|Hull City 2 v 3 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 19th October 2019 Kick-off 15:00
A Hull of a day for Eze as QPR win away again – Report
Sunday, 20th Oct 2019 14:00 by Clive Whittingham
QPR registered their fourth away win of the season and climbed back into the Championship play-off places with an impressive performance and 3-2 win at Hull on Saturday.
I feel the need to constantly reality check what’s going on Queens Park Rangers at the moment.
This could all, very easily, turn to dust. Ian Holloway and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink were both asked, in all genuine seriousness, about promotion prospects for their team at fans forums before embarking on long losing runs which cost them their jobs. Steve McClaren’s side twice flew within play-off touching distance in the first half of last season. We don’t defend well/at all. We lose whenever we play a properly good team. We give away penalties and never save them. Our goalkeeping situation is causing sleepless nights for all involved.
Most of all though, it’s QPR. Our relationship with them as fans has been abusive and controlling rather than loving and nurturing. We go back to them every year because we love them, and occasionally they put a drunken arm around us and slur ‘come on sweetheart, let’s go to the play-offs this spring’ or ‘I know I’m a bit shit, but I’ve got you a nice Luke Freeman’ and we go all of a mush and remember why we fell in love with them in the first place. But mostly it’s televised shellackings at Fulham, three away wins all year and Joel Lynch falling over his own feet. We’re like Barnet with Martin Allen, the worst thing you can do is think they’ve changed, think they’ll be different this time, think it’s going well, because that’s when they come home all full of Stella and give you a 2-1 home defeat to Bolton Wanderers.
And so it’s with all those clumsy caveats that I embark on telling you about yesterday’s performance at Hull City, a ground QPR had never won on in eight visits, a city we hadn’t tasted victory in since 1991, but one you couldn’t help but come away from this time thinking we might well have a decent team on our hands, and are almost certainly in possession of a very special footballing talent.
Let me do this, first of all, by running you through all the chances we created and didn’t score. Hull goalkeeper George Long scuffed a first minute clearance straight at Nahki Wells in a manner that brought back memories of Kelvin Davis teeing up Paul Furlong at Portman Road a lifetime ago – Wells couldn’t get the ball under control as well as the great man had and the opportunity slid by. A minute later Ebere Eze was executing a dignity stealing nutmeg on Kevin Stewart and aiming for the top corner but Long saved with two hands. When Wells did, emphatically, find the back of the net with a one on one finish he was pulled back by referee Tony Harrington, with whom QPR have extensive history, for an incredibly generous foul on a beaten defender. Later Eze tried his luck with a free kick after Bright Osayi-Samuel drew a foul on the edge of the box but found Long in flying form in the other top corner this time.
This continued after half time. Ilias Chair, 80% thigh, got hold of one from 20 yards that moved all over the place and forced another fine save. Brilliance from Eze looked to have teed the Moroccan up for a first league goal of the season from close range after 51 minutes only for Callum Elder to rescue his team with an outstanding last ditch challenge. A glorious cross from Eze before the hour seemed certain to present Josh Scowen with a second goal on this ground in as many visits but Long somehow saved his header at point blank range and Wells somehow lifted the rebound over the bar. The Bermudian was soon replaced by Jordan Hugill, who himself went looking for top bins with his head off an Angel Rangel cross and was also prevented from scoring by Long’s acrobatics.
I chuck all of this in to emphasise the dominance of our team. This is QPR, notoriously bad travellers, with just eight away wins in the previous two years, going to the north of England on a grey autumn day and playing the hosts off the park. Hull, afraid of Rangers getting their excellent young boys into the lines between defence and midfield, abandoned a high press game that new manager Grant McCann had started the season with and sat off as their opponent played out from the back. This allowed Toni Leistner, Yoann Barbet, Geoff Cameron and Josh Scowen to repeatedly receive possession in space and start spreading the play to the perpetually available, outstanding full back duo of Rangel and Manning. From there things could be worked into Osayi-Samuel, who tormented Eric Lichaj, or Ebere Eze whose performance blossomed from a quiet start all the way through outstanding to become an absolute piss take by the end.
