|Queens Park Rangers 3 v 2 Luton Town|
Saturday, 14th September 2019 Kick-off 15:00
From Eze street to fright fest – Report
Sunday, 15th Sep 2019 15:48 by Clive Whittingham
QPR combined sumptuous attacking play with suicidal defensive decision in a tubthumping 3-2 home victory against Luton Town at Loftus Road on Saturday.
Queens Park Rangers pass the football now. Queens Park Rangers commit large numbers of talented players to their attack now. Queens Park Rangers have footballers you don’t mind paying good money to watch now. Queens Park Rangers have a team you should be telling your friends about now. And with all this, so the theory went, would eventually come the footballing equivalent of Basil Fawlty’s damn good thrashing for somebody at some point.
If this were to click, with strikers of the standard of Nahki Wells and Jordan Hugill, supported by technicians as adept as Ebere Eze and Ilias Chair, with Todd Kane and Ryan Manning flying forward from full back and supplementary contributions from Marc Pugh or Luke Amos or Bright Osayi-Samuel, well then you wouldn’t want to be the team in the path of that particular footballing hurricane.
Yesterday Luton Town moved into the crosshairs for the first Saturday game of September and wished they hadn’t. Ever repulsive in luminous orange, backed by a sizeable support behind the School End goal, their arrival for a first meeting in 12 years conjured memories of the late 1980s and early 1990s when these two seemed to do nothing but play each other. The Hatters have been on the sharp end of Roy Wegerle, Les Ferdinand, Paul Furlong and others across 16 winless games on this ground and were to find Rangers’ class of 2019 way too hot to handle as well.
Mark Warburton’s team put the key in the ignition at a minute past three and set off like a Bugatti Veyron. Manning, Chair, Wells, Eze. Passes popping, ball moving, players in motion. Luton thought they might have got themselves a breather with a second minute interception only for Chair to read their intentions and pick the ball back up before feeding it to Eze to dispatch into the top corner from 20 yards.
Simon Sluga, a Croatian goalkeeper purchased for £1.3m over the summer, breaking a club record that had stood since 1988, should have saved that after getting two hands to the ball. This continued a nervous start to life in English football which included an aberration on opening night against Middlesbrough. Weirdly, he successfully made a much more difficult save to deny Eze from the same spot soon after, tipping a shot hit with his left foot this time onto the bar. When Manning then slung over an undefendable cross Eze struck wood again, this time with the back of his head.
One in the net and two off the bar, and that was just the first half an hour in Ebere Eze’s world. On planet Wells, the Bermudian was following up two goals for his national team during the week with another brace for his club. Toni Leistner, impressing at the heart of a three centre back formation, found him for the first with a long ball over the top which caught the visitors cold just as they thought they might have sussed out the short passing game. Wells never looked like missing that from the left channel, nor his second and Rangers’ third when Eze smoothly threaded him through a shot-to-shitrags backline for 3-0.
Eze had two other shots on the end of flowing moves blocked by last ditch defensive tackles. Jordan Hugill saw a presentable chance stolen off his toe and another glorious flick just about intercepted by a defender. A goal mouth scramble could have brought a second for Eze – he and Chair had the visitors on strings. Luton had their head in the oven, and knew all about it. QPR were flying through the air. Harlem Globetrotters stuff, Hugill using a ladder, Chair spinning the ball around on the end of his finger. Not even a third of the game gone and this could already be categorised as a proper hiding.
All very lovely and sexual. Rangers haven’t been in these situations very often in recent times so you can perhaps forgive them for not quite knowing what to do with themselves, but that shouldn’t have been a great problem because the game was done. By all means keep going like this, go on and get that fourth, fifth and sixth for Paul Parker, enjoy yourselves in the searing sunshine, dump whatever husk of Luton is left by the end in a cardboard box on the doorstep of a registered mental health charity. Or, be a bit pragmatic about it. Keep the ball, set the tempo, play risk-free football, rest a few in the second half and get ready for next week’s latest bracing visit to Miiiiiiiilllllllllllllllllllll.
Don’t, whatever you do, get caught pisballing about with your goalkeeper 30 yards further away from his goal than he should ever need to be, chancing his arm with a pass out to Ryan Manning so easy to telegraph it could have been used to communicate with allies in a time of war. Harry Cornick dispatched the gift into the empty net from 40 yards out. The spectre of Liam Kelly, liked by Warburton for his ability with his feet, looms ever larger over Joe Lumley who is currently too accident prone for a Championship number one.
With that drop of blood in the water, Luton began to stir. A pass that should have gone to Dom Ball the holding midfielder was instead forced to Leistner by Kane and the big German was robbed in dangerous territory giving James Collins a sight of goal on the end of a Kazenga Lua Lua assist but Yoann Barbet swooped in with a good tackle.
