Queens Park Rangers 2-0 Millwall Six Things: Rs defeat uncharacteristic Lions

QPR celebrate Eze’s goal – bbc.co.uk

Queens Park Rangers continued their promising September form with a 2-0 win over an uncharacteristically poor Millwall side thanks to goals from Massimo Luongo and Eberechi Eze. Here’s our Six Things from the game.

Tight start

It was a tight start in which both defences were on top, with strikers put in awkward situations. Jake Cooper took charge for Millwall early on, meaning that QPR’s bright play came generally out on the right channel. Visiting holding midfielders, Shaun Williams and Ryan Leonard, did not engage with the ball until it reached their defensive third, so strikers Lee Gregory and Tom Bradshaw were subjected to tough aerial duels with┬áToni Leistner and Joel Lynch, who showed their physical dominance.

QPR’s two-minute double-salvo

After that tight start, Millwall were then hit with a double sucker-punch. From a corner, a lot of QPR players shaped to attack the ball from deep, which created a diversion that allowed Nahki Wells to leave his marker; when Ben Amos failed to deal with the striker’s effort under pressure, Luongo bravely glanced home. Millwall were then ripped apart moments later; Bidwell showed more desire than McLaughlin to reach a loose ball and tee up Eberechi Eze, who capped a fine display by hitting his shot into the ground to deceive the hapless Amos.

Moro’s impact

The intensity of Millwall’s performance increased in the final five minutes of the first half, then more so when Steve Morison came on. The warhorse was one of the few Lions players on the pitch who battled for every ball and, for a spell at least, that influenced his teammates. Ryan Leonard’s long throw specialism enabled them to sustain pressure, while Cooper crashed a back-post header against the bar. Thankfully for QPR, their visitors lacked the finesse to threaten in non-set piece scenarios while Leistner and Lynch were largely in control.

More pasta for Hemed!

QPR striker Tomer Hemed was fasting for religious reasons in the 24 hours before kick-off and was thus unsuited to starting, but after reportedly being fed banana and pasta while the game was going on, he was able to make a substitute appearance. Although Hemed didn’t threaten himself, he offers a different quality to Wells in terms of his physical presence and composure on the ball, which enabled the hosts to gain control and delay Millwall’s late surge until injury-time, when Wallace fired over to complete a poor day for the Lions.

Un-Millwall-like Lions

One of the things we praised Millwall for last season was their high-intensity performances, their aggressive response to losing the ball and their threat from set pieces; unfortunately, we only truly saw those qualities for no more than a combined third of the contest. While other teams in this division can afford to perform below-par for long spells and still have the quality to steal points, Millwall do not have that luxury and thus must rediscover last season’s formula if they are to climb the table.

McClaren’s healthy dilemma

Although this is still early days, it will have been very satisfying for Steve McClaren to see his side put in not only a positive performance, but also climb to within one point of the top half and even three of the top six. One of the York-born boss’ options, for Saturday’s hosting of Norwich, will be to revert to the strike-pairing of Wells and Hemed that has worked well previously. Alternatively, he could stick with a one-striker system and sacrifice Hemed’s physicality or Wells’ tenacity in order to give Freeman or Eze the free reign they enjoyed on Wednesday night. After a disastrous first four games, it may be refreshing for McClaren to be considering changes for positive reasons, rather than negative ones.