R's Out-Foxed By Lively Leicester
05/04/10 - 15.00
LEICESTER City dished out a sound thrashing to QPR this afternoon with the R's now facing the serious prospect of a relegation fight.
While the signs under Neil Warnock initially proved positive a baron spell has seen Rangers slip back into danger and poised for a nervous final few weeks of the campaign.
The Foxes meanwhile stuck to their game plan and reaped the early rewards when midfielder Andy King netted from a Steve Howard knock-down.
Despite an improvement in the R's display the evident lack of cutting edge cost them dear as Carl Ikeme's howler handed Martyn Waghorn a goal second before the break.
If the second was fortunate the third was sublime as Waghorn cut inside from the right and struck a left-footed pearler in off the bar and effectively kill off the game.
Damion Stewart was thrown up front to no avail as Steve Howard capped off a fine display with a well-taken header from Michael Morrison's cross.
The convincing nature of the score-line is perhaps not a fair reflection on proceedings at the Walkers, but sadly it epitomised the QPR plight of late.
Neil Warnock made one change from the side that were held at home by Sheffield Wednesday with Tamás Priskin dropping from the squad and Lee Cook starting on the right flank.
Carl Ikeme started his final game behind an unchanged back four of Peter Ramage, Damion Stewart, Kaspars Gorkss and Matt Hill - Dusko Tosic on the bench once more.
Alejandro Faurlín and Mikele Leigertwood linked up in midfield with Cook, Adel Taarabt and Hogan Ephraim playing behind lone striker Jay Simpson.
Leicester started with Chris Weale between the sticks, behind a back four of Michael Morrison, Jack Hobbs, Wayne Brown and Bruno Berner - with Richie Wellens protecting the defence.
Jay Spearing and Andy King played advanced of Wellens with Paul Gallagher and Martyn Waghorn supporting striker Steve Howard.
Kick Off: Leicester City v Queens Park Rangers
The game started in a somewhat lethargic fashion with both sides seeking to assert an advantage and stamp their authority on the clash. Rangers were quickly reminded however how tough Leicester would be to get in behind and test Chris Weale.
The Foxes looked lively coming forward without truly playing expansive football, but play to a succinct formula when without possession - getting men behind the ball and ensuring space is at a minimum for talent such as Adel Taarabt.
Rangers were struggling to get to grips with City's early pressure and after five minutes it paid dividends for the Foxes with a well-worked goal crafted from the training ground. It started as Paul Gallagher sought for space down the right flank.
He eventually got the better of Matt Hill and Hogan Eprahim before sending over a well flighted-cross which was nodded down by Steve Howard. Despite the attention of Damion Stewart Andy King latched onto the knock-down and slammed home from close range.
GOAL: Leicester City 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
An early set-back for Rangers who were looking far from the article supporters had come to expect from a Warnock side. The battle and graft didn't seem immediately apparent in a rather sluggish start from the visitors.
It took the early set-back to spark the R's into some form of life with Taarabt now becoming more influential in behind Jay Simpson. His flash of skill saw him surge away from Wellens before firing a rather tame shot down the throat at Weale.
The Foxes now seemed content to sit back and pick the R's off on the break, but QPR were now displaying some form of attacking prowess in the middle of the field. As is becoming customary in recent weeks however, there was little in the way of cutting edge.
This was epitomised by an excellent piece of distribution from Taarabt - reminiscent of his excellent display at Preston. He sent a slide-rule pass through to Cook down the right but the winger took an eternity to get the ball out of his feet and Bruno Berner was allowed to make the challenge.
What was becoming an indictment of Rangers' display was the lack of space and creative spark to unlock a stubborn defence. The tactical selection of Cook on the unfamiliar right flank seemed rather counterproductive at times.
Ephraim and Cook were cutting inside onto their stronger foot, further condensing play and playing into the hands of the hosts. Leicester were able to pick off the attack at will with their deep lying midfield and use the forwards on the break.
Peter Ramage was proving the most effective attacker for Rangers, surging down the left flank in support of Cook before sending a succession of crosses into the area. One in particular was snuffed out at the final moment by Michael Morrison after good build-up play.
Taarabt was a driving force for QPR through the middle, but the previous eye for a ball was proving elusive at times as he shot from distance once more straight at a grateful Weale. The R's were finding space at a minimum and were reduced to shooting from distance - a tactic that proved fruitless.
Mikele Leigertwood was still reeling from a frankly laughable air-shot in the opening stages but he nearly rolled back the years to leather the ball from distance that seemed to be creeping into the corner. The ball struck Simpson and the Arsenal loanee deflected the effort into the net.
Unfortunately for the R's top scorer he was deemed to be in an offside position and celebrations in the away end were short-lived. It was a more positive display from Rangers after a disastrous opening spell but again like the weekend the lack of cutting edge was proving troublesome.
The R's then missed their best chance to date with Taarabt at the centre of the move once more. The Moroccan sent in an excellent centre but must have been pulling his hair out as Ephraim conspired to miss from point-blank range attempting an inexplicable close-range lob.
The ball drifted over Weale and indeed over the cross bar, really dictating where the R's issues lie as despite having a great deal of possession and a wealth of half-chances they remained goalless and toothless in the final third.
Such is the lesson in football as not taking your chances can only inevitably lead to your downfall - step forward Carl Ikeme. The Wolves loanee raced from his line and misjudged the bounce before fluffing a clearance straight to the feet of Martyn Waghorn.
