Despite an overall impressive display, QPR were given a timely reminder of how unforgiving a place in the Premier League can be. A defensive error, involving new signing Rio Ferdinand and a missed penalty from Charlie Austin insured Hull City left Loftus Road with 3 points for the first time since 1963. In a game where Rangers can boast of having 19 shots on goal, it was the visitors who took one of only 2 clear chances to snatch a win – today QPR were Derby County in terms of harsh results.
A new season has brought 4 new players (and counting) and a new formation for the R’s with the now en-vogue 5-3-2 formation which was so popular at the mostly entertaining World Cup.
Rob Green returned between the sticks, it seems he has finally seen off the threat of Julio Cesar who could be departing shortly according to various reports. New signing Isla was unable to play due to work permit issues so Danny Simpson kept his place in the team. Rio Ferdinand and Steven Caulker made their league debuts and were joined by Richard Dunne, with Armand Traore eager to impress out on the left.
Many fans seemed to be concerned about the exclusion of Nedum Onuoha in the starting eleven. With Caulker playing to the right of the 3 centre backs, Dunne is left footed and was surprisingly at times last season one of QPR’s more accomplished passers of the ball. On this showing and in this formation, Harry Redknapp was fully justified in including him (and of course is nothing to do with Harry putting them in his Sun dream team!).
The midfield saw one new face in Jordan Mutch, acquired astutely from the clutches of old enemy Cardiff City. Another returning face was that of Ale Faurlin who was back from injury and was great to see him back. Social media big wig Joey Barton joined them, wearing the captain’s armband to boot.
Another returning face, Loic Remy started despite not playing much at the World Cup, pre-season and off the back of a failed move to Liverpool. A year previously, Charlie Austin had seen a move to Hull fall through in a similar way. Should the Frenchman stay (at least until January) QPR have arguably their best front pairing since the days of Gallen and Furlong.
QPR started confidently against a Hull side who were short on options up front but played a similar formation to the hosts. Jelavic had an early header fly way over the bar as QPR then began to impose themselves. Faurlin dragged a shot wide whilst Barton’s speculative free-kick was curled around the Hull defensive wall but into the side netting.
QPR’s best chances to break the deadlock in the first-half fell to the new boys. Firstly, Mutch’s header flashed agonizingly across the goal following good approach work from Remy and then Caulker had a header cleared off the line on the far post from a decent Barton corner.
Both Ferdinand and Faurlin stood out in the first-half for me. Rio brought a calmness to the defence and played the ball out well from the back; Faurlin did brilliant considering the injuries he’s had and he looked comfortable, passing the ball about on that great left foot of his.
Hull had a half-decent shot for a penalty when Jelavic and Traore tangled but it seemed unintentional. Robert Snodgrass left the action near to the end of the half; Hull are fearing it could be ligament damage so fingers crossed for them it isn’t anything too serious.
Despite all the good work from the R’s in the first-half it was the visitors who took the lead shortly after the break. A corner swung over to far post was met by James Chester who headed in powerfully. From a defensive point of view, Chester seemed to outmuscle Ferdinand with ease but just as crucially, there was no defender on the near post either. A lesson there that poor defensive errors usually are punished in top flight football.
Redknapp decided to change things a little; the impressive but tiring Faurlin and Danny Simpson going off with Phillips and Hoilett replacing them. Hull could quite easily have been two up shortly after; Tom Ince, one of those players who seems to be largely anonymous in my eyes when he plays against QPR, was played in but his shot was well saved by the out-stretched leg of Green as he tried to plant the ball into the bottom corner.
As the game headed into the final quarter of an hour, QPR made their third and final change with Wembley hero Bobby Zamora replacing Dunne and the R’s reverting to a more attack minded 4-3-3 formation. Very soon, the R’s were awarded an excellent opportunity to grab an equalizing goal with the reward of a tortuous penalty. Hoilett’s ball into the box was adjudged to have been handballed by Chester; the replays later showed it as being very harsh.
Charlie Austin, successful from the penalty spot many times in the past, stepped up to take the penalty but his effort was comfortably saved by McGregor who guessed correctly and parried the ball away to safety. Zamora then had a shot excellently blocked by El-Hamamdy as he was ready to pull the trigger and the lively Remy had an effort beat out by McGregor.
As much as the home team huffed and puffed, much like most of the afternoon, the Hull City house refused to be blown down. Chester was excellent at the back, assisted by the equally impressive Curtis Davis.
So an impressive overall display from the R’s despite the result but certainly plenty of positives to take away too as well as some room for improvement. The 5-3-2 system seemed to work well, Ferdinand in particular excelling in a system that seems set-up to get the best out of his ability and experience.
Caulker quietly went about his work on one side as Dunne did on the other, although I thought Hull did try to attack the big Irishman’s lack of pace. Ale Faurlin had an excellent first-half and it was great to see him playing so well, he has worked hard to recover yet again from injury and I hope he enjoys an injury-free season.
Mutch showed plenty of energy and awareness and he likes to get forward. Austin will need games to find his feet at this level and will need someone up front with him to shoulder the goal scoring burden. Loic Remy reminded us that we have a very impressive player still in our ranks and much of which direction we will go in depends on where he sees his future in the next couple of weeks.
Only slight negatives for me were Danny Simpson clearly struggling in the right-wing back position and the quality of some of Barton’s set pieces. The old mantra of taking your chances popped up today, as we saw at Wembley, one good chance taken, can win you a game.
QPR (5-3-2): Green 6, Simpson 5, Traore 6, Dunne 6, Ferdinand 7, Caulker 6, Mutch 6, FAURLIN 7*, Barton 6, Austin 6, Remy 7. Subs: Phillips 6, Hoilett 5, Zamora 6.
Attendance: 17,603 (including 1,376 Hull City fans)