Defensive horror show sees QPR crash at West Brom – full match report
Tuesday, 9th Oct 2012 07:17 by LFW
QPR remain stuck to the bottom of the Premier League after a 3-2 defeat at West Brom on Saturday.
QPR, once known as the club that landed billionaire owners but got worse, are now in danger of becoming the outfit that added a dozen well regarded players to a squad capable of Premiership survival and got relegated.
There’s a lot of talk about fine margins in football, and Mark Hughes has plenty to cling to with that particular cliché. Had Bobby Zamora scored after rounding the goalkeeper against Chelsea, Junior Hoilett scored when played through on Brad Friedel at Tottenham, and Jose Bosingwa scored when he should have done with the last kick of the game against West Brom on Saturday then QPR would have four more points and be on a reasonable run of form.
But while there were positives to take from the Spurs and Chelsea games, and the fact that the team is just coming up short in games – even ones they’re a clear second best in – rather than being thrashed shows this group of players does have some potential, there is no getting away from just how poor QPR were at The Hawthorns on Saturday. The final 3-2 scoreline flattered the losing team.
Following the tactical abomination against West Ham in the previous match I rather unkindly suggested that Hughes couldn’t have done much worse had he simply picked 11 squad members out of a hat. By the looks of the first half here he did exactly that prior to facing Steve Clarke’s side.
The Welshman did, in fairness, recognise that QPR suffered from the lack of a physical presence in the centre of midfield against the Hammers. His solution to this was to move Stephane Mbia forward into a holding role between the midfield and defence. You may recall the last time Hughes tried this sort of 4-1-4-1 set up, and the five goals Swansea City walked through it. Mbia took the role enthusiastically, but executed it in a somewhat wild manner. West Brom – as anybody who has watched them this season knows – play a three man supporting cast behind a lone striker which left Mbia with plenty on his plate. After 30 seconds he gave the ball away and then, after a team mate had won it back for him ten seconds later, he did the same thing again and Rangers were forced to scramble the ball clear after a nervy moment in their own penalty area.
One might have considered that playing him there alongside Alejandro Faurlin may have been a shrewd move but having raced him back from a nine month lay off with a succession of 90-minute sessions in league and cup Hughes decided that post-West Ham the Argentinean should be dropped to the bench.
Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ji-Sung Park, however, both kept their places: Park to add legs to the midfield alongside Granero in Faurlin’s absence; Wright-Phillips for reasons known only to Hughes. This is a player whose self belief, confidence and use to the team was circling the drain six months ago and has now completely vanished. The QPR manager needs all the goodwill he can get right now in the face of mounting criticism and the continued selection of his diminutive right winger while players with more ability and better form sit on the bench is costing him that in bucket loads.
Hughes picked Clint Hill at left full back for want of a better option and the poor bastard was so dreadful that having been removed at half time he gave an interview to the press admitting he was no longer in the right physical condition to be able to play that role in the Premier League. He was regularly left trailing in the wake of an attractive home side, and Rangers conceded a goal down his side after five minutes. Long got away – all barrel chest and Premier League sharpness after a considered footballing education – and crossed perfectly for James Morrison to plant a header past the helpless Cesar. West Brom had attacked Villa repeatedly the week before with a James Morrison-Shane Long combination down the right wing and therefore weren’t presenting anything that QPR shouldn’t have known about. Writing very firmly on the wall at this stage.
Hughes is said to be excellent with injured players – refusing to rush them back, keeping them involved with the squad, making them feel wanted and such like. Having flogged Faurlin half to death over the previous weeks, here he brought Anton Ferdinand and Jose Bosingwa back into the defence just a few weeks after both suffered hamstring injuries. The medics presumably said they were fit to start, their performances suggested otherwise.
Bosingwa, a Portuguese international right back who once cost Chelsea £16.3m, played this game at a walking pace. In the tenth minute he collected a Granero free kick that had been cleared to the edge of the box and lazily punted a 35 yard nonsense high into the West Brom fans with a penalty box full of QPR players awaiting a cross. Some two hours later, with the very last kick of the game at the end of injury time, a final hopeful corner fell to him at the back post. Unmarked, on the edge of the six yard box, with the goal at his mercy, he leant back once more and sent the ball off into the stand again.
Still, could have been worse – his colleague Ferdinand had an even more torrid afternoon and could be at least partly faulted for all three goals. The second, on 21 minutes, came down that danger right side again as Morrison toasted Hill once more, delivered a cross to the near post and then watched with glee as Ferdinand, under no pressure, fell over the ball and directed it straight to Zoltan Gera who calmly rolled the ball home from 12 yards out. Mother Mary of Christ give me strength.