These were the chances we didn’t score, and on top of those were three fantastic goals.
The first was perfectly timed and executed. Right on half time, and with QPR somehow trailing 1-0, a corner resulting from Eze’s saved free kick broke free on the edge of the area for Ryan Manning to improvise a deft finish around Long and into the far corner with the outside of his boot. A goal of outstanding natural beauty from QPR’s most consistently excellent player this season, scored right at the moment Hull might have thought they had half a chance and just when Rangers might have started to lose a bit of faith in their approach. Exquisite finish.
Two more followed in the second 45 minutes which quickly became the Ebere Eze show. He and his team mates had already dominated for half an hour straight when he picked up a loose ball from a Hull corner on 75 and set off at speed down the centre of the pitch. Defenders in front and to the side of him quickly became defenders trailing in his wake as he glided away with the close control we’ve come to take for granted from him and a turn of pace I’m not sure any of us quite realised he had. Seventy yards or so were covered in double quick time, dreadlocks stretched out behind him in the wind, carrying him right to the heart of the penalty area where Eric Lichaj decided to take his chances with a foul rather than allow the inevitable shot. Tony Harrington, who’d awarded three penalties against Rangers in two away games last season including the scandalous injury time winner at Bristol City, pointed straight to the spot.
Ryan Manning took our last non-shoot out penalty, against Bristol City in the League Cup, but Eze fancied this one himself and after an interminable delay caused by gamesmanship antics from first Long and then Stewart he very calmly stroked the ball into the bottom corner after a long, winding, stuttered run up that took years off my life and games off the goalkeeper’s career. All those attempts to put him off worked a treat, he looked really tense and nervous didn’t he?
There was so much more to come. With time ticking down towards 90, Hull’s frustration at their inability to lay a glove on the game’s star man had started to manifest itself in wild hacks at his shins. With each desperate, cynical lunge came another deft flick, another silky slalom, another show of strength, another drop of the shoulder, another twist of the dreds and another move off beyond the challenger and into space. One, two, three Hull men all had a go as he slipped and tricked his way from the far touchline down to the byline and along into the penalty area. Back he checked, round a fourth man, on he went, ball glued to his foot, like an adult playing in a kids match. It was mesmeric, and it was heading straight for the hapless Lichaj who couldn’t help but trip him again for a second penalty. My word. Eze took the kick himself, tried to sit Long down again, and then, when the goalkeeper didn’t buy it, simply sent the ball screaming into the other bottom corner like a shell. Outstanding. Print it out for Joan.
Although Hull, rather pettily, didn’t see fit to include Manning’s goal in their “first half highlights” package on the big screen, we will mention their goals and chances here because they speak to a persistent failing in this QPR team which leaves them now as the only side in the whole division without a clean sheet this season – in the top five with a goal difference of zero, third top scorers with the third worst defence. The first was a shambles – one long punt from Long, flicked on by Tom Eaves, allowed to bounce by Leistner and Barbet and cleverly flicked into the far corner by our perennial scourge Jarrod Bowen for a sixth goal in five appearances against us. Question marks over Liam Kelly with that one as well for me.
Not learning from past mistakes, another ball was allowed to bounce when it should have been dealt with on 64 minutes and this time Bowen’s improvised volley flashed through the goal mouth and out the other side. Eight minutes of stoppage time added due to a head injury to Reece Burke gave substitute Josh Magennis a chance to pull a second soft goal back and set up a nervy finish, cleverly seen out first by Jordan Hugill buying a free kick on half way and then Josh Bowler, once of our parish, marring his brief substitute appearance with a wild swing at Ryan Manning for the game’s only yellow card.
