|Leeds United 2 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 8th December 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Roofe plagues R's again in tale of two penalties - Report
Sunday, 9th Dec 2018 14:15 by Clive Whittingham
Leeds won for a fourth game in a row, and QPR slipped to four without a win, in a controversial match at rain-lashed Elland Road on Saturday afternoon.
So the story goes, when Leeds went to South America to meet with Marcelo Bielsa about the prospect of becoming their new manager one of their concerns was just how a career managing at the highest level in his homeland, Spain and, more recently, France, along with two international jobs with Argentina and Chile, would prepare him for the notorious grind of a Championship season. After all, how many tapes of Bolton v Reading cross your desk when you’re in charge of Lille, Athletic Bilbao or Newell’s Old Boys?
What followed over the course of more than an hour was an intricate run down of all the other 23 other sides in Leeds’ division, the style of their respective managers, their best and worst players, the formations they’d used during 2017/18, sexual orientation, relationship with the Pope and so on at the end of which the two man Leeds delegation just looked at each other and conceded it had been a “pretty good answer”.
Note to Mark Hughes, that’s what meticulous looks and sounds like and a man as famed for his obsessive preparation and training as Bielsa was always going to have found plenty he liked in studying Queens Park Rangers’ recent poor defensive performances against Stoke City, Rotherham United and latterly Hull City. Steve McClaren went with the same system and personnel again despite conceding nine times in four games and losing 3-2 at home the previous week, inviting Leeds to pick away at all the same problems our previous opponents had exploited. And so it proved, right from the first whistle, with Leeds tripling up on Jake Bidwell down their right hand side looking to exploit all space in which Jarrod Bowen had run amok a week prior.
The first quarter of an hour was traumatic. With Pablo Hernandez, one of the cleverest players you’ll ever see at this level, and Jamie Shackleton, in at full back for the injured Stuart Dallas, raiding down the right, Rangers barely had chance to come up for air. Two minutes, Hernandez crossed from the right, Kemar Roofe buried a powerful effort just wide of the post with Joe Lumley beaten. Three minutes, Shackleton crossed from the right and Hernandez volleyed wide. Five minutes, Alioski crossed from the right, all the way through a crowded penalty area and into Joe Lumley’s grasp via several near misses. Ten minutes, Pawel Wszolek missed a chance to cut out a crossfield ball to the left, Saiz cut in from there and unloaded a cross shot which struck Roofe and flew wide of the post.
Ten minutes in and it felt like we’d been standing there our whole lives. Any sort of score seemed likely at this stage. A 3-0, a 4-0, a 5-0, a repeat of that dire 6-1 we suffered here once? I’d have been surprised at none of this at this stage of the game. Rangers escaped from their own half once, briefly, in the first quarter hour and wasted a Luke Freeman free kick when they did so. After 17 minutes Joel Lynch and Joe Lumley started flagrantly wasting time over a goal kick which, while making allowances for an attempt to disrupt Leeds’ rhythm and slowing the relentless pace of the hosts down a bit, was low even by the standards of this wretched division. Roofe almost got on the end of an Alioski shot that deflected up in the air and landed in the no-man’s land between defence and goalkeeper. QPR were deep, tight, narrow and horribly exposed. It was starting to feel like a looooooooooooong old afternoon in store for the few who’d paid the thick end of 40 notes to stand in the freezing cold and support their team.
But there turned out to be an element of Homer Simpson’s boxing career to this onslaught. Rangers had been beaten about the head for several rounds, but hadn’t gone down, and Leeds were in danger of punching themselves out. Luke Freeman winning the ball high up the pitch midway through the first half and setting up Ebere Eze for a steered shot towards the bottom corner which was saved by Bailey Peacock-Farrell was the first chink of light and moments later the sun broke through for real. Nahki Wells, light of foot and stern of fringe, making absolute fools of first Kalvin Phillips and then Pontus Jansson before racing clear to the edge of the box and finishing beautifully into the far bottom corner. An incredibly difficult chance, barely a chance at all when the ball first dropped wide right, smoothly turned into a fine goal with a minimum of fuss and effort. God I love that boy.