Already out of the game, Rangers had little to cheer. The one beacon of light was the long overdue recall of Adel Taarabt to the starting line-up after his super-sub act in the previous match with West Ham and subsequent emotional interview with the club’s website where the frustration of not even being able to get into this QPR team almost brought him to tears.
In the twelfth minute the Moroccan, playing wide left initially but more in support of Bobby Zamora as the game went on, won a free kick on the edge of the box with a typically swashbuckling run. Granero’s set piece was deflected wide but the subsequent corner caused more problems for QPR than West Brom as the home side flew down the field on the counter attack at lightning speed and were unlucky not to double their lead when Long got on the end of Morrison’s centre.
Taarabt drew a yellow card from Tamas at the midway point of the half as referee Mike Jones recognised the only way West Brom could stop the QPR man was by kicking him. The official was more generous with Mbia, letting him with a warning for a reckless foul on Mulumbu a moment later.
Rangers were two down by that stage and lucky not to be more. They had been asleep from an earlier throw in resulting in a Gera shot at Cesar, and the Brazilian goalkeeper had to save from Long on the half hour after Bosingwa had first given the ball away and then been skinned for pace by the lively Irishman.
The Baggies now smelt blood down the QPR right as well as the left and Peter Odemwingie came out to try his luck ten minutes before half time – roasting Bosingwa just as his team mates had and then pulling the ball back from the byline to Gera who shot straight at Cesar.
Thank goodness then for Adel Taarabt. Completely against the run of play, from nothing, he controlled a ball played up to him on the edge of the box by Granero on his thigh and then before it hit the ground turned and thumped an unstoppable volley past Ben Foster in the West Brom goal and into the net. Staggering on two levels: the quality of the strike and the fact that there was now only one goal between these two sides that were apparently separated on all other measurements by a chasm.
Rangers had a bit of a sniff of something now. Bosingwa crossed for Zamora to head over at the near post and just before half time they managed to exert some concerted pressure for a prolonged period of time around the West Brom box. But QPR were laboured, disjointed and every pass seemed forced. West Brom look like a team built carefully, over time, with a clear plan and structure, fielded in a formation they’re used to using where everybody knows their roles. The calm, composed, controlling presence of Mulumbu at the base of their midfield in stark contrast to poor Mbia who cost QPR 24 times as much and was about 50 times worse in this game. I find it strange that while the world and his wife seem to want to try and sign Cabaye and Tiote from Newcastle, nobody is ever publicly linked with Mulumbu who is a crucial part of this very handy West Brom team.
They responded to the Taarabt goal by sending Morrison down the right to cross for Long who nodded back and Odemwingie blasted wide. They then showed Rangers how to execute moves in the final third by breaking up the pre-half time QPR pressure and swiftly breaking down field with a move that ended with Long setting up Gera with an exquisite pass and Cesar making a world class save in a one on one situation to keep the half time score at two one.
Park saw yellow for a bad foul in stoppage time at the end of a half that was amazingly one sided considering the scoreline.
Steve Clarke sent on Gonzalo Jara for the second half instead of Gabriel Tamas who’d been the only Baggies player in the first period not to play well. Hughes sent on Armand Traore for Clint Hill by way of a mercy killing.
Jara didn’t fare much better than his predecessor when it came to handling Adel Taarabt initially. QPR’s in-form Moroccan robbed the new man of possession in his own half in the opening moments and then shot straight at Foster. Eight minutes later, after Bosingwa had once again found the same spot at the back of the stand with a ludicrous speculative shot from long range, Taarabt put a great ball in for Wright-Phillips to run onto but his low shot from an impossible angle that didn’t even trouble the side netting could only be described as abject. The QPR fans – who travelled in good numbers all things considered – began to chant the name of Junior Hoilett and while I’d usually point out that this is counterproductive for the players still out on the pitch it was hard not to agree with the sentiment. Hughes did take off Wright-Phillips later, but replaced him with Jamie Mackie.
Rangers had gone slightly tighter and narrower at the start of the second half with Park dropping further back to help out Mbia and Taarabt moving closer to Zamora. Once Mackie was on Rangers were back into a similar shape that they used to win five crucial home matches at the end of last season. This did at least seem to stifle West Brom a little better, and the hosts were nowhere near the free-flowing force we’d seen in the first half after the break. Long got caught under a great looking Morrison cross in the early stages of the half, but Mbia did likewise with a Granero corner before the hour mark and the game was much more even all in all.
Rangers were indebted to Ryan Nelsen who bravely blocked a Gera shot with his face on the hour but Steve Clarke had seen enough to suggest a new sort of threat was required and he introduced the raw physical presence of Romelu Lukaku in place of the more cute and considered Long, and sent on Markus Rosenburg instead of Odemwingie as well. Hughes subsequently replaced Mbia with Hoilett.
