Team: Green, Simpson, Dunne, Hill, Assou-Ekotto, Phillips, Carroll (Benayoun), Barton, Kranjcar, O’Neil (Hoilett), Austin.
Subs Not Used: Murphy, Traore, Onuoha, Henry, Jenas
We got done on Saturday by a route-one goal, but also by a pair of strikers who have a great understanding of each other. But that’s what you get by playing two upfront I suppose!!!
Although Benny’s positioning and cover play was poor when Jamie Vardy ran into the box, our play box to box was very good at times, but when we get chances to shoot we become ‘wannabe Arsenal’ by taking an extra touch or looking to pass. Carroll, O’Neil and Phillips were stand-out culprits and at times Charlie Austin needs to show more composure in the box, but Niko Kranjcar. did have his best game to date.
I have defended Joey Barton all season, but he was poor on Saturday all round and to top it off, he got mugged by Taylor-Fletcher and a ref who was always looking to make a name for himself by stalking Barton all afternoon. Now he has Christmas off and time to pack his trunks for his move to the South of France!!!
My final thought is that Nigel Pearson’s Leicester side is a squad three years in the making so we ain’t doing that bad in our first proper season together.
By the end, the Leicester fans could be heard singing along to Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ as it blared out of the public address system while those in Queen’s Park Rangers hats and scarves departed from this venue without even a hint of festive cheer. Little wonder given that they had just seen their team lose at home for the first time this season and against a direct promotion rival. Even the memory of seeing a squirrel hold up play is unlikely to bring a smile to those in the home ranks.
QPR had begun the day as the Championship leaders and spying a chance to open up a six-point gap with Leicester in third. Given the visitors arrived in West London on the back of three league matches without victory and were coming up against a side that had collected 26 points from a possible 30 on home soil, such an outcome appeared likely. Yet thanks to Jamie Vardy’s well-taken goal just before the interval, it was Leicester who were left in merry mood. “This was an important win for us ahead of a busy period of games,” said their manager, Nigel Pearson.
For QPR fans there was a sense of grievance to go with their frustration. The hosts had two reasonable appeals for penalties turned down by the referee, Paul Tierney, who then also did not send off Matty James for a reckless looking challenge on Danny Simpson before dismissing Joey Barton on 83 minutes for two bookable offences.
Kevin Bond, QPR’s assistant manager, did not have any complaints with Tierney’s display and instead focused on his side’s failure to take their chances. The hosts could have been well ahead before they went behind, with their aggressive and fluent opening to this contest leading to a glut of chances. Niko Kranjcar, who was outstanding at the out-set and Gary O’Neil, both forced Kaspar Schmeichel into making saves. The Leicester goalkeeper then went on to deny Charlie Austin and Matt Phillips.
The home fans were rightly in loud voice, their spirits having already been lifted by the comical sight of a squirrel running on to the pitch and halting proceedings for four minutes as Tierney waited for it to depart. This incredibly was not the first time such a creature has halted QPR’s progress at this stadium and indeed is so well known that it has its own Twitter profile.
A goal seemed inevitable and one duly arrived on 41 minutes, yet there was shock that it was a Leicester player who scored, with Vardy thrashing a low drive into the far corner of the net after running on to David Nugent’s flick-on. Having conceded just a third goal at home this season, QPR’s players appeared rattled and even came close to blows with Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Austin having to be prevented from clashing by Kranjcar.
The second-half was more even and equally as eventful, with the home fans crying in outrage on 63 minutes when their side were not given a penalty after Liam Moore’s clumsy tackle on Phillips just inside the Leicester area, and then again in the final stages when Ritchie de Laet appeared to bring down Junior Hoilett as he drove towards goal.
In between, Leicester had chances to extend their lead and saw the game through after Barton’s dismissal, the eighth of his career. He was booked for tussling with Paul Konchesky and again moments later for kicking the ball at Gary Taylor-Fletcher in frustration.
“It looked innocuous, but Joey seems to be a focus for a lot of things like that – his reputation doesn’t do him any favours,” said Bond. “I thought we were the better side, but that counts for nothing when you don’t take your chances. That’s been a problem for us all season.”
Next for QPR is a trip to Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day. Leicester face a tricky test at home against Reading. They go into that match, however, very much part of the promotion push. As Pearson said: “It’s turning out to be an interesting league again.”
Sachin Nakrani – The Observer