What happened next was bizarre. Leeds are a confident team, on a three game winning run and top of the league on a couple of occasions during this afternoon as Borussia Norwich toiled with lowly Bolton. Elland Road is full of people and voice, the locals once more believing the good times are finally returning to this part of Yorkshire. And yet one QPR goal, against the run of play, punctured the whole thing on and off the pitch. The crowd went from raucous to completely silent, the team from dominant to stifled. Leeds had fallen in a hole of surprising depth after a relatively minor set back.
Rangers had been clock running at 0-0, and that increased ten fold with a lead to protect. Referee Peter Bankes, as we’ve come to expect from Championship officials this season, did absolutely nothing to address it. Pawel Wszolek, in particular, frequently strayed into the realms of taking the absolute piss with his throw ins and delayed restarts down the right side of the field. The majority of the last five minutes of the half were taken up by an injury to defensive central midfielder Geoff Cameron, who was subsequently replaced by Josh Scowen The Goblin Boy at half time, but despite all that obvious cheating, and the goal, and the prolonged celebrations, and the lengthy treatment for Cameron, Bankes added just three minutes to the end of the first half. I’d expected the thick end of six. Honestly, it was us causing it this week just as Hull had done to us seven days prior, and it’s getting really, really silly now.
Those three minutes were enough, however, for an equaliser. Pressure built in the final moments of stoppage time, Rangers chucked bodies in the way of shots, but a poked effort from Hernandez was cleverly flicked in by Roofe. As with so many goals we’ve conceded of late, the ball went in with the defence appealing for offside, but Leistner was so deep he really ought to have been charged for a seat on the front row of the stand behind the goal and had played Roofe on. You can’t defend as deep as we are doing at the moment and expect to be catching anybody offside and we’ve now been caught out trying to do so for the second goal at Stoke, the third against Hull and the first here. We’ve got to find a way to get ten yards further up the pitch.
Leeds’ in-house television channel had the first half possession down as 71% to the home side, and 21% to QPR at the break. I’ll just leave that there.
If conceding at such a late stage showed a lack of street smarts, conceding a penalty immediately after half time was thick as mince. Quite how Bankes managed to see Leistner handle the ball away from Roofe as he pulled a long ball down in the penalty box I’m not sure – he was directly behind it, with bodies blocking his view – but we know from Blackburn a month ago that this particular referee won’t think twice when given the chance to award a spot kick against Rangers and he was once again lightning fast to turn one point into none. Leistner was booked for dissent.
Leeds haven’t had a penalty in 59 games dating back to October 2017, so we should have known the law of Jensen/Doyley would mean they got one against us here. Roofe certainly didn’t look like a man short of practice, confidently sweeping the kick into the bottom corner for his second of the game, tenth of the season and sixth in three games against Rangers. Homey, he’s not going to get tired, it’s Drederick Tatum.
That looked like it might be that. Lumley saved nervously off to his left as Roofe tried for a hat trick from range, then much more impressively from close range on the other side as the former Oxford striker, once again, sprung that creaking offside trap. Kicking unusually wayward though.
A quiet drift away to a 3-1 or 4-1 now seemed the likely outcome.
Not so. As in similar circumstances at Stoke, back QPR came. Angel Rangel, fresh from signing a new contract to the end of the season, confused his man by coming back onto his left foot at the byline creating time and space to pick out an unmarked Nahki Wells who I’d have backed to hit the target with everything I own before he skied the chance of the match over the bar. Moments later he skipped in from the left flank and unleashed a far better effort past Peacock-Farrell and fractionally wide of the far post but it was the first chance that stung the most and he knew it.
It was nice to see McClaren reach for Bright Osayi-Samuel rather than his usual stock changes with a quarter of an hour left, and Wszolek’s hit and miss form since the highs of Brentford have me wondering whether more minutes or a start or three might come the former Blackpool man’s way soon. As against Hull, Rangers looked immediately better and more threatening for having him on. Less so Matt Smith, who laboured against his former club once Leeds had brought on Halme to counter his aerial threat. Steve McClaren the former England manager reaching for the biggest human being he could find to try and plunder a point and Marcelo Bielsa the storied former coach of Argentina doing likewise to counter him – so beautifully Championship.
