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Ledesma inspires QPR to easy Carlisle win - full match report
Ledesma inspires QPR to easy Carlisle win - full match report
Thursday, 28th Aug 2008 09:30

QPR cruised into the last 32 of the League Cup with a thumping 4-0 victory against Carlisle United on Tuesday.

QPR put on a really professional display at Loftus Road and swept aside a decent Carlisle outfit to progress through to the Third Round of the Carling Cup. It just sounds weird saying that, doesn't it?

Iain Dowie has promised that he would take this competition seriously and so far it’s paying off for us handsomely. I thought we were outstanding against Swindon Town in the last round and although our play didn't reach the heights of that game, we came pretty close and put in a really solid performance that at times was just too classy for our opponents to deal with.

Still, there was no place in the side for Lee Camp and I was disappointed and worried about that. He had to settle for the bench as Radek Cerny took goal with Damien Delaney and Peter Ramage occupying the full-back spots. Matthew Connolly partnered Damien Stewart in defence and we had a five-man midfield consisting of Lee Cook and Emmanuel Ledesma on either wing, Gavin Mahon and Martin Rowlands in the middle with Daniel Parejo supporting Samuel Di Carmine in attack.

Carlisle lined up with Ben Williams in goal, David Raven, Evan Horwood at right and left-back and Danny Livesey and Peter Murphy in the centre of defence. On the left they played with Simon Hackney and on right, Cleveland Taylor. Marc Bridge-Wilkinson partnered Paul Thirlwhirl in the middle and Michael Bridges and Gary Madine started up front.

The visitors started brightly and forced the first shot at goal inside the opening minute. We pressed the ball well but they had the possession and Simon Hackney sent his shot wide over the bar after a good passing move.

A minute later, Daniel Parejo went into a crunching 50-50 tackle with Paul Thirlwell. I was surprised he got stuck in like that and he did hurt himself and was hobbling around for a minute or two, but he didn't complain and got on with his game, taking the ball down beautifully from Matthew Connolly shortly after and slotting a ball into the right channel for Samuel Di Carmine to collect.

In the fourth minute we fashioned our first half chance when Parejo collected the ball and found Peter Ramage with a slick pass. Ramage crossed for Gavin Mahon who made a run into the box and met it with a crisp volley but Peter Murphy flung himself in the way and deflected the ball out for a corner. Parejo's corner was headed away at the near post though by David Raven.

Emmanuel Ledesma hadn't really been involved up until this point, but he got on the ball in the seventh minute and moved forward a couple of yards before unleashing a 25 yard strike at goal. Ben Williams was equal to it and made a very good save; putting the ball out for a corner in the process.

Up until now we had done reasonably well going forward, but Damien Delaney had given away possession cheaply twice when we were on the attack. One of these led to Carlisle winning a corner which Paul Thirlwell slung into the box but Martin Rowlands did well to clear with his head.

A couple of minutes later Parejo produced a superb turn from a Delaney throw midway up the pitch and he played the ball to Rowlands who exchanged a one-two with Ledesma but his shot was blocked and went out for another corner. Parejo's delivery was excellent, but Delaney produced an air shot and completely missed the ball which allowed Carlisle to clear.

In the seventeenth minute Gavin Mahon won a header from a kick up the pitch and found Cook who turned smartly and ran with the ball. He played a neat one-two with Di Carmine and laid in Parejo who nut-megged his man and found Ramage on the right. Cook had ran all the way from left to right and Ramage played the ball to him and he cut back on his left foot and whipped in a cross-shot but it went into the hands of Williams. It was nearly there and good football but with no end product.

Three minutes later Carlisle managed to keep possession of the ball for what seemed a long time and eventually worked their way through on goal and almost fashioned out a one-on-one opportunity for Hackney but it was adjudged to have been offside. I didn't think it was and neither did Carlisle, so it was a lucky moment for us.

It was a good period for Carlisle this, and in the 22nd minute they won a free kick outside the box after a foul by Delaney. Marc Bridge-Wilkinson disguised his pass and sent the ball out to the left to Hackney who crossed to the far post. We just about cleared the ball but suddenly it broke to Parejo who was just outside the box. He dashed forward a few yards and looked right, but in the corner of his eye, on the left, Di Carmine was breaking and he sent a great 60 yard ball into his path. The Italian controlled well but his second touch was poor and he lost the ball. They were on the attack again moments later when Hackney got a shot in on goal from 20 yards after we lost the ball, but Cerny saved.

