QPR master own downfall in City reality check – Report
Sunday, 18th Aug 2019 15:14 by Clive Whittingham
QPR suffered their first defeat of the season at Ashton Gate on Saturday, going down to a self-inflicted 2-0 loss to Bristol City.
A feeling of something big building, the rumble of something good brewing, the growing feeling that having decided to spend the summer throwing all the cards up in the air they might have miraculously landed just right for Queens Park Rangers. Yes, the demon hope has been back stalking the corridors of Loftus Road in the opening weeks of the 2019/20 season, and while it hasn’t been splatted stone dead by Saturday’s defeat at Bristol City it has been tempered rather.
QPR haven’t won at Ashton Gate in ten attempts, losing the last four. There’s been some horrors amongst them – Ian Holloway’s team beaten 2-0 despite playing against ten men for the majority of the game – and some scandalous con jobs – last season’s nonsense injury time penalty decision against Darnell Furlong still rankles. This latest setback, neatly continuing a pattern of losses that now reads 2-1, 2-0, 2-1, 2-0, mixed frustration and naivety in equal measure.
Frustration because, for so much of the game, and almost all of the first half, Rangers looked by far the more adept of the two teams. Down one wing they had Ebere Eze in luscious form, feasting on the soul of full back Jack Hunt with a mesmeric first half that started to kick into gear on six minutes when he glided past three men with ease and came within an inch of teeing up Jordan Hugoll for the first goal. Down the other, Andy Impey tribute act Bright Osayi-Samuel, much more basic and obvious with his approach but no less effective. He was the last link in a lovely chain on the half hour that saw Eze move the ball through Geoff Cameron to Osayi-Samuel who crossed for Hugill to head wide.
When Luke Amos robbed City of the ball high up the pitch it gave Hugill another chance which he blasted over and on a rare occasion when the hosts did return fire Benik Afobe found his path to Joe Lumley’s goal blocked inadvertently by Tommy Rowe who accidentally tackled his own man.
For all that though, it was City who took the lead ten before half time. There’d been a little warning sign a few minutes early when perennial scourge of QPR Andreas Weimann bundled his way through a crowd scene and Yoann Barbet had to make a good covering tackle, and Angel Rangel deliberately delaying a restart for a mandatory yellow card did suggest a slight swing in momentum. But in all honesty there was so little sign that the Robins might be about to take the lead that the 1,600 QPR fans behind the goal had actually been mocking Hunt in the build up for a first half performance that had seen Eze twist his blood without the ball and QPR frequently receive throw ins from his poor control with it. Those mocking ironic cheers rammed right back down the visitors’ throats by a Hunt cross which Hall half cleared and summer signing Adam Nagy volleyed brilliantly, first time, into the bottom corner for 1-0. Tough on QPR, but just rewards for Nagy who looked very assured in an otherwise below-par home team prior to is withdrawal through injury at half time.
Osayi-Samuel was perhaps fortunate when his angry reaction to being wrestled away from play off the ball in first half injury time only brought a yellow card when he appeared to lift his knee to Rowe who, as is just pathetically accepted as the norm in our sport now, made an absolute meal of it having caused the situation himself in the first place. Not the first or last time referee Robert Jones had shown leniency – no yellow card for Geoff Cameron for a deliberate hack at Kasey Palmer to interrupt a dangerous counter attack, nor for Rowe at the start of the second half when he pulled Osayi-Samuel’s shirt to prevent him from escaping down the line for the umpteenth time in the game. When the card did come out, for the hapless Hunt, it actually looked like Osayi-Samuel had dived to win the free kick that caused it. No matter, Yoann Barbet stuck the resulting free kick, and several other set pieces besides, straight into the wall. Wastefulness was becoming a bit of a theme.
The naivety reared its ugly head on the hour. QPR had started the second half really well. They should have equalised immediately when Osayi-Samuel crossed low to the near post and Hugill shot over from close range. Then the loaned West Ham forward got a flicked header to corner diverted into his path by Grant Hall but home keeper Daniel Bentley adjusted his feet and body well and tipped the ball over the bar. It felt positive, it felt like an equaliser was coming, Rangers felt like the better team again after a little post-first-goal wobble. Ilias Chair, so impressive against City in the cup during the week, was summoned from the bench to add to the goal threat and we looked forward to a big last third of the game with the super hoops laying siege to the City goal.
Instead, Mark Warburton’s team self-immolated. Faced with a routine throw in down in the right back spot, Angel Rangel spurned convention and hurled a dangerous bouncing bomb into his own area rather than just going down the line as he and everybody else that’s ever played the sport has done in that situation ever since the game was invented. It looked a catastrophe waiting to happen, gaining nothing for the team even if it went according to plan, being clever for clever’s sake, and one spaffed header from Barbet and a wild swing and miss at the ball from Joe Lumley later it was 2-0 as Afobe volleyed into the empty net. That hard won recovery from the first goal, that momentum built up at the start of the second half, the Chair substitution – all of it blown up because it’s beneath us now to throw a ball down the line and compete for a header on halfway. Rangel blamed Barbet, Barbet blamed Lumley, Lumley blamed Rangel. Between the three of them they’d cost us the game.
