|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 2 Everton|
Tuesday, 21st September 2021 Kick-off 19:45
They came to play - Report
Wednesday, 22nd Sep 2021 17:29 by Clive Whittingham
QPR were at their mesmeric, chaotic best on Tuesday night as they knocked Premier League Everton out of the League cup on penalties to advance into the last 16.
Everton, a club you’ve heard of, the latest to be slain by Queens Park Rangers, a team you soon will have. The names, the reputations, the money, the former manager of Real Madrid, somebody in a Rondon shirt over a fat suit, travelled down from Merseyside. The football, the creativity, the spirit, the ability and the narrative were provided by the Londoners. Ilias Chair and Chrissy Willock came to play, the two best players on the pitch picked up for the cost of the visitors’ travel expenses – nutmegs we prefer. Charlie Austin rolled back the years, two first half headers to bring the crowd to their feet - close your eyes and it’s 2014 again. Seny Dieng with enough saves in open play and the subsequent shoot out to poke his recent critics in both eyes. It ebbed. It flowed. It’s a miracle it finished this side of 4-4. Eminently watchable, hugely enjoyable, chaos.
For two teams with no hope of ever winning this country’s main league prize, QPR and Everton’s respective cup records are risible. Rangers haven’t been to round four of this competition since 2008, which was also the last time they beat a team from the division above (Villa), and prior to that it was 1995 when they’d had a bye through the first round to help them on the way. The Toffees, a far bigger club with greater resources and expectation, have arguably been even worse relatively speaking. Yes, a couple of quarter finals, and a couple of semis, in the last decade, but out by round four in 29 of the last 33 seasons and no success in the FA Cup either since 1995. What, exactly, are they saving themselves for?
So much success and failure in this competition hangs on attitude and team selection. QPR would have been in the last 16 three years ago had Schteve McClaren not taken a creche up north for a plum draw at lowly Blackpool and thrown the game, resting his precious seniors for a weekend hammering at Swansea. Warbs Warburton talks about the fixture congestion facing his tightknit squad more than he talks about what a lovely boy Luke Amos is, but significantly weakened sides in competitive fixtures hasn’t really been his style since he got here. There were changes - Austin back into the attack; Andre Dozzell given a second chance to make a first impression instead of Stefan Johansen; Albert Adomah finally given that crowd-pleasing start at right wing back; Jimmy Dunne no longer left to wait for one of Jordy De Wijs’ sabbaticals in the middle of the back three – but this was absolutely not one of Harry Redknapp’s carefree clusterfucks of the paying general public. Rangers meant business. Dom Ball and Yoann Barbet cracked into two borderline tackles in as many minutes sending Andre Gomes – sporting more hair on his head here than I’ve grown in my entire life - screaming to referee Kevin Friend. Toto, I’ve a feeling you’re not in Kansas any more. Might have to put a tackle in yourself at some point (or not, as it turned out).
Off we set at a skip and a jump. More action in the first 35 minutes here than occurred on this ground between 2016 and 2019. Charlie Austin shot across the bows from long range. Tom Davies had a go from similar distance and drew a firm Dieng save. Everton’s constant overloads down QPR’s right produced a cut back for Gomes to drill wide.
QPR’s electric combinations down their left produced altogether more pertinent results. Discuss whether playing the more accomplished footballers of Man Utd, Leicester and Everton brings out the best in the impudent pairing of Chair and Willock if you like - perhaps it’s no surprise they’re this effective when not having their spleen wellied up and down the Uxbridge Road by Aiden Flint. Wonder aloud whether there’s a shop window element to their performances in these big games if you must – QPR develop to sell, and these boys are the next two cabs on the rank. Or just enjoy? This didn’t feel like a night for analysis, or cynicism. It felt like a night for fun. A night to feel like a child again, when you came to this ground and watched a team in these colours play like this and tear also-rans like sodding Everton apart. Willock and Chair, as Sinton and Wegerle, taking the piss out of Premier League player with flicks, tricks and speed. A parliament of dick was now in session in Everton's lower colon, and this was to be a long evening sit.
By the light of Andy Hinchcliffe’s bum nose, they set off down the left. Sam McCallum, improving with every game, fed it infield to Willock who waltzed around Tom Davies on halfway as if he wasn’t even there and then, when Davies came back looking to set the record straight, completed the humiliation with an x-rated nutmeg. It didn’t stop there, the ball through to Chair at the byline showed tremendous vision and took out half the Everton defence. Not only that but Willock, as is demanded by this manager, immediately moved into position to receive the ball again and with Sam McCallum also not hanging around to admire his part in setting the whole thing up soon Rangers had split the visitors apart entirely and although stand in keeper Asmir Begovic got a palm on the cross to stop it being converted at the far post it only presented an empty net opener to Charlie Austin.
