The QPR Verdict: A Bridge too far for self-destructive Rangers?
Hughes admits the Rs need a favour from Tottenham as humiliation at Chelsea leaves them deep in relegation trouble
In QPR’s season of self-destruction, humiliation at Chelsea on Sunday was at least in keeping with the common theme.
At Craven Cottage in October, Andy Johnson’s early goal for Fulham paved the way to a 6-0 defeat for Rangers. That day it was Johnson who tormented their visitors with a hat-trick.
At home to Manchester United two months later, Wayne Rooney scored in less than a minute and the champions strolled to the most comfortable of 2-0 wins.
To Sunday, at Stamford Bridge, where after conceding to Daniel Sturridge inside 50 seconds, QPR again fell to a shattering defeat which leaves their fate now largely in the hands of others. This time their tormentor-in-chief was Fernando Torres.
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And despite his assertions that Rangers will recover to win, and win they must, against Stoke City this weekend, to rescue a season that looks more likely than ever to end in relegation, Mark Hughes revealed his true fear that this result was one disaster too far.
“Hopefully a number of results will go for us, and the damage might not be critical,” he said.
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In other words, by the manager’s own admission, QPR’s hopes of clinging on to their Premier League existence now rest in the hands of the teams around them.
The grim reality is that if Bolton Wanderers win their game in hand against Spurs at the Reebok Stadium on Wednesday evening, they will move above Hughes’s side into 17th.
QPR have surrendered the initiiative, and must hope that either Bolton, Wigan or Aston Villa can slip up.
For that, Hughes must shoulder some of the blame. Rangers have not won a single away game under his guidance, taking one point from a possible 24.
That record, the worst in the league, has undermined a remarkable transformation at their own ground, and is the main reason why home wins over Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool have not lifted them clear of the bottom three.
The overwhelming feeling is that Rangers should not be where they are. The damage is almost all self-inflicted. Sunday’s game would not have carried such significance had QPR not lost at home to the likes of Norwich City and relegated Wolves, or at Bolton Wanderers and West Brom. Self-inflicted damage.
Disciplinary problems once again thwarted their cause. The absence of Adel Taarabt, serving a one-match ban for his red card against Spurs, forced Hughes to employ Djibril Cisse out of position on the left. The Frenchman was largely ineffective. Again, self-inflicted damage.
Hughes blamed naivety, and of a problem with his players’ ‘mentality’. Certainly, none of QPR’s defenders emerged from the sodden Stamford Bridge pitch with credibility, torn asunder by a born-again Fernando Torres, who could probably not believe his luck as he revelled in the space afforded to him by Anton Ferdinand and Clint Hill.
Nedum Onuoha’s attempted clearing header straight at Paddy Kenny for Torres’s second would have been laughable were it not for its grave consequences. More self-inflicted damage.
To concede a hat-trick to an opponent of Torres’s quality is hardly an embarrassment, but as so often this season QPR gave their opponents a giant helping hand.
And it was the absence of fight, of the spirit which would be expected from a team fighting for its life, which was most alarming.
On the same weekend that Wigan eased their own troubles by hammering Champions League-chasing Newcastle United, Bolton earned a point at Sunderland and even Wolves showed the character to come back from 4-1 down to drag a 4-4 draw out of Swansea, QPR appeared ready to accept their fate.
Until Sunday, QPR looked to be on an upward curve with Hughes in charge. This result, however, suggests that there is still much work to be done, regardless of where they finish.
One could draw parallels between Hughes and his opposite number Roberto Di Matteo. Both managers were appointed midway through the season, and the affable Italian has seen his side lose just once in 16 games since he was appointed in March.
Di Matteo’s managerial CV may be significantly shorter than Hughes’s: two years at West Bromwich Albion and one at MK Dons. But sometimes the personable touch outweighs experience.
Hughes remains confident his side will stay up. But in this most frustrating of seasons, who would back against QPR shooting themselves in the foot once again?
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