It should be said, before we get too carried away, that Hull were incredibly poor. Their tactic of sitting off QPR to try and stop Chair, Eze and Osayi-Samuel finding pockets of space in behind was a dismal failure. Stewart, who’s been excellent for them this season, was overrun in a midfield dominated by Geoff Cameron, and I’ve rarely seen Jackson Irvine give the ball away as much as he did here. I’d be swallowing my pride and getting Marcus Henriksen back in this team, contract extension or not, if I were them. Every single thing they did was directed to Bowen which made them predictable, and rather than cause QPR problems by getting their star man in behind Ryan Manning, him being pushed so far forward leaving a full back to deal with Manning in addition to the QPR forwards played right into the Irishman’s hands. He was excellent again. Kamil Grosicki, the other great white hope in these parts, spent most of the game bitching at team mates about perceived failures and when he was played through into the left channel in a seventeenth minute counter attack he selfishly took on a shot which Kelly saved well, when a simple squared ball to the right would have presented Bowen with an open goal.
Ehab Allam’s recent assertion that this is a squad capable of the top six looked absolutely laughable on this evidence. You’re going nowhere relying on Tom Eaves and Josh Magennis as your strikers. The former, who looks an average League Two player to me, should have scored with a header from two yards out straight after Bowen had given Hull the lead and QPR were having a little wobble but Rangel blocked it on the line. The latter is always heralded by commentators as somebody who converted from goalkeeper to striker as if this is some sort of achievement rather than a grave error of judgement. That he scored, as he did against us for Bolton last year, says more about our leaky defence than any ability he has and this propensity to let in stupid goals will have to be nipped in the bud if we’re to truly go anywhere this season.
But for now, who cares? Seriously. As an away team QPR had 60% of the ball, 15 shots to Hull’s 11, eight shots on target to Hull’s three. They had Eze robbing grown men of their dignity, humiliating them in front of their families. Chair immaculate on the ball once more, and treated to another fist pumping lap of honour by a second half substitution. Osayi-Samuel consistently going past his man. A bit of grit and strength from Leistner and Cameron. British football fans like to emphasise strength of character when teams come from behind to win - this the third time we’ve done so already this season – but it takes skill and goals to do that most of all and Rangers have those in abundance. Wells, Hugill and Eze now have 18 league goals between them already this season.
You get carried away if you want to. You deserve it.
Hull: Long 7; Lichaj 3, Burke 5, Tafazolli 6, Elder 5; Stewart 5, Honeyman 4 (Toral 77, 6), Irvine 5; Grosicki 4 (Bowler 84, -), Eaves 5 (Magennis 62, 5), Bowen 7
Subs not used: Batty, Ingram, Pennington, Da Silva Lopes
Goals: Bowen 29 (assisted Eaves, pre-assist Long), Magennis 90+6 (assisted Toral)
Bookings: Bowler 90+10 (foul)
QPR: Kelly 6; Rangel 8, Leistner 7, Barbet 6, Manning 8; Scowen 7, Cameron 8; Chair 7 (Amos 83, -), Eze 9, Osayi-Samuel 7 (Pugh 62, 6); Wells 6 (Hugill 62, 6)
Subs not used: Lumley, Kane, Ball, Mlakar
Goals: Manning 44 (unassisted), Eze 75 (penalty, won Eze), 88 (penalty, won Eze)
QPR Star Man – Ebere Eze 9 Not a hard choice.
Referee – Tony Harrington (Cleveland) 7 My heart sank when I saw we had this guy for another away game given his record with us, and for one horrible moment I thought he was going to wave away the first penalty appeal by Eze which was as blatant as they come. But he called that, and the second spot kick, exactly right. I did wonder why Lichaj didn’t see a card for the first one, given that it was a deliberate trip on a player streaking away on goal with no attempt at the ball, and I thought Wells’ disallowed goal in the first half was a very generous call, but overall not too bad.
Attendance 10,285 (1,200 QPR approx.) Thick end of 14,000 empty seats here these days, with big swathes of the stadium closed altogether, as the Allam reign continues to sap spirit and strength from the locals.
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