Samstag 26Juli 2014. Stadion der Freundschaft, Gera, Germany.
Harry Redknapp was left scratching his head following this defeat in the last of the two games of the German tour as QPR succumbed to a two goal defeat to their lower league Bundesliga hosts.
In a game played in atrocious conditions at times, the hosts took advantage of the multiple changes QPR made in the second-half and ran out comfortable winners. Despite QPR starting the game with over half the team having played international football, we struggled to find any rhythm on the ball and gave possession away with alarming regularity.
Meanwhile, the hosts were pressing our three centre-backs, in particular Richard Dunne, so that when he did get the ball it either ended at Rob Green’s feet or was lumped long to Charlie Austin on his own upfront.
I recall Austin touching the ball four times in the first-half. But what’s that I hear you say? We played two upfront in the first-half? Looking at Kevin Bond’s notepad as he sat in front of me second-half, yes it looked like we were playing 3-5-2, but someone forgot to inform No.7 Matt Phillips who sometimes was more deeper than the five-man midfield! Thus we had six in the middle and as a result they were getting in each other’s way at times.
The game kicked off in beautiful sunshine and the thermometer in the mid 80’s, therefore we chose to sit in the main stand as it was the only part of the ground with shade, albeit the roof only covered about 300 seats. The rest of the ground was a concrete bowl with no cover barring two tiny beer tents behind each goal.
The first-half was very evenly contested with not much to report about. The only times we looked threatening was when Barton found right-wing back Simpson on the overlap in acres of space down the right with a peach of a pass. Simpson advanced into the box unchallenged and had a choice of shooting or passing, but chose to cross to Austin at the near post where a home defender blocked the cross for a corner.
Then shortly after, Michael Doughty, playing left-wing back, got down the left and put in a decent cross into the box. A defender nicked the ball off Austin’s head and the ball fell to Simpson unmarked and given the choice again in a similar position he chose to cross instead of shoot and the ball was again cleared.
At the other end, Rio Ferdinand was making his debut in a back-three alongside Dunne and Hill and they never looked troubled and I’m thinking that Rio has certainly had harder games in the past 15 years!
As mentioned earlier, the home side seemed to be targeting Dunne with his older legs and a couple of times he was caught in possession, but Rio or Simpson were there to clear the danger.
The only other thing to mention first-half was the weather which changed dramatically from factor 50 weather to wetsuit and snorkel conditions in the blink of an eye on about 30 minutes. The wind didn’t help either with some of Green’s clearances hanging in the air for about three seconds before returning boomerang-like in the direction of our keeper! Half-time: 0-0.
As is the norm we rang the changes second-half with a plethora of substitutes. One introduction that stood out was play-off hero Bobby Zamora. My mate said to Redknapp “bit early for Bobby isn’t it? Best you save him until the 89th minute!” To which he replied “what can I do, we haven’t got anyone else?” I may have heard that excuse somewhere before.
That also maybe explains why Shaun Wright-Phillips started the game then. The fact he wasn’t replaced at half-time was mind boggling though.
We did improve at the start of the second-half with some lovely work in midfield by substitute Gary O’Neil, trialist Jack Collison and the returning Ale Faurlin. The only problem was so had Leipzig. Once again they were targeting Dunne with their pacy frontmen.
With Hill and Ferdinand replaced by Onuoha and new signing Steven Caulker on his debut, we weren’t looking so tight at the back and we were still conceding possession easily though. On one such occasion we gave the ball away on the edge of the hosts’ penalty box and within seconds Green was picking the ball out of his net.
Zamora was found upfront with a long ball down the line by Onuoha. He held the ball up well, but seeing O’Neil and fellow forward Michael Petrasso in space, he found neither but a Leipzig defender. He in turn whipped the ball to half-way and then onto the No. 9 Yussuf Poulsen who outpaced Dunne and as Green narrowed the angle, found the net with a placed right-footed shot from about 15 yards.
There then followed a period of whereby literally every time we got the ball, no matter in what position either, it ended up at Rob Green’s feet. And literally every single clearance from him ended up on the running track for a throw-in as we looked a shambles at the back.
With about 15 minutes to go, Leipzig doubled the score, but like the first goal it was all of our own making. We had possession in our own half and once again under pressure the ball was passed back to Green. This time he found Onuoha on the right touch-line.
For the next two minutes or so we actually kept possession, but were being pressed everywhere and the ball in fact ended up at Green’s feet on three more occasions. Then we lost possession just outside the box, the ball was fed to the unmarked Poulsen who buried it for his second goal, game over.
Poulsen could’ve even scored a third when once again he was found in acres of space, but he put it a yard or so wide and was replaced shortly after to a standing ovation from those locals still remaining in the ground. Full-time: RB Leipzig 2 – QPR 0.
Team: 1 Green, 22 Dunne, 5 Ferdinand, 6 Hill, 2 Simpson, 16 Doughty, 20 Henry, 8 Barton, 11 Wright-Phillips, 9 Austin, 7 Phillips.
Subs: 13 Lumley (GK), 4 Caulker, 10 Collison, 12 Donaldson, 14 Granero, 15 Onuoha, 17 O’Neil, 18 Faurlin, 21 Petrasso, 24 Sendles-White, 25 Zamora, 28 Ehmer, 30 Sutherland (all subs bar Lumley, Donaldson and Granero came on at varying times second-half and I don’t believe Granero was actually there!)
Attendance: 2,948 (including approx. 150 QPR fans)