Wells' handy strike sinks Leeds in London again - Report
Sunday, 19th Jan 2020 16:58 by Jordan James Foster
Nahki Wells’ controversial goal was enough for QPR to put a huge dent in Leeds United’s promotion push with a second 1-0 win at Loftus Road in as many seasons. Jordan Foster was there for LFW.
A controversial goal, a missed penalty, a red card, a cliffhanger ending, and ultimately a victory for Queens Park Rangers who continued their consistently inconsistent season with a resolute performance against Premier League hopefuls Leeds United.
Nahki Wells’ controversial goal was the difference between the two sides as Leeds saw Kalvin Phillips sent off for trying to kill Geoff Cameron (again) and Patrick Bamford miss a penalty. It was their third loss in a row in all comps and they’re now on a run of one win from seven games, cutting their gap to the chasing pack from 11 points to four in double quick time.
After last weekend’s horror show at Brentford, which saw the hosts run riot and finish the game in a 30-minute first half period, QPR manager Mark Warbuton rung the changes in defence. Out of form goalkeeper Joe Lumley was finally taken out of the firing line with Liam Kelly replacing him between the sticks, his Scottish counterpart Lee Wallace came in at left back for Ryan Manning whilst Conor Masterson made his first start in league football after impressive outings against Swansea in the cup and at Brentford off the bench. Jordan Hugill was absent with a knock from Friday’s training.
An even first 15 saw Spurs loanee Luke Amos force a good save from keeper Kiko Casilla, with Helder Costa looking for a penalty after being felled by Lee Wallace at the other end. Much to the despair of the home crowd, Rangers continued with their high-risk high-reward ball playing philosophy, and a high-press which saw Leeds struggle at times to deal with the intensity of their opposition.
Bright Osayi-Samuel’s direct and powerful running was a thorn in the side for Leeds, as it has been for many a Championship club recently, all afternoon and when he drove from inside his own half to the edge of the Leeds area on 20 minutes, Pablo Hernandez could only bring him down just outside the box. Ebere Eze took the resulting kick and his effort on goal was headed into Nahki Wells path by Leeds defender Luke Ayling, with the Bermudian making no mistake from close range.
There was rightly some dispute around the opener, however on second viewing I can have very little sympathy for Leeds for the first hand ball, which Wells knows next to nothing about. The second is a little more understandable and whilst its unfortunate, and would have been disallowed in the Premier League with their VAR system, QPR have had more than their fair share of questionable decisions against them in recent times to feel too sorry for the Champions of Europe. Besides, I don’t recall too much humility from them when Kemar Roofe was punching in equalisers against Nottingham Forest last season.
It was Wells’ fourteenth goal of the season in all comps, and fifth in his last three games. Minutes later he could have had the fifteenth after being found by another Eze freekick but with no defender around him he struggled to find the target from eight yards out.
As the first-half progressed the visitors grew into the game more with a simple game plan of overloading the wings. On the left Ayling and Costa were allowed to do as they pleased with Lee Wallace being offered little protection. The right and side didn’t fare much better with winger-turned-fullback Stuart Dallas overlapping Jack Harrison at every given opportunity.
In the middle Luke Amos, Ilias Chair and Geoff Cameron battled well alongside a physical Leeds midfield in Mateusz Klich and the aforementioned Phillips. But the real stars of the first half were surprisingly in the centre of defence for Rangers. After a more than difficult start to the season defensively and much being made of the lack of clean sheets, captain Grant Hall and the young Conor Masterson were imperious and would end up with a third clean sheet of the campaign.
When the ball was there to be won in the air, they won it; when it needed to be sent into orbit, they cannoned it out of the ground; and when there was a chance to play - both setting Rangers on the counter with direct passes - they did. Masterson in particular was super impressive. Sitting in alongside veteran Lee Wallace and Hall, he looked assured and calm whilst being talked and encourage through the game by the experienced Wallace. It certainly would have been naive for Masterson to play next to Manning in a game of this magnitude, which may have explained the Irishman’s absence.
Predictably, Patrick Bamford peeled onto Masterson at any opportunity trying to exploit inexperience and he really should have done better when able to roll the youngster for the only time in the game, but he could only fire high into The Loft when it would have been far easier to find the net.
