel Lynch and Toni Leinster occupying positions wide of the penalty box whilst the full-backs take up more aggressive positions further up the pitch in another trendy playing from the back tactic. A well-coached tactic looking to maximise the amount of space on the pitch.
This left Rangers and predominantly Josh Scowen having to come and take the ball short from Ingram with the space opening in the middle of the Rangers' half as they tried to create an overload. Yet a mixture of United's pressing and the fact that not many centre-midfielders in the Championship have the ability, awareness or passing range to turn and then start attacks from deep left Scowen acting as a bounceboard; awkwardly pinging the ball into a range of Leinster's body parts.
After hearing positive reviews from those that went to Preston, it was another encouraging performance from the 'BFG'. Strong, dominant in the air and commanding, but his role for much of the first half was limited to that of a German Cannon, launching the ball forward following a calamitous effort to try and start from the back – but when you have a keeper that struggles with kicking and a forward that cannot hold the ball up you don't really have an option other than attempt to play out.
There were some times, as rare as they were, especially in the first-half where Rangers did get out and looked nice playing through the thirds as they adopted a 4-3-3 formation when in possession whilst quickly dropping to a 4-1-4-1 when without the ball.
Osman Kakay looked impressive all afternoon and it was his cross after said build-up play which found Sylla who did well to control and lay off to Eze in one swift move. The new number ten did well but Sheffield United's loanee keeper Dean Henderson did even better diving low to his right to keep the youngster's effort.
The inability to hold the ball up and maintain pressure in Sheffield's half to any real effect was allowing the visitors to push as high as the halfway line in some instances but this was a positive for Rangers. Five minutes after his first attempt Eze was set free again after Luke Freeman's lung busting, counter attacking run (could have been quite literally lung busting judging by his reaction) but Henderson was equal to a poor shot.
It would be third time lucky for Eze and QPR, Luke Freeman again dancing round Enda Stevens and John Fleck before good build up play between Luongo and Eze released Bidwell down the left hand side. The Scouser put in a good low cross which ricocheted around the area before falling back to former Millwall trainee Eze who rifled home from just outside the area. Right foot, right place, right time, and a great finish.
Just like last week and even last season with Rangers conceding either side of half time on a regular basis, they were caught out just before the break as Sharp tapped home from close range after a low cross from Kieron Freeman. Much was made of the fact the goal could have been offside, but really for all Eze's good play going forward he left a lot to be desired defensively and he was caught out for the goal.
Minutes before Bidwell had sought out the midfielder to remind him of his defensive duties and that he kept switching off leaving Bidwell and in a two v one situation. And Bidwell was made right when Freeman's run from deep allowed the full-back the freedom of W12, Eze stood with his hands on his hips only spotting the danger too late.
Ebere Eze is a real player, but from the 'Day in the Life' segment the club ran whilst he was on loan at Wycombe to the player-cam following him on the pitch yesterday, there's a chance we could overhype him before he has even really started. The slips in concentration you hope can be coached out of him and it's rare you see a player in his mould produced by academies these days. An enigma with the ability and swag to match his talent. He spoke in his interview with the media team that he wants to “be at the top of world football” following his new contract with the club, it would seem he doesn't have a problem with confidence.
However he still has an awful lot to learn, he hasn't played many games at this level and certainly doesn't dictate or influence games as much as say someone like Adel Taarabt. An unfair comparison perhaps giving the difference in budgets but of similar age and similar roles in the side. Taarabt was allowed to be a passenger and virtually non-existent when without possession, I'm not sure Eze can do that in this team or even offers enough to be allowed to do that. I am yet to be fully convinced by him, or perhaps the hype around him. Clearly talented, able to strike the ball well with either foot, unpredictable and exciting. Although being very one paced, he is extremely effective when you can get him the ball because it's rare he going to go after it or will be in a position to win it back.
All that being said he was a constant thorn in the side for the visitors and it's easy to see why fans are so excited by his potential this season. I would just approach with caution.
The game would slowly begin to slip out of Rangers' grip as the second-half started, Paul Smyth who seemed to try too hard in the first half, was replaced by Osayi-Samuel. It just didn't happen for the Northern Irishman and maybe a case of defenders being more aware of him rather than the benefit he had last year of being an unknown quantity.
This may shock you, but it was Wilder's Sheffield United who started the brighter of the two after the interval, Leon Clarke flicking the ball over a static Lynch before firing a low shot which Ingram did well to turn around the post.