Thereafter City looked comfortable. That might have changed had Chair’s shot on the run squeezed over the line after being fumbled by Bentley but the former Brentford man sat on the ball before it ran away from him. Kane came on for Rangel and, again, added attacking impetus down his side and prevented City from doubling up on Osayi-Samuel – we really need to get to a point where Kane is starting games ahead of the Spaniard as quickly as possible. But Nahki Wells was less effective in replacing the fading Eze, barely touching the ball at all in his half hour of action.
The confidence QPR came into the game with seemed to drain away awfully quickly at 2-0, and they were very swift to deviate away from the plan and style of play that has served them well in the opening few games. Warburton and Hugill were both repeatedly seen making exaggerated ‘calm down’ gestures to panicked players in hooped tops. When Hall rushed a clearance straight to the nearest City man a cross into the box looked destined for 3-0 when substitute Han Noah Massengo headed for goal but it deflected away at the last minute. As he had done from the start in the cup during the week, the summer recruit from Monaco looks some player. Weimann also thought he’d got his usual goal against us ten from time, but he’d pretty clearly punched the ball in past Joe Lumley and was rightly booked. The goal chalked off.
It was, in the end, a disappointing afternoon. The sort of performance we’ve taken the piss out of Brentford for over recent years – all tips and taps and silk and smooth in the middle third, but not enough meat on the bones in either penalty box. Rangers didn’t carry enough goal threat (a problem that I think risks becoming chronic with this team) at one end, and made some stupidly simple mistakes at the other. Nearly 60% of the possession, 15 shots to the hosts’ nine, but only two on target and no goals scored.
All of the talk on the train down in the morning had been about whether Warburton would keep faith with Josh Scowen at ‘ten’ for his extra experience and defensive ability in a difficult away game, or throw caution to the wind and reward Chair for his midweek heroics with a start against the team he tormented on Tuesday. With Scowen out injured, I’m not entirely sure what Man City’s Matt Smith did to justify leaping over Chair in the queue for that spot, or really what he contributed to the performance here, particularly in the attacking third.
But, in the same way it was a bit daft to be getting carried away with taking four points from what look like poor Stoke and Huddersfield teams – the more I see of the Terriers the worse that draw last week looks – so it would be foolish to start throwing babies and bath water about after an away loss at a team many fancy for a promotion push this season. This much changed QPR team could still turn out to be anything at all, and we’ll know more after two home games this week against a Swansea team that play a similar style to our own and a Wigan side that lost 16 times on the road last season and are fancied for a relegation scrap this.
Bristol City: Bentley 6; Kalas 6, Baker 6, Moore 6; Hunt 4 (Pereira 58, 6), Brownhill 6, Nagy 7 (Massengo 46, 7) Rowe 6; Palmer 5 (Eliasson 71, 6), Weimann 6; Afobe 6
Subs not used: Diedhiou, Gilmartin, Szmodics, Semenyo
Goals: Nagy 35 (unassisted), Afobe 59 (assisted Weimann)
Bookings: Hunt 55 (foul), Weimann 79 (deliberate handball)
QPR: Lumley 5; Rangel 5 (Kane 65, 6), Hall 6, Barbet 6, Manning 6; Cameron 6, Amos 6; Osayi-Samuel 7, Smith 5 (Chair 59, 6), Eze 6 (Wells 65, 5); Hugill 5
Subs not used: Pugh, Ball, Kelly, Leistner
Cards: Rangel 34 (kicking ball away), Osayi Samuel 45+3 (retaliation)
QPR Star Man – Bright Osayi-Samuel 7 Terrorised City all afternoon and should really have an assist to his name but for Hugill’s bad miss at the start of the second half.
Referee – Rob Jones (Merseyside) 7 There does seem to be a real effort from the Championship referees so far this season to keep their cards in their pocket wherever possible. Cameron and Rowe were both allowed off with a warning for fouls in the early stages of the second half that used to be considered mandatory. This calm, lenient approach thankfully extended to Osayi-Samuel’s temper tantrum in first half injury time, though I have always hated the way retaliation in football is treated as a much more heinous offence than the, on this occasion blatant and deliberate, foul play that caused it. Overall, pretty good, with the big decisions – Osayi—Samuel red card, Weimann handball, correct.
Attendance – 21,654 (1,613 QPR) Big following from West London, and not too much adverse reaction to a poor result and fading second half performance from where we were sitting. Love how they’ve developed this stadium.
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