QPR's uneven performance doomed them to defeat at Wigan Saturday, revealing that there is still much to be done in turning this into a Premier League team. Latics striker Franco Di Santo scored two goals while Ali Al Habsi, aided by his goal posts, denied the Super Hoops on a number of attempts to keep a clean sheet.
After a strong performance at Everton last week, the Super Hoops were done in as much by their own inaction as the Latic's lucky breaks. Wigan out paced them time and again while the R's abandoned the steady and controlled form they'd achieved against the Toffies in favor of more passive play that allowed too many opportunities against them.
From the whistle Wigan demonstrated patient efficiency, working short passes and triangle movement up and down the wings. They created a number of buildups early, testing a back line featuring newcomer Bruno Perone and Fitz Hall in the center. Perone struggled early in his first Premier League start, misjudging a probe from Wigan forward Hugo Rodallega to concede a free kick to the right of keeper Paddy Kenny. The set piece was defended, but it signaled the challenges Perone would have throughout the game, where he frequently found himself out of position and collapsing back to catch up with opposing players. He did improve as the match went on and did his best work when he became more aggressive, pushing out from the keeper's box and getting more involved in breaking up plays. He has size and skill, but needs more experience to hold up at this level.
Wigan defender Emmerson Boyce was his mirror opposite, working with skill from one end of the pitch to the other and making frequent attacks up the right wing to trouble Matthew Connolly and the QPR defense. Boyce was a consistent problem all day, creating chances and finding his teammates with deep crosses, as well as dropping back to break up the counterattacks the R's tried to mount before they could develop. His hard work would have led to more Wigan goals had it not been for steady hand of Danny Gabbidon, who met several of those crosses with his head before they could lead to any trouble. Once again the Welsh international stood out as QPR's best defender, holding up against a number of runs and doing his best to hold on against the endless assaults by Rodallega and Victor Moses.
Gabbidon's performance was the exception however, as the QPR defense struggled to keep pace with the more technically precise Wigan attack. At times they put on a clinic in pass-and-move, and were allowed to do so by the inconsistent play of the visitors. Shaun Derry, typically the defensive force across the center, had little success breaking plays up. He and Ali Faurlin spent the match chasing more than interrupting. Much as they did to Everton last week, QPR was frustrated and undisciplined against the patient home side who waited for gaps to emerge and then took advantage of them.
Di Santo's first goal came on such an opportunity, when he found himself open at the top of the penalty area. He neatly controlled a quick feed from Rodallega and curled a shot over a diving Kenny into the upper right corner of the goal. The sudden prowess from Di Santo surprised just about everyone, as the striker had scored only 3 goals in his prior 73 league games. He added a second in the 66th minute, again having too much space to work with and stroking a shot that took a deflection on its way beyond the reach of the QPR keeper. Wigan's unselfish interplay created opportunities and constantly kept the ball moving, catching the defenders chasing too often and forcing them to scramble to break up chances time.
Adel Taarabt worked hard to create the few chances QPR came by, hustling with his fancy footwork to get open but often finding himself the fixation of Wigan defense's attention. He had fine attempt early that he bent around Al Habsi but clanged off the side bar. The rebound came to Agyemang in perfect position but he was unable to make anything of it. The need for additional help for Taarabt was on display again and hopefully the rumored pursuit of Shaun Wright-Philips from Manchester City will add some experienced firepower to the midfield soon. The R's skipper tried to answer Di Santo's goal in the 46th minute, but his free kick was tipped wide at the wall and stuck the post. In the end QPR hit the sticks at least three times and that bit of bad luck sealed their fate as much as their uneven performance.
In the end, the match may serve as a training lesson if nothing else. Success at this level is hard to achieve - consistency is even harder. Without it, QPR will continue to struggle. Its important to note that through three games they've scored only one goal. Against Wigan they created 19 shots on goal, 10 of which were actually on target and three that hit the goal posts. The lack of finishing can be blamed on a virus which has sapped them of summer signing DJ Campbell and limited Jay Bothroyd's playing time for the past two weeks. Despite the miscues and spoiled opportunities, QPR was not out of the game for the most of the match. They continued to work to create opportunities to the final whistle, showing more heart than the second half of the Bolton match which saw hanging heads and sluggish feet. What they lacked was a steady run of possession to really test the defense and allow them to break through. Youngsters Michael Harriman and Bruno Andrade did well in their substitution time, and Andrade created a good scoring opportunity late but couldn't connect with anyone to put it home. This team has many of the pieces needed to fight in these games, but they need to bring more thorough planning and execution through if they hope to win any points in the next few weeks.
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