The changes certainly did more for the hosts than the visitors. Morrison let fly from 30 yards with a scorcher that luckily flew an inch too high and wide with Cesar beaten. Lukaku then bundled the ball against the base of Cesar’s post but had previously been flagged offside and then finally the game was put to bed when Mulumbu, one of the outstanding players on the day, rolled home from close range after a slick and incisive five pass move had cut the QPR defence to ribbons.
I’m amazed it took that long really. Had West Brom continued their first half performance into the second this would have been a rout and yet that third goal, deserved though it was, was probably the first instance of really good football they’d played after the break. Even more amazing was that QPR almost got a point regardless.
First Hoilett, as he had done at Spurs, delayed too long over a presentable shooting opportunity in the area, then when four minutes of added time was indicated Esteban Granero – one of few QPR players who didn’t deserve to be on the losing side – showed his quality with a calm finish into the top corner to halve the deficit once more.
Suddenly West Brom, so dominant for so long and so clearly superior in every department, were panicking. Fans bayed for the final whistle as Mulumbu collected a yellow card for time wasting.
They were right to be worried as well because had Bosingwa done what he should have done with the last piece of action in the match Rangers would have escaped with a 3-3 draw.
That in itself should be a positive. As poor as QPR were here and against West Ham they could easily have taken things from both matches. They’re finding a way to stay in games, but not to win them, and they’ve now lost four on the bounce.
What you have to remember here is we were playing a team from a stable club, built in a considered manner over a period of time, used to playing with one another in the system they use. None of that can be said about QPR and only time can ever put us in a position where we can emulate what Albion are achieving in this situation. Sacking managers only hinders the process further.
The question Hughes needs to answer more than any other, and the one I suspect he’d struggle with the most if anybody sat him down and asked him, is what his ideal starting 11 actually is. If everybody was fit and in form, what team would he pick and in what shape? Essentially, what are we working towards here as players slowly return to fitness?
Is Mbia a defender or a midfielder? Is he to replace Samba Diakite, play alongside him, or play behind him? What is the centre back pairing? Nelsen and Ferdinand? Hill? Mbia? Are we playing two holding midfielders or one? Or none at all? Is Park a winger, a holding midfielder, a central midfielder or simply here to sell shirts? Does Junior Hoilett get into this ideal starting 11 and if not why not? Are we playing a lone striker? Or three up front? Or two?
I would be so bold as to suggest that Hughes himself doesn’t know the answer to any of this. That would be fair enough if he was picking a horse for a course and selecting the QPR team on the relative weaknesses of the opposition, but in the last two games we appear to have picked a team that caters to the strengths of the teams we’re playing against.
Make that 18 away matches without a win as the one year anniversary of the last one approaches. I despair.
West Brom Foster 6, Tamas 4 (Jara 46, 5), McAuley 7, Olsson 7, Popov 7, Yacob 6, Mulumbu 8, Morrison 8, Odemwingie 6 (Rosenberg 62, 6), Gera 7, Long 8 (Lukaku 68, 6)
Subs: Daniels, Dawson, Dorrans, Fortune
Goals: Morrison 5 (assisted Long), Gera 22 (assisted Long), Mulumbu 85 (assisted Jara)
Bookings: Tamas 25 (repetitive fouling), Mulumbu 90 (time wasting)
QPR: Cesar 6, Bosingwa 3, Nelsen 6, Ferdinand 3, Hill 3 (Traore 46, 5), Mbia 5 (Hoilett 70, 5), Wright-Phillips 4 (Mackie 58, 5), Park 5, Granero 6, Taarabt 7, Zamora 5
Subs: Green, Onuoha, Faurlin, Cisse
Goals: Taarabt 25 (assisted Granero), Granero 90 (unassisted)
Bookings: Park 45 (foul), Mackie 87 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Adel Taarabt 7 Looked tired in the last half an hour, but then it must be quite hard work carrying a whole team around on your back. Looked confident, sharp, creative and willing to take the ball to feet in all situations – in stark contrast to all his team mates.
Referee – Mike Jones (Cheshire) 8 Very few complaints. Can be a little over fussy at times but kept a very good control of this game. I was impressed by the way he never seemed to be more than four or five yards away from every decision he made – always a good sign of a confident referee on his game.
Attendance 23,987 (1,500 QPR approx) I’ve never seen an away end empty like the QPR one did after the third goal but you could hardly blame the travelling faithful for that, and that they traveled in such good number and voice despite the start to the season is a credit to them. The same cannot be said of the mindless minority of pond life off to the right of the away end who booed Anton Ferdinand and sang “there’s only one John Terry” at one point. Subhuman scum.
Pictures – Action Images
Photo: Action Images
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