We were on the attack next though. Connolly played a nice ball into Parejo who cleverly flicked the ball into the path of Ledesma and he found Ramage on the right who made a forward run. Ramage cross the ball in but David Raven headed away. Lee Cook collected the ball shortly after and fired in a shot from 25 yards, but it went just over. Delaney then squandered possession again moments later after good work from us and Bridge-Wilkinson played a good through ball through the centre of our defence but Martin Rowlands tracked back really well and mopped up the danger.

We forced another corner in the 27th minute when Parejo, Rowlands and Cook all linked well which saw the latter's shot deflected out for a corner. Parejo delivered to the near post again but this time Madine cleared. The Spaniard's corners all seemed to go to the same area and every time a Carlisle player seemed to win it. I was wondering when they would switch it to the other side and let Ledesma have a go, as he hadn't had the chance to send one in yet.

Ledesma actually had a great chance to score on the half hour when Stewart sent a random long ball straight down the middle and Carlisle let it bounce over them and Ledesma ghosted straight in and fired a volley at goal. Williams made a great save and forced the corner. Ledesma finally took it and delivered a dangerous ball in but it was punched away by Williams under pressure and suddenly landed at the feet of Thirlwell who broke with aplomb. His surging run looked real dangerous but up popped Rowlands out of nowhere with an outstanding sliding tackle to dispossess him.

Rowlands was playing really well and I was very impressed by his defensive work. He was also visibly marshalling the players and playing a real captain's role on the pitch. He told Ledesma to stay on his feet after the Argentine dived theatrically twice in the space of 30 seconds after minimal contact.

We were probing well but not quite getting the clear opportunity we wanted to break the deadlock. In the 32nd minute, Cook spun well on the ball in a crowd of Carlisle players and played a reverse pass to Mahon who made an intelligent forward run. He slotted in Delaney on the overlap as he raced into the box and fired a shot in at goal, but Williams saved well again and forced yet another corner. Ledesma fired in another beautiful delivery and there was a bit of a scramble with Stewart and Connolly almost getting in on the act, but Carlisle managed to clear their lines.

But after more good work, we were back to some negatives. A couple of minutes later Delaney was guilty of letting Taylor cross the ball in but Ramage was on hand to clear. Delaney looked to make amends with a bursting run as we broke, but again, he lost control of the ball and possession. His sloppiness by now was really irritating me and I was at a loss for words at how many times he gave away possession when it seemed harder not to.

The only other noteworthy moment before the half came to a close was in the 42nd minute when a harmless punt by Carlisle looked easy enough for Stewart to deal with, but he lost out again to Madine in the air. Connolly was on hand to sweep in and clear the ball and he had a go at Stewart for not dealing with it better.

I was relatively pleased by what I saw in the first-half. Some people would have been worried about our lack of penetration in the final third, but Carlisle had played well. They knocked the ball around nicely in spurts, but Connolly's outstanding display at the back made it difficult for them to find a way through. In contrast, when we had the ball, we played with a pedestrian pace at times and the slow tempo (from both teams) meant that we always had a lot to do once we reached the final third. It was hard to finish off the moves and we were guilty of running out of ideas a little bit when faced with so many Carlisle players in defence. I wasn't concerned though as it seemed like if we moved the ball just a tad bit quicker we'd eventually break them down. We looked the fitter team too.

We came flying out of the traps in the second period. Carlisle hit the ball forward but Connolly was on hand to win his header which fell to Ledesma who won his challenge. He found Di Carmine just on the right in the box, but he scuffed his shot across goal and wide.

Ledesma was on the ball again just seconds later when Peter Murphy played a terrible square pass right into his path. Ledesma burst through from around the half way line and ran and ran at the defence before entering the box. He should of released the ball but ended up holding on too long and forced a corner. No bother though, he whipped it in and Stewart rose at the near post with a thumping header across to the left hand side and in for 1-0.

The goal was just what we needed and you just sensed that the lads had rolled up their sleeves and decided it was time they showed Carlisle what they were really capable of and I thought it knocked the stuffing out of the visitors too.