One nil, but not for long. The game now frantic, sprang from one end to the other at such speed you could be convinced there was more than one ball in play. Willock standing a cross up for Austin to head over, and Dickie failing to find the target from a corner, at the School End. Prolonged pressure, corners, desperate tackles and eventually a horrible slip by Yoann Barbet that let Alex Iwobi in for a simple one on one chance that Dieng saved brilliantly at the other. Rangers didn’t make the most of their reprieve – captain Lucas Digne suspiciously offside but in for an improvised finish off a chipped through ball from Andros Townsend, once of this parish.
One one, but not for long. Chair’s turn to start orphaning the children of top flight footballers with a back flick around Andros Townsend that you’d slap a toddler’s hand for. Dirty boy. Look at the fucking shape on this cross as well – like the curved spine of a Brazilian porn star. Austin, in vintage style, glancing it into a corner of the net Begovic would have needed two tube changes to reach. One of them at Bank. The noise in the place was something else. Loftus Road has mood lighting these days, and the mood was pure sex. You think you can make me feel like this some other way? Good luck trying.
Still ten minutes of the first half left. This could be absolutely anything. Barbet, having an eccentric evening, stuck one straight into touch. Adomah, pressing his case for a permanent berth on the right, could perhaps have let a ball go for a goal kick and from that needless corner Vidal Sassoon whipped one right through the goal mouth untouched. Over at the Craft Services table, Gentle Ben was doing double drag backs. Guys, there’s a very strong possibility, that these are the good old days.
Right, second half. Keep it tight Rangers. Get through that first ten minutes. Make them sweat a bit. We can have these. Near post corner no.3,456 of the evening nudged past Dieng by Holgate for Townsend to equalise immediately. Piss. Flaps.
Ok. New plan.
Chair wins a corner intelligently off a McCallum long throw, the impressive Dunne recycled the clearance well down the right, but with one centre back now playing as an auxiliary winger and the other two in the box waiting for the cross the sort of huge counter attack you may remember from films such as Nahki Bastard Wells And The Last Minute Bristol City Gob Bumming was in the offing. Dozzell, who we haven’t mentioned much yet but I thought did a terrific job in the two man midfield set up, chased back well initially but Everton funnelled the ball out to their best player on the night Anthony Gordon – still got some of the cake from his birthday party left in the back of the fridge – and he cut the ball back for a simple tap in at the far post only for Rondon to sky it off towards that big development they’ve put up round the station in Acton. We’ve all made some dodgy orders from the Chinese takeaway in our time, and this fat mess certainly felt more last orders at the Golden Dragon than canny free transfer from the CSL. Such absolute baggage you’d have to club together to get him on a RyanAir flight, they took him off for Demarai Gray soon after.
Gomes went soon too. Give him time to wash all that conditioner out before the bus leaves. On came £20m man mountain Abdoulaye Doucoure to play against Dom Ball. Like those early rounds of the Olympics where the US national basketball team has to play a group fixture against The Kingdom of Brunei. To be fair, he stuck to the task gamely, turning in his best performance of a difficult season so far. Sam McCallum’s injury is a concern with an eye on Friday’s trip to West Brom. Osman Kakay came on, Albert Adomah pushed on, Rangers played without a left back at all. Fuck it. That, and the long awaited comeback of Luke Amos after a year out with a blown knee, rather disrupted proceedings. Perhaps sensing respite in the previously ceaseless pace, Everton started tarting about rather, and quickly got tangled in their own hubris when Mason Holgate fell on the ball in his own area and appeared to handle. Referee Kevin Friend said no. You’ve a better chance of getting Priti Patel’s last Rolo than QPR have of getting a decision like that from this referee.