Huge credit must go to Les Ferdinand and Mark Warburton moving to bring Masterson in following his release from Liverpool. A member of their Under-23 side at the age of just 18, he was also included in the Reds’ squad against Manchester City in the Champions League at the age of 19. Knee injuries restricted his development last year and despite being highly regarded by Jurgen Klopp’s coaching staff he left after feeling he needed more first-team football to aid his development. This is a player remember who will have spent a large chunk of the last 18 months working and training with the likes of Virgil Van Dijk and Trent Alexander Arnold, two of the best defenders in world football.
As Rangers get to grips with FFP over the next few years, more signings like Masterson will need to be made. Of course they won’t all work. But if you can get any close to the standard of the Ireland Under-21 international then it will be a job well done. Fantastic on the ball, good passing range, calm under pressure, willing to lead the ball out and crucially a natural fit for Warburtons style, next year could be a very interesting year for him.
There also much be hesitation now, despite earlier claims to get a defender in during this transfer window, are you really going to sign someone better than him? Or more to the point are clubs going to be letting players that promising go at this time of the year? There’s a very good chance you could end up with another kid from one of the top clubs with limited senior football experience under his belt. It’s an interesting predicament for the management team with Toni Leistner now back and Yoann Barbet back in training after a prolonged absence.
Having spoken to agents , it’s interesting to see how many won’t let their clients come and play in the Championship for fear of suffering a major injury due to its physical nature. They are always much more open to young players going out to foreign clubs where they able to play with little pressure. Any young player that comes into this league, see Amos, Eze, Chair, BOS etc, and is brave enough to play their game deserves an enormous amount of credit.
Marco Bielsa kicked his team out for the second half a lot earlier than the hosts, with no doubt the hairdryer treatment delivered a little less menacingly through an interpreter. Former Brentford winger Stuart Dallas, on a yellow card after he too was left with no option but to foul the irrepressible Bright Osayi-Samuel, was replaced by Ezgjan Alioski as they looked to continue to work the wings and overlap with Kane’s righthand side a clear target.
The attacking fullback has a mixed start to his career run W12 but stood up well to the challenge of having two wingers often down his side with very little help. In what was arguably his best performance for the club, he was committed, energetic and brave both in and out of possession.
Alioski headed wide after being found by Hernandez before Costa managed to pick out Bamford at the far post but he could only header over under pressure from Hall. On the hour mark, the ex-Chelsea striker latched onto another Ayling pass and his dramatic swan-like dive was enough for referee Peter Bankes to point to the spot and award his third penalty against QPR in four outings with us – two of them to Leeds.
Bamford picked himself up to place a penalty to Kelly’s right hand side. The Scot guessing correctly and palming the ball out of play before catching the resulting corner with ease. Loftus Road celebrated that probably longer and louder than it did that actual goal. Leeds’ fascination with Bamford’s ability to boost all the key metrics except the most important one of all costing them in a big game again.
Despite a little period after half time when he was insistent on launching every ball in hand opportunity up the other end of the pitch to Liam Cooper’s head, Kelly’s performance was impressive enough to be named Sky Sports’ man of the match. Good with his feet and an impressive shot stopper, it would look like he is now set to be a mainstay in the team for the foreseeable future.
With 30 minutes left to play, Rangers sunk deeper and deeper with Wells dropping in as a centre midfielder at times as Leeds continued to push for an equaliser. It was the first time this year I have seen QPR neglect their principles, play so frantic and rushed sometimes you would have been forgiven thinking this was Steve McClaren’s QPR side.
The inverted full-backs, which have been used to well at times this season to isolate opposition defenders against either Eze or Osayi-Samuel went out the window. The bravery so often shown by Amos to come and collect the ball off the goalkeeper did likewise. It all became a little bit messy and needed someone to get their foot on the ball and keep it moving whilst Rangers bought rest time.
Warburton reached to his bench for reinforcements adding Josh Scowen for legs and new signing Jack Clarke with 15 minutes left to play, as his side all but gave up any real attacking intent. Lee Wallace’s sloppy touch meant he had to take down Costa just outside the area with Hernandez’s resulting free-kick hitting the post whilst at the other end Kane’s marauding run and pull back was fired over by Wells.
