QPR hold their nerve to settle cup thriller - Report
Wednesday, 14th Aug 2019 09:50 by Clive Whittingham
QPR progressed to the second round of the League Cup with a penalty shoot out victory against Bristol City following a thrilling 3-3 draw in W12 on Tuesday night.
Quite a night of football in Shepherd’s Bush. I’ll wait to be proven wrong but I think you’ll have to go a long way to find a more technically-proficient, purist-friendly, attack-orientated, raucously-entertaining, load of old nonsense masquerading as association football than this for the price of ten English pounds. Or, as we’re now able to call it, ten Euros.
Defence completely ignored, everything committed to attack, six goals (of which three were outstanding strikes), there was a bit of something for almost everybody.
If you’re one of those geeks that revels in football’s formations and intricacies, well then this was a feast for the eyes and the mind. QPR made changes from the Saturday draw with Huddersfield, bringing in Todd Kane, Dom Ball, Toni Leistner, the new and improved Matt Smith, Marc Pugh, Ilias Chair and Nahki Wells from the start ahead of debutant goalkeeper Liam Kelly. For all that it ostensibly looked like the same 4-2-3-1 formation we’ve used in the two league games so far with Ball and Smith filling the Cameron and Amos roles, until the game started and it became clear that, in possession at least, this would be three at the back with Ball joining Leistner and Barbet, allowing Kane and Manning to flood forward from wing back. Chair joined Wells as a second striker to complete a 3-5-2 which later in the day after a series of substitutions became 4-1-4-1 with Ball going to right back and Smith fetching and carrying between the lines. Thank you to Carol from Chelmsford for picking out Guinevere, and set of balls number four.
Bristol City were every bit as fluid as well which meant if you think football should be played on the ground, at pace, by excellent young boys rather than in the air, with violence, by hairy old men, then this was the game for you. It played out like an U23 game if all the U23s involved had spent the afternoon guzzling blue Smarties. Somewhere out there in our broken country last night, Aidy Boothryod spent the evening absolutely furious, and not knowing why. Sam Allardyce rushing to tell beetroot-red Alan Brazil what nonsense it all was before he explodes into a thousand pieces. Catching the eye in particular at number 42 was the visitors’ Han-Noah Massengo, an 18-year-old summer recruit from Monaco with hair like the toilet brush in the gents at a suburban Indian restaurant, feet like magic wands and a feel for this game belying his tender years and lack of senior appearances. What have City got themselves into there?
And if you care about none of that and you just want a bit of old-fashioned entertainment for your Tuesday night, well then off these fleet-footed teams set on their very merry way. Let’s crack on guys, there’s a lot to get through.
Two minutes in, Leistner contorted his frame under heavy pressure to direct a corner wide of the top corner. Three minutes in, dangerous low cross through the QPR box, Semenyo in at the back post for City, headed wide. Should have done better. A poor clearance from Ryan Manning saw the ball returned to the home penalty area with QPR short-handed, but Diedhiou headed it straight up in the air. Another lethal-looking cross right through the goal mouth later and the visitors were in front, Diedhiou splitting the offside trap, rounding Kelly and sliding in from a narrow angle.
Never mind that. Almost straight from the kick off Matt Smith set off on a dribble across the edge of the Bristol City area, calmly minding his own business, only to meet Nahki Wells coming the other way and the loaned Burnley front man marked his second coming at Loftus Road with a first-time strike off Smith’s toes into the far bottom corner from 20 yards so explosive only Wells knew it had even happened at all. Glorious finish.
That was the first 14 minutes.
And so this happy little chimp’s tea party continued apace. Talented chimps mind, they’d managed 34 shots on the goal between them by the end, better than one every three minutes. Another arrived after 17 minutes from Semenyo, trying his luck from the edge of the area after Josh Scowen gave the ball away, forcing Kelly to make a save down low to his left. Couple of points of order if I may: Scowen, enduring a tough personal start to the season, cannot keep conceding possession in the areas he’s currently doing and get away with it; Kelly, meanwhile, can be reasonably happy with the save but as happened in the friendly at Boreham Wood, and several times when we saw him in training recently, he neither held the ball nor really parried it away to safety, it just squirmed away from him into a dodgy area and he’ll get punished for that eventually. At the other end Pugh was starting to really influence the game, drifting in behind Chair and Wells to good effect. One lovely ball out to Ryan Manning saw the Irishman nod it infield to Pugh first time and an immaculate touch set him up for a blocked shot.