Everton had a penalty appeal of their own to be fair. QPR were tiring. Unable to live with their own tempo for a full 90. Stephen Duke-McKenna, once released by Everton, and winding his way to W12 through a horrible spell at admin-afflicted Bolton, made an enormous difference when he came on as the final sub. For the U23s he can be rather guilty of trying to write the theme tune and sing the theme tune, constantly dribbling round multiple children looking for a shooting opportunity when simple passes are on instead, but on his rare first team outings so far he’s played the role of pest very nicely. Every second thing is a tackle, and every tackle threatens life and limb. Tom Davies felt the sharp end of one, lucky not to be booked for that, while another turned what looked like a dangerous Everton break into a chance for Adomah to get away and set Austin up at the back post only for him to miscontrol. He’ll maim somebody one day executing an accidental recovering lunge red card tackle, “he’s absolutely heartbroken back in the dressing room” says Warbs as Nigel Pearson lays a fucking egg in the press conference. For now though, a hugely valuable nuggety presence to see QPR through to the draw they richly deserved. Rob Dickie took a yellow for slapping down an Everton throw he felt should have been awarded the other way.
Such happy carnage can only be settled by kicks from the penalty mark and so it came to pass, through the gloom, down at the School End. QPR have come through two of these under Warbs, against Bristol City and Orient, without missing a kick. Austin happy to go first and taunt the visiting fans a final time; Dom Ball (NO DOM) maintained his composure; Yoann Barbet probably thinks he should be the fucking penalty taker anyway; Chris Willock’s had some squeak to it; Albert Adomah’s should have been stopped but wasn’t; Stephen Duke-McKenna narrative; Luke Amos narratver still. The question, really, was whether Seny Dieng could lay a glove on one. We’ve gone from Alex Smithies, who was so good at these that conceding them deliberately was a legitimate defensive technique, to one Patrick Bamford spaff in four seasons. You get the feeling it’s not your night when he brilliantly fists away a powerful shot from Godfrey only to be hauled back for not having a foot on the line – the same linesman who’d earlier paid such scant attention to the placement of things that somebody in Ellerslie Road made the most of this ground’s intimate setting to poke him in the back with a big flag and point out the mistake, suddenly getting all pedantic about carpet measurements.
Tom Davies, schooled all night, went low to the left and Dieng palmed it onto the post. Some people were on the pitch, thinking it was all over. Jimmy Dunne made sure theirs wasn’t a wasted trip. Eight from eight. Last 16. Ilias Chair, rushing to join his team mates in celebration from the bench, accosted by stewards as a pitch invader. I’m a player. Sure you are mate, look at the size of you, get out.
It was another one of those nights, under the candlelight, at Loftus Road.
QPR: Dieng 7; Adomah 6, Dickie 6, Dunne 7, Barbet 6, McCallum 7 (Kakay 66, 6); Ball 7, Dozzell 7 (Amos 63, 6), Chair 8 (Duke-McKenna 76, 7); Willock 8, Austin 8
Subs not used: Dykes, Thomas, Gray, Walsh
Goals: Austin 18 (assisted McCallum), 34 (assisted Chair)
Bookings: McCallum 49 (foul), Dickie 88 (deliberate handball)
Everton: Begovic 6; Kenny 6, Holgate 5, Godfrey 5, Digne 6 (Keane 80, -); Davies 5, Gomes 5 (Doucoure 58, 6); Townsend 7, Iwobi 5, Gordon 7; Rondon 5 (Gray 73, 6)
Subs not used: Allan, Lonergan, Branthwaite, Simms
Goals: Digne 30 (assisted Townsend), Townsend 47 (assisted Holgate)
QPR Star Man – Chris Willock 8 Testament to Willock’s influence and performance that he’s beaten two goal and penalty hero Charlie Austin to the star man prize. Best player on the pitch by a street, mugging off Premier League players all evening.
Referee – Kevin Friend (Leicestershire) 8 I thought the first Everton goal was a mile offside at the time, it looks much closer on the freezeframe replay and the linesman doesn’t have that privilege so benefit of the doubt. The penalty retake for encroachment by Seny Dieng is harsh but correct – quite why a clampdown and rule re-write was deemed necessary on this a couple of years back I’m not sure, was there a plague of goalkeeper’s saving penalties from the edge of the six yard box? I thought there was a very strong shout for a handball penalty when Holgate fell on the ball but that was the only thing I think you could say he got wrong. Controlled the game well, stayed out of the way, and as with Leigh Doughty at the weekend I’m much more inclined to score a referee highly when they do that after the complete fucking circus we had to suffer through at Bournemouth a week ago.
Attendance – 12,888 (3,000 Everton approx.) Mother throw me down another 100,000 candles would you, they’re in the second drawer down I think, get a bit of bloody light on the job before I do myself an injury.
Pictures – Action Images
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