With minutes left to go and Leeds players involving themselves in everything, from what side of the pitch the home players should leave when being substituted, to where free kicks should be taken, they were reduced to 10-men. Kalvin Phillips’ horror tackle on Geoff Cameron last year left the American out for a number of months just as he was building up some form. For whatever reason, with minutes left on the clock, he decided to have a second crack at the Rangers veteran. His over the top, studs up challenge would have been late if it was five seconds earlier. It left Cameron in a heap on the ground and started a small riot with players in the blue and white rightly incensed. Absolute horror.
The most comical thing about the whole affair was that the away side has spent the previous 87 minutes feigning injuries and moaning about contact at every opportunity, Phillips throwing his toys out of the pram earlier in the game when big hard Ilias Chair kicked the ball off him whilst on the floor. Much to the disappointment of referee Bankes, who’d been on an evening-up mission since the Wells goal, he had no choice unfortunately but to show a straight red card to the future England international whilst an enraged Cameron was held back by Kane, Scowen and Hall.
Five minutes of injury time was shown by the fourth official but in truth Rangers looked comfortable and perhaps could have stolen another goal when Eze decided to shoot instead of squaring to an unmarked Jack Clarke. Now one win in 21 league and cup games in London for Leeds, and five defeats in their last six visits to this corner of the city.
After another despairing result at Griffin Park, QPR replied with the win of the season so far. The progress in which certain players and playing styles have developed under the management in recent months has been astounding.
We now have an exciting young team, mixed with crafty pros like Wallace, Cameron and Pugh playing attacking football and often going toe-to-toe with some of the best sides in the league. As recent news about Derby shows, many more teams are due to be hit with impending FFP implications. If Rangers can build on the momentum they have at the moment over the next few years under Warburton, it could be an exciting time.
QPR: Kelly 8, Kane 8, Hall 7, Masterson 8, Wallace 6: Cameron 6, Amos 7 (Scowen 74, 6); Osayi-Samuel 8, Chair 7, (Clarke 74, 6) Eze 6; Wells 7 (Pugh 83, -)
Subs not used: Barnes, Manning, Leistner, Ball.
Goals: Wells (pre-assist Eze)
Bookings: Masterson 71 (time wasting), Wallace 79 (foul), Cameron 88 (retaliation), Wells (foul play).
Leeds: Casilla 5; Dallas 5 (Alioski 45, 6), Cooper 6, White 6, Ayling 6; Phillips 5, Klich 6 (Stevens 87, -); Costa 5, Hernandez 7, Harrison 6; Bamford 3
Subs not used: Mesiler, Struijk, McCalmont, Shackleon, Casey
Red Cards: Phillips 88 (serious foul play)
Bookings: Dallas 42 (foul), Hernandez 74 (foul), Ayling 88 (unsporting)
QPR Star Man – Conor Masterson 8 A mature performance from the youngster who capped his display by staying to clap all sides of the ground and even joining in a ‘You R’ss!’, which of course went down a treat for the many home fans still in attendance. If and it’s a big if, he can stay fit and maintain these performances then we may well have a big asset on our hands. He will face tougher battles than that of Patrick Bamford and as he grows will fill out his frame. But at just 21, to play like that in the Championship live on Sky against one of the best teams in the league, well done young man.
Referee – Peter Bankes (Merseyside) 4 Often feels as though these referees become so obsessed with making sure that they are ticking every box on their assessor’s sheet that they lose the complete feel for the game. Look like you’re going to connect with a Leeds player as they are clearing the ball, that’s a foul. Let a Leeds player fall over and grab the ball that’s a foul. Touch a Leeds player as they are making a pass, that’s a foul. Have three men round you and get man handled and pushed to the floor, that’s not a foul BOS, up you get. Wildly inconsistent, very much looking to make it the Bankes show, and got the big decisions in the game (bar the Phillips red card) wrong.
Attendance 16,049 (3,100 Leeds approx.)
The Twitter @JordanJFoster
Pictures – Action Images
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“Well, I can tell u my son was stood nearer the back of the Holker Street end and although he couldn't see who was responsible, he was disgusted and was very clear in telling me that the 'N' word was used by someone stood directly behind the goal nearer the front. I'm sick of hearing this, no one but the player being abused heard anything so maybe he was mistaken crap. This shite still exists despite everything that the authorities try to do because unfortunately there are still racists in every, city, town, village and hamlet in this country. [SwearFilter] scum of the earth.”
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