In weather you could drown a duck in, QPR tried to pack the Leeds area with bodies and force an equaliser by any means they could. Smith looked to have been clearly hauled down by Janson when contesting a Rangel throw in the box – the Swede’s arm wrapped around Smith’s throat was a big clue – but it turns out Bankes’ eyesight isn’t that brilliant after all and a linesman staring straight at it was, presumably, thinking about other things. Confusion and collision between Phillips, usually a central midfielder but pressed into service at the back here, and Peacock-Farrell nearly spilled an open goal chance to Eze before he was removed. It just… wasn’t…. quite…. dropping QPR’s way and when Mass Luongo tried and failed and tried again and failed again to wiggle enough space in the area for a late shot on the goal the ball eventually fell to Jake Bidwell who improvised an improbable 20-yard lob over Peacock-Farrell with his weaker right foot. The keeper, who looked like he’d fucked it from the moment it left Bidwell’s boot, flung up a glove at the last minute to steer it away. Luke Freeman was pelted with bottles and coins as he took the resulting corner because… well, because Leeds.
There was time left for Joel Lynch’s latest pitch for his annual Christmas break – an entirely needless, reckless, horrific lunge at Klich that nearly made orphans of the Pole’s children. Yellow card. Better luck next week Joel, though you’re running out of games mate.
Better than we thought it would be before the game. Certainly not as bad as we feared after ten minutes. But a chance for at least a point lost against a Leeds team that’s flying high without playing well, and wilted surprisingly quickly after conceding the first goal. To allow them back into the game with a defensive mistake and a penalty immediately before and after half time showed a disappointing lack of street smarts from QPR who are now four without a win.
Leeds: Peacock-Farrell 6; Shackleton 7, Jansson 5, Phillips 5, Douglas 6; Forshaw 6; Alioski 6, Saiz 6 (Halme 81, 7), Klich 6, Hernandez 8 (Clarke 86, -); Roofe 8
Subs not used: Bamford, Huffer, Harrison, Baker, Davis
Goals: Roofe 45+3 (assisted Hernandez), 52 (penalty, won Roofe)
Bookings: Klich 33 (foul), Phillips 63 (foul)
QPR: Lumley 6; Rangel 6, Leistner 5, Lynch 5, Bidwell 6; Cameron 6 (Scowen 46, 6), Luongo 6; Wszolek 5 (Osayi-Samuel 73, 6), Eze 6 (Smith 78, 5), Freeman 6; Wells 6
Subs not used: Ingram, Furlong, Cousins, Hemed
Goals: Wells 26 (unassisted)
Bookings: Scowen 48 (foul), Leistner 52 (dissent), Rangel 76 (foul), Lynch 85 (nearly Christmas)
QPR Star Man – Mass Luongo 6 Hard to choose from a pretty mediocre performance. Would have gone for Wells had he not missed that gilt edged second half chance. Luongo battled effectively in a tough midfield battle. Only a six though, which tells its own story, in Hernandez and Roofe Leeds had the two best players on the pitch.
Referee – Peter Bankes (Merseyside) 4 Managed to drag six yellow cards (some reporting Lumley got one and it was seven but I didn’t see that if so) out of a game that barely warranted three. He's now shown 82 yellows in just 18 appointments this season. How he’s seen the Leistner handball from where he is, I’ve no idea. How anybody could miss Smith being pulled down by his neck in the area late on, likewise, but then it was pretty clear by that point that you’d more chance of flying to the moon in a wheelie bin than getting a QPR penalty out of this bloke. Did absolutely nothing to stem QPR’s obvious and frankly fairly embarrassing first half time wasting and then only added three minutes before half time. A poor all round display with few positives.
Attendance – 33,781 (600 QPR approx.) Amazed how quickly the atmosphere fell off a cliff after the Wells goal – three wins in a row, potential to go top of the league, Bielsa in charge, ground full, and yet one little set back stunned the whole place into silence. Very odd. Soon back to pelting Freeman with coins and bottles once back in front though bless em.
The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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