Still, half time, 3-1. A lazy lob rather than a big stiff hard on perhaps, but a decent erection all the same. No real cause for concern. Just have a nice steady start to the second half with a lot of possession, take any sting that might come from Luton trying to seize initiative and momentum after a half time bollocking, add some fresh legs from the bench and then go on and fill your boots. Fourth goal, fifth goal, and a sixth for Paul Parker. Don’t, whatever you do, allow Cornick and Collins to load up the back post unmarked and force in a second Luton goal from a nice Shinnie cross to change the entire complexion of the game within minutes of the restart. Especially don’t do that if Luton have very kindly let you off with an identical move and miss just a moments before.
Don’t do that. Don’t do that at all. Because then an afternoon at the beach becomes an afternoon in the office. Then a lovely couple of hours reclining in the sun watching Ilias Chair and Eere Eze do bits becomes 45 minutes in a sweatbox waiting for Yoann Barbet to give another chuffing penalty away. (Actually, to be fair to the Frenchman, when Collins did go storming through for a certain equaliser and a perfectly executed sliding was required he did indeed come up with his second one of the game and referee Jeremy Simpson rightly kept whistle away from lips). Don’t do that because it’s taking something fun and making it something terrifying. And all so utterly needless and self-inflicted.
The game now became a harum-scarum fright-fest. This week’s Chelsea loanee Izzy Brown, almost completely ignored by Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds last season, influenced proceedings from midfield, drilling one wide of the post from the edge of the box which looked in all the way. Rangers kept going forwards regardless, even throwing Luke Amos on at right wing back when Kane tired when Dom Ball shifting across and Geoff Cameron coming in to anchor the midfield might have been the more conventional choice.
Eze glided past opponents with slaloms and turns, combining with first Chair, then later Pugh, and also Ryan Manning to set up three different presentable chances for Jordan Hugill, each one spooned over the bar first time. Jordan, sweetheart, get your head and knee over the ball, there’s a good lad. As Barbet did when he strode confidently onto a long corner from Manning and cracked a first time volley that looked in all the way until it hit an unsuspecting defender en route.
Eze was still leading Luton a merry dance in injury time, gliding around the place like a great from a bygone era on this ground. Three goals already, another assist thrown on the pile, if those numbers keep improving at this rate Rangers will be beating off cash offers for their prized asset next summer. Southampton watched him in the recent home defeat to Swansea, and the systematic destruction of one of his former clubs won’t have deterred long-time fan David Pleat from getting in Tottenham’s ear about this local prospect again. Sod the pragmatism and finances though, just sit back and enjoy this sort of football player while he’s still in our colours.
Wells didn’t look overly thrilled with his early withdrawal, possibly pre-planned after a week of travelling, but Warburton went with another striker, Jan Mlakar, rather than an extra body to assist overworked Ball in the middle of midfield. One powerful run and intelligent cut back from the Brighton loanee would have been a tap in had anybody gambled at the back post. Punishment for the failure to find a killer fourth could easily have come four minutes from time when Luton sub George Moncur, son of John Concurs host John Moncur, reversed a low shot from 20 yards which Lumley did brilliantly to sort his feet out in time to get down and save low to his right.
Three three looked on right to the death, when Grant Hall had no choice but to foul Sonny Bradley in broken play giving the Hatters a great chance from a free kick which Moncur mercifully struck straight into the wall.
It need never have been that way, but then it wouldn’t really have been QPR if it hadn’t.
QPR: Lumley 5; Hall 6, Leistner 7, Barbet 7; Kane 6 (Amos 69, 6), Manning 7; Ball 6, Chair 7 (Pugh 74, 7), Eze 8; Wells 8 (Mlakar 66, 6), Hugill 5
Subs not used: Cameron, Smith, Scowen, Kelly
Goals: Eze 3 (assisted Chair), Wells 20 (assisted Leistner), 28 (assisted Eze)
Bookings: Kane 47 (foul), Hall 90+2 (foul)
Luton: Sluga 5; Tunnicliffe 5, Pearson 5, Bradley 5; Bolton 5 (Galloway 59, 6), Bree 6; Shinnie 6, Lua Lua 5 (Moncur 66, 6), Brown 7; Collins 7 , Cornick 7 (Lee 79, 6),
Subs not used: Mpanzu, Jones, Butterfield, Shea
Goals: Cornick 36 (unassisted), Collins 48 (pre-assist Shinnie, assisted Cornick)
Bookings: Shinnie 65 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Ebere Eze 8 Goals. Assist. Brilliance.
Referee – Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire) 8 Unobtrusive and unfussy, the complete opposite of his pedantry and pickiness in previous performances. Big relief, contributed to a fantastic game.
Attendance 16,186 (3,000 Luton approx.) Not a great deal of time for Luton but it made for an attractive backdrop and brilliant atmosphere to have the place properly full again.
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