The Sunderland loanee didn't need a second invitation to shoot from the crowd as he took a touch to compose himself before lashing the ball around a forlorn Ikeme and compounding the misery of Rangers and the 'keeper in his final game for the club.
GOAL: Leicester City 2-0 Queens Park Rangers
It was a cruel blow on Rangers and their fans who had continued to be in fine voice despite the score-line. But it continues to be the lesson for Warnock and QPR that if you don't take your chances then they will come back to haunt you.
Rangers fans went into the break not quite realising how on the balance of play they were two goals again, against what was in effect a relatively mediocre Leicester City. The Foxes will be the first to admit it wasn't their finest hour but they found themselves two goals to the good.
Half Time: Leicester City 2-0 Queens Park Rangers
It wasn't difficult to gage among the supporters how much of a blow that goal prior to half time actually was, especially given the wealth of possession and opportunity and the opposition's self-professed mediocrity.
Goals at crucial times were proving a decisive factor on the day and a scrap of joy early in the second period may well have spurred the R's on to a comeback such as the one at Deepdale of a few weeks ago. The discipline and work ethic of Leicester did suggest that this would be no easy feat.
It would have taken something special for QPR to stage a come-back at the Walkers, and in a flash of genius Rangers saw their hopes go up in smoke with a stunning solo effort sealing the points just minutes into the second period.
Taarabt was inevitably robbed by the combative Richie Wellens before he slid a ball through down the right for Martyn Waghorn. He strode down the right before cutting his side and unleashing a thunderbolt into the top left hand corner.
GOAL: Leicester City 3-0 Queens Park Rangers
In a stroke of genius the game was up as Warnock's men failed to heed the first half warning of early goals and indeed goals at important times. Waghorn's stunning strike lit up an otherwise drab fixture and was fit to win any game of football.
Leicester were now playing with a greater freedom and enterprise and Waghorn almost added a fourth when Howard and King combined on the edge of the area - the Sunderland forward struck a powerful effort wide of the right-hand upright.
The body language of the players suggested that a come-back was now not on the cards and Leicester were proving rampant on the break without neglecting their defensive duties. There was the odd slip as Simpson nearly reduced the deficit.
A rare piece of ingenuity and skill from the ineffectual forward saw him touch over Wayne Brown's head in the heart of the area before his prod towards goal was covered by the underworked Weale between the sticks.
Waghorn was at the centre of all things Foxes and his free-kick moments later caused Ikeme to scramble across his line before the ball cannoned back off the cross-bar. A last ditch clearance then enused to stop City from hitting their fourth.
It nearly came seconds later as Waghorn latched onto a loose ball and produced a smart save from Ikeme - tipping high and away to his right from another testing effort. Ikeme will be hoping that this will be his legacy and not his first half howler.
Quite what Neil Warnock was thinking throwing Damion Stewart into the forward line is open to debate - but one can only think he was trying to hammer home the point that Rangers have no target man and with the game out of reach he opted to experiment with his options.
The game was now petering out to its conclusion and the boredom of the Leicester supporters was shown by the Mexican Wave that made its way around a rather quiet Walkers Stadium. Taarabt showed a spark of his potential moments later thrashing an effort back off the foot of the post.
Inevitably however with Stewart out of the back-line and a reshaped defensive unit Rangers were caught napping by a goal that was cunning in its simplicity. A deep cross from Morrison down the right saw Steve Howard in advance of his marker in the middle.
He fended off Kaspars Gorkss in the heart of the area before glancing home past Carl Ikeme to really hammer home the issue and prompt a mass exodus in the away end as QPR were now on the end of a sizeable score-line.
GOAL: Leicester City 4-0 Queens Park Rangers
The now tired tones of Kasabian rang around the ground - a record that was all too overused on the day - as City celebrated a fourth. Arguably not four goals better than QPR in terms of performances but there could be no arguing with the score-line.
QPR provided little in riposte in the closing stages with Hogan Ephraim going into the book and nearly losing the plot entirely as he dived in on Paul Gallagher before picking an ill-advised fight with Wellens.
Angelo Balanta was thrown on to support Stewart from the wing, but with Simpson being withdrawn the R's had no recognised forwards on the field, which was a distinct disappointment to the travelling fans that had remained.
Ultimately the fixture petered out to a conclusion with the only thing to raise a smile was Neil Warnock giving his back-side in response to calls for a wave from Foxes fans. It at least gave some cheer to a depleted away crowd and lightened the mood somewhat.
Nevertheless there could be no hiding place for Warnock and his team, who were not booed after the final whistle, but the players that opted to come over to the supporters were also applauded for their efforts.
Full Time: Leicester City 4-0 Queens Park Rangers
Chris Weale, Michael Morrison, Wayne Brown, Steve Howard, Andy King, Bruno Berner, Martyn Waghorn (James Vaughan 80), Richie Wellens (Nicky Adams 80), Paul Gallagher, Jack Hobbs, Jay Spearing.
Queens Park Rangers
Carl Ikeme, Peter Ramage, Damion Stewart, Mikele Leigertwood, Kaspars Gorkss, Lee Cook (Ákos Buzsáky 55), Alejandro Damián Faurlín, Matt Hill, Jay Simpson (Angelo Balanta 77), Hogan Ephraim, Adel Taarabt.
The Newcastle-born defender also got a stint at the centre of defence when Stewart was shifted up front and performed to his abilities with some good tackles and clearances.
His passing and crossing on the day was rather good as well as he seemed more of a use down the right-wing than Lee Cook at times - who in truth had a very poor game himself.