Ledesma had clearly started the half on fire. A couple of minutes later he controlled a long ball from a Cerny free kick quite superbly just outside the box. He found Di Carmine again who made a run across goal and the Italian shot at the near post but Williams saved with relative ease.

Minutes later it was two nil. We kept hold of the ball well and had good passing possession until Mahon found Ledesma just inside the box on the right and from there it was game over. Ledesma took a touch, created space and cut inside on his left foot before firing low to Williams near post. His strike was pure, beating him and going in off the post. A great finish. He was almost in again just a minute later after another good passing move that almost had him in on goal after he crept up on the left side, but it was well cut out.

For the next five minutes we took out foot slightly off the gas as Carlisle tried to find an answer to our fast start. Marc Bridge-Wilkinson had a shot saved by Cerny and on the hour Delaney made a bizarre error under no pressure with a crazy pass straight to Thirlwell who was just outside the box. It was surreal because the Irishman had about four options but looped the ball straight to the opposition across goal. Thirlwell though failed to punish him and his shot was rather poor.

But Carlisle's attempted revival was short lived. After Connolly won the ball with a superb tackle it fell to Rowlands who played a one-two with Mahon and released Ledesma. He played a one-two with Parejo whose fabulous return pass carried just enough weight for Ledesma to latch onto and dispatch into the back of the net for 3-0. It was a lovely clinical goal and the type of free flowing attacking play that would have made most teams proud.

Straight afterwards though Delaney had another horror moment. He was easily turned by Taylor and hacked him down with a dirty and poorly timed tackle. He was booked for it but oddly immediately signalled to the bench that he wanted to come off. He looked frustrated with himself, even before that, and we thought at the time that he was so hacked off with his own performance that he wanted off... we heard elsewhere that he had been carrying a knock or wasn't well, so maybe that explained his sub par showing?

A triple substitution ensued with Angelo Balanta coming on for Samuel Di Carmine, Adam Bolder for Gavin Mahon and Kaspars Gorkss for Damien Delaney. Gorkss went into the centre of defence and Connolly moved out to left-back, which was a shame given his commanding display in the centre.

That seemed to unsettle us for just a little bit and Carlisle took one last stab at getting themselves back into the game. Substitute Jeff Smith forced a great save in the 72nd minute from Radek Cerny. He spun inside the box just outside the six-yard area and fired in low to Cerny's right. The Czech got down and turned it around the post and showed that when he needed to really be called upon, he was there. Top save.

From here the game appeared dead and buried. We kept patient and keep playing our football while Carlisle seemed to just punt the ball down the pitch and continuously give it away. By now Stewart had got in many more headers and his goal seemed to breed confidence in him and although he wasn't too bad in the first-half, he was a lot better in the second.

With 10 minutes to go, we were still looking for more goals. Lee Cook had made a few bursting runs from deep and was suddenly popping up all over the place. He looked hungry for a goal and after a good passing move he fired narrowly wide. Carlisle replied a couple of minutes later with a free-kick that Smith took and forced Cerny into making a decent save at his near post after a foul by Gorkss.

In the 85th we wrapped the game up. That man Ledesma again. Cook broke away from deep and made a fine dribbling run before playing in Ledesma who drifted in field. He played a one-two with Balanta who delightfully back-heeled into his path and Ledesma raced onto it and dinked the ball over Williams. A fine finish and it capped a terrific second-half showing from Rangers. The Argentine was clearly enjoying the game and it was obvious how much each goal meant to him by the way he celebrated them. He almost got a fourth in stoppage time when he got the ball and banged in a shot over the bar with the crowd egging him on.

It's hard to know how to sum up this performance, but we had most of the play and made good use of the ball. There were good performances all over the pitch. Martin Rowlands was excellent in midfield and Matthew Connolly was my pick of the bunch, but when that little Argentine goes and sets up one and score three, well, it's hard to look past him isn't it? He scored three quite wonderful goals and is just far, far, far too good for this level of football.

Carlisle played well in the first-half and their wide men put in good performances as did young Gary Madine up front, but they just couldn't cope with us once we stepped up a gear and it's frightening to think that we still have to fit in Rowan Vine and Akos Buzsaky into this side. It will get better yet, I'm sure and this is a stepping stone to more consistency, confidence and understanding in this team. There was a lot to be positive about after this one.

Radek Cerny – He didn't have a great deal to do throughout the match but was there when called upon. He had a couple of long range shots to deal with that could have been tricky and he pulled off one really top save in the second when we were 2-0 up.