Visiting keeper Daniel Bentley did well to reach a cross ahead of new Smith on 24, but was powerless two minutes later when a beautiful, free-flowing QPR move that started with a crunching tackle in midfield ended up with Ilias Chair hammering home the goal his personal performance so desperately deserved from eight yards out.
Two one now and on it went. Relentless, breathless back and forth. Bentley saved low down from Chair, then again in the same corner from Manning. Ball headed a corner clear at the near post, Liam Walsh let fly with the rebound, Toni Leistner stuck his big head in the way, Semenyo followed up, Barbet closed the door. City didn’t have to wait much longer though. Manning, probably remembering the game at Ashton Gate last season where Niclas Eliasson tore us a new arsehole, stuck rigidly to the Swedish Brazilian (nationality, not pubic hair) allowing full back Jack Hunt to cut into space infield and unleash an absolute blooter into the far top corner. Chair responded in kind, just wide of the near post from the kick off.
Half time. Two and indeed two. Little lie down in a darkened room and we were ready to go again.
Four minutes in, Manning dissected the City defence with surgical precision and a low ball in from the left that found Wells in the area. He touched off for Pugh whose shot was charged down. Two minutes later, Chair sold his man with such an outrageous chop the defender ended up in a different post code. That only yielded a corner but a slick move two minutes later really should have brought a goal as Pugh got Manning screaming into the area free of a marker and his cut back beat Bentley at the near post only for Chair to somehow bundle wide of the open net under heavy duress. Back came City with a cross towards a queue of unmarked attackers at the back post. Tommy Rowe, a deadline day arrival from Doncaster, sent the ball back from whence it came, right through the six-yard box and out the other side without intervention from the net or a team mate.
Gary, it’s really burning, what we gonna do?
On the hour, three two to the visitors. Leistner hauled down Diedhiou, Walsh stepped up from the thick end of 25 yards and pinged an unstoppable shot over the wall, over Kelly, and into the net off the underside of the bar. I did wonder about the positioning of the two City men to the right of the QPR wall – one of the nonsense new rules they’ve brought in this season says opponents are not allowed to stand in and disrupt the defensive wall at free kicks, and had QPR maybe just added one more man to the right and closed the gap between them and the City distracters they’d presumably have had to move. Probably wouldn’t have mattered either way though, bloody thing went like a shell.
Moooooooooooooooooore. More please.
Warbs Warburton reached for his bench, bringing on Luke Amos and Brighton loanee Jan Mlakar for a debut. Sadly, and presumably because of fitness issues, the eye-catching Todd Kane was one of those who made way, along with Pugh who’d also been very good but also lacks match fitness at this stage. I’d been a little worried about Mlakar since the last-minute decision to bring Wells back from Burnley as the transfer window SLAMMED SHUT. Had they decided after three weeks with the former Maribor striker that he wasn’t quite there at Championship level? Well, not on this evidence. With a first touch like super glue and an ability to accelerate past opponents into dangerous space, he looked very useful indeed, and with Chair and Wells still on the field the QPR attack carried renewed purpose with him as part of it.
Nice shape on a Manning cross at the midway point of the half gave Wells a chance to head straight at Bentley. Should. Do. Better. Chair, sublime, received, controlled, spun and went to seek out the top corner in one flowing motion on the corner of the box – missed by a foot. Not 60 seconds later Rangers found themselves caught out by a shot corner – devil’s work – but Diedhiou headed a sitter wide at the near post when the cross did belatedly arrive. On came Charlie Owens for Josh Scowen, collecting his party bag at the door and settling down for what was left of the jelly and ice cream. Manning, involved in everything, took matters into his own hands with 12 to go, buccaneering into the City area and then hitting the deck looking for a penalty. He was looking for it as well, referee Andy Davies said nah.
To pass the time, Wells unleashed a barnburning thunderbastard that nearly snapped the crossbar in half.