Unlike the first-half, the visitors sat much deeper in the second-half limiting the space for Freeman and Eze to cause havoc on the counter, try as they might Rangers were stuck going left and right without offering any real penetration as they let QPR play in front of them reacting to Rangers' lack of pace or willingness to run in behind.
Stevens hung a cross up for substitute David McGoldrick which was dealt with calamitously by Lynch and Bidwell. The former making no real attempt to get his head on the ball and the latter doing some sort of shove-cum-duck routine which he does so often to win a throw-in. I have seen since a number of fans say it wasn't a penalty, in the ground I thought it was. If you're stupid enough to shove a forward in the area then you have to expect it so I can't really complain too much. McGoldrick dusted himself down to put away the penalty despite only being on the pitch for a number of minutes.
Rangers huffed and puffed to try and get back in the game without creating much of note, Eze was moved more infield and Freeman wider, before Sylla was hauled off for Matt Smith. Neither of McClaren’s changes made any real difference to the game, the last throw of the dice being Washington replacing Kakay with a few minutes left to play.
Eze forced two good saves with long-range shots but in truth they ran out of ideas as Sheffield, much like Preston last week saw the game out from around the 70thminute. Both centre-halves, Fleck, McGoldrick and the Henderson both spent time on the floor with 'injuries' as they continued to disrupt the rhythm of the game until it had completely petered out. Five minutes of added time for three substitutions for both teams and numerous stoppages for injuries seemed slightly under what it should have been however it would prove to be irrelevant though. Despite winning silly freekicks off Eze, they then wanted to discuss the reasoning for every decision with the referee wasting more seconds and not a single home player making a comment about it.
Again QPR succumb to the magical dark arts of the Championship as they ultimately produced another naïve performance. They should have done more to hold what they had before half-time and then to give the referee a decision to make with the penalty was criminal after the break. I am sure this side will be different to the one that faces Birmingham in September but there's only so much they can bring in. Veteran Angel Rangel seems to be close to signing and no doubt a striker of some sort will be signed but will this make much of a difference? We don't seem to be nasty enough, strong enough or quick enough and this was a poor Sheffield United. If we can't get results popping teams off the pitch then you need to be able to get nasty and grind results out, hopefully that will come.
Although it will be long season if they keep making the same mistakes, two games against two hardened,, no thrills Championship teams and zero points on the board. With free-scoring West Brom next week, the worst could be still to come.
QPR: Ingram 5; Kakay 6, Leistner 8, Lynch 4, Bidwell 5; Scowen 6, Luongo 5, Freeman 6; Smyth 5 (Osayi Samuel 46, 6), Eze 7, Sylla 5 (Smith 69 , 5)
Subs not used: Lumley, Cousins, Manning, Baptiste.
Goals: Eze 29 (unassisted)
Yellow Cards: Lynch (foul)
Sheffield United: Henderson, Stevens, Egan, Stearman, O'Connell, Freeman, Duffy (Woodburn 70), Basham, Fleck, Clarke, Sharp (McGoldrick 64 (Leonard 83))
Subs not used: Lumstrum, Lafferty, Moore, Norrington-Davies.
Goals: Sharp 43, McGoldrick 68 (penalty)
Yellow Cards: Woodburn (kicked ball away)
QPR Star Man – Toni Leistner 7 Another sturdy performance from the new signing, it's almost a shame that there is just no money available because some of the signings over the last 12 months have been really good. He's no John Stones but we don't need him to be. Beautifully dealt with McGoldrick clattering into the back of him forcing him off after a lively introduction and was keen to play the man when he could. It can't be easy playing against an seemingly disinterested Lynch and a youngster in Kakay so he's proving to be a positive when there isn't many.
Scott Duncan (Newcastle) 5: Not too bad, seemed to to place a lot of trust in his officials whom I'm sure he would think had a better view on things but there was definitely some questionable decisions regarding corners and throw-ins from them. With the penalty, I have watched it a few times and can see why it was given, but when Henderson began to time waste through the second-half it didn’t feel as though he was strong enough and then allowed them to refereeing the last few minutes how they pleased completely seeing the game out.
Attendance 14,128 (2,000 Sheffield United approx.) A flat, dead atmosphere only filled with moments of vitriol from those around me in R Block with abuse directed at either Lynch, Luongo, Washington and Sylla. Sheffield travelled in good numbers but it's never great when you are hearing player shouts to each other as though it is pre-season rather than the first home game.
The Twitter @JordanJFoster
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