Peter Ramage – It was a no frills type of performance from Peter. He seemed weaker in the air than in previous games and didn't win as many balls as you would expect him too. His touch was a little bit off as well and for some reason it seemed to take him longer to get the ball under control than in other matches. I suspect he was slightly fatigued from the weekend's game.

Damien Delaney - Delaney's performances are starting to concern me a little bit. I hope he just needs to get into his groove but he's giving possession away easily and letting people get past him or not stopping crosses. He's a long way from the excellent form he finished last season in. Seemed to get frustrated with himself at times and I take that as positive sign.

Matthew Connolly - I thought he was outstanding at the back, winning virtually all of his challenges in the air or in the deck and his distribution was generally good too. He likes to play those inside passes to the midfielders, and those types of balls are at great angles for us to do something useful for it. It was a shame he got moved to left-back but even then he adjusted quite well. I like him more at centre-back though.

Damien Stewart - He was okay in the first-half but still missed one or two headers that he shouldn't have. After he scored with a great header in the second, confidence seemed to ooze through him and he was much stronger and commanding for the second-half. He can be pleased with his evening's work and the way he improved as the match wore on.

Lee Cook - He's still a bit lukewarm and in the first-half seemed to run out of ideas a little bit. He kept dribbling with the ball in dangerous areas and then slow down and almost come to a halt. The good thing though is he kept plugging away and his performance improved and got better as the match went on. He made some outstanding runs from deep and came inside to the middle a lot too. I think he's looked good when he's come inside in other matches as well. Let's get him on the ball in there more when we need to. Looked hungry to get a goal by the end as well.

Emmanuel Ledesma – You can just tell that he loves it here and loves playing football. He scored three quite marvellous goals and was perhaps unlucky not to add to that tally either. He linked well with many players but mainly with Parejo. Far too good for Carlisle.

Martin Rowlands - He was really impressive defensively and made some excellent covering runs and interceptions, as did Gavin Mahon. They looked comfortable playing alongside one another and have struck up a good understanding of who does what and when. It was a real captain's performance and he was constantly talking to the players around him. Sure he missed one or two passes now and then but I was really thrilled with his overall display.

Gavin Mahon - He put in a good performance and was nice and sensible, but made some good surging runs forward too. He looks like he is in decent shape and form and his experience is a great asset for this side. He impressed me with those forward runs and you wonder whether the opposition expect it. He's not just a big lump, which is what some people mistake him for.

Daniel Parejo - The Spaniard showed sublime class at times. His masterful manipulation of the ball was a cut above, as was some of the choice and range of his passing. I particularly liked that when we were well in the lead and clearly going to win that he didn't showboat. He continued to keep it simple and play the right type of balls and that's the sign of a top player. The pass for Ledesma's second was really out of this world. Why? Because any other player on the pitch would have gone for goal themselves from the position he got in, but he showed such awareness and patience and then fabulous decision making and precision with a gorgeously weighted pass which Ledesma finished beautifully.

Samuel Di Carmine - Not quite ready to be honest and I feel a bit sorry for him because he's still adapting to the style of the game over here. He struggled to win headers from goal kicks and often his timing to meet the ball was slightly off meaning he either missed it or couldn't direct them properly. He is however good at winning shorter balls in the air and playing delicate passes with his head as well as his feet. I think he lacks a bit of pace though and sometimes his agility is ever so slightly lethargic. The positive for him is he does have a brain and knows when to set the ball for those one-two's.

Angelo Balanta - It took him a little while to get into the swing of things because we never got him the ball where he actually wanted it initially. As time progressed though he began to find his feet and showed some good moments of close control. The assist for Ledesma's hat-trick was excellent and it was another good cameo performance.

Adam Bolder - He was nice and busy as well as vocal. I was pleased he got a run out and although he didn't do a great deal, it was nice to see that the midfield performance was still at a good level after Mahon went off.

Kaspars Gorkss - He wasn't really tested in any fashion on the night. Started a little clumsily but nothing to shout home about and actually as the game went on he won his fair share of headers and got on the ball more a little bit .

Referee - Keith Hill (Hertfordshire) 7/10 - Barely noticed him and he let the game flow as much as possible. Good showing and the majority of the decisions were sound and sensible.

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