Team: Green, Furlong (Hill), Onuoha, Caulker, Suk Young, Wright-Phillips (Grego-Cox), Henry, Sandro (Kranjcar), Phillips, Taarabt, Austin
Subs Not Used: McCarthy, Hoilett, Vargas, Zamora
Attendance: 24,886 (including 2,650 R’s fans)
Are Queen’s Park Rangers doomed? Ask their fans. “We’re going down,” they sang as they slid to defeat here, and amid the gallows humour there was a real dismay there too. Teams threatened with relegation are supposed to give every last drop of sweat. QPR barely gave their first.
Crystal Palace did nothing out of the ordinary to record their biggest league win of the season. They just did their jobs. In fact, the one real moment of quality came from Matt Phillips, who scored the greatest consolation goal in history with a dipping 40-yard effort.
But by then the game was gone, the Championship just a little closer. And QPR’s new head coach Chris Ramsey had to take at least some of the responsibility. There were certainly a few eyebrows raised when Ramsey gave Shaun Wright-Phillips his first league start in over two years.
Now 33 years of age and comfortably the third-best footballer in his family, to describe Wright-Phillips as a ‘luxury player’ is to pay him the warmest of compliments. Throwing him into a relegation scrap was a gamble. Throwing him in alongside Adel Taarabt , fellow enemy of the heatmap, was suicidal.
Wright-Phillips was already puffing after 20 minutes, and barely got out of first gear. He jogged, he trotted, but mostly he walked. He walked in every direction. He walked all afternoon. He walked as if he was a character in a Cormac McCarthy novel.
The difference between the sides was stark. When Palace got the ball, Zaha and Yannick Bolasie instantly spread wide, giving the passer options, stretching the QPR defence, creating gaps.
QPR’s wingers, by contrast, neither drifted wide nor pushed forward. Instead they just sort of hung out, like extras in a sitcom. The body language was atrocious. The tracking back was virtually non-existent.
Zaha scored the first goal after 20 minutes, finishing a swift counter-attack by bundling in Bolasie’s cross at the far post. Then, with half-time looming, QPR simply fell apart.
First, Bolasie advanced on the left, and with Wright-Phillips and Darnell Furlong pointing frantically at each other, Bolasie simply sprinted around the outside and crossed for James McArthur.
Barely a minute later, Joel Ward’s curling shot made it 3-0, after three defenders had somehow failed to stop Zaha. “There’s nothing to explain,” Ramsey said afterwards. “We really need to do better in those situations.”
Right-back Furlong was hauled off at half-time, the 19-year-old hung out to dry by the lack of support from his team-mates.
To be fair to QPR, they were much better in the second-half, and Phillip’s goal was a delight. Gathering the ball on the edge of the centre circle, Phillips took a couple of touches before lashing an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
Yet in the aftermath of QPR’s best moment of the match, here is the reason they are going down.
As Phillips celebrated a goal that Alan Pardew said was even better than David Beckham’s on the same ground in 1996, only two team-mates trotted over to congratulate him. Everybody was still too furious with each other.
“The players downstairs are disappointed,” Ramsey said. “They’re not bickering and moaning at each other. Yep, some people are disappointed, and some people are obviously voicing their opinions, but they’re still unified. All we can do really is to keep fighting.”
They are a strange sort of club, QPR. Few clubs can defy momentum like they can, following a couple of decent performances with a horror show like this. They will need to defy momentum again. For if they carry on playing like this, they will be gone by the end of April.
Jonathan Liew – The Telegraph