It would have been the equaliser Wells, QPR and the game deserved. But this absorbing contest was destined to finish level regardless. What haven’t we had so far? A refereeing controversy. What did Andy Davies do five minutes from time when Wells pretty flagrantly dived having stepped in front of Walsh in the penalty area? Pointed straight to the spot. Perhaps the Manning one had played on his mind. It was, thankfully, the Galway boy entrusted with the kick after Wells’ personal traumas last season. He goes the same way every time, but they’re struck with such power and accuracy the keepers can’t do anything with them. This one kissed the inside of the post on its way into the net.
Three and indeed three. Slap my hand high up in the air.
Never before have I wanted extra time in a game so much. I could have sat and watched QPR play like this alllllllll night. But we’ve all got Nandos to go to and so it was down to kicks from the School End penalty mark, a competition which Diedhiou got off to a roaring start by punting his hopelessly over the bar. Long may his finishing continue to be this woeful – well, four more days at least would be nice. Ryan Manning had already scored for Rangers – same side, keeper no chance, naturally – and there were further successes for Mlakar, and, miraculously, at the sixth time of asking, Nahkiiiiiiiiii Wells. But Walsh and substitute O’Dowda had also converted for City and so when Smith pinged his off the underside of the bar and the linesman remained unmoved it was all on again. Then off again, as Kelly saved from Eliasson, leaving Barbet one kick to win the game. Then on again, as Barbet saw his kick saved by former Brentford team mate Bentley. Moore scored his. Sudden death. Ring the fucking bell.
Surprising really that it took until penalty six for Chair to have a go. Scored. Likewise Tommy Rowe, though perhaps he’s still suffering the after effects of a crucial miss in the play-off semi-final for Doncaster at Charlton in May. Also scored. Now we were starting to dig deep into the Gareth Southgates of this world who don’t want one, while Paul Ince stands back on halfway nursing his ‘Guv’nor’ nickname. The spectre of the Toni Leistner master blaster loomed into view over the horizon. I’m not even sure Luke Amos fancied Luke Amos for his, but in it went regardless. Australian centre half Bailey Wright. Number five. Stepped up. Gave it a firm poke. Kelly saved down to the left. QPR triumphantly through to a second round tie with Portsmouth.
What a time to be alive.
QPR: Kelly 6; Ball 5, Leistner 6, Barbet 7; Kane 7 (Mlakar 60, 7), Smith 7, Scowen 5 (Owens 74, 6), Pugh 7 (Amos 60, 6), Manning 8; Chair 8, Wells 7
Subs not used: Lumley, Oteh, Osayi-Samuel, Masterson
Goals: Wells 15 (assisted Smith), Chair 26 (assisted Pugh), Manning 85 (penalty, won Wells)
Bookings: Ball 90+2 (delaying the restart)
Bristol City: Bentley 6; Hunt 7 (Baker 64, 6), Wright 6, Moore 6, Walsh 8; Eliasson 7, Massengo 8, Szmodics 7 (Nagy 72, 6), Rowe 6; Semenyo 6 (O’Dowda 63, 7), Diedhiou 5
Subs not used: Brownhill, Gilmartin, Afobe, Palmer
Goals: Diedhiou 13 (assisted Semenyo), Hunt 41 (assisted Walsh), Walsh 59 (direct free kick, won Diedhiou)
QPR Star Man – Ryan Manning 8 So much to choose from, with Manning and Chair leading the way for me and the former just nudging ahead with two brilliantly taken penalties late in the day to swing the game back QPR’s way.
Referee – Andy Davies (Hampshire) 5 Our record of positive results, and generous decisions, from Mr Davies continued with the late penalty here, which was never a spot kick in a month of Sundays. He’d been pretty lenient with the cards and hands off with the game prior to that but you can’t mark a referee too highly when the big decision of the game is wrong. Some pay back for the nonsense penalty he awarded against us at Hillsborough on the final day of last season, and of course the even more scandalous one City beat us with in injury time at Ashton Gate last season. Notice that didn’t get much of a mensh while Lee Johnson was hammering the officials in the after match interview…
Attendance – 5,795 (800 Bristol City approx.) And all who sail in her.
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Pictures – Action Images
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