Rangers handed brutal Boxing Day defeat by the Baggies

West Bromwich Albion midfielder Chris Brunt scored for the fourth time in five games against Queens Park Rangers to help the visitors to a 2-1 win at Loftus Road.

Hotshot | Winger Chris Brunt celebrates after firing West Bromwich Albion ahead. (Image | Sky Sports)
Hotshot | Winger Chris Brunt celebrates after firing West Bromwich Albion ahead. (Image | Sky Sports)

The 28-year-old was set free in acres of space by Marc-Antoine Fortuné and promptly fired past Robert Green into the bottom right hand corner to hand West Brom the lead after 29 minutes.

Despite dominating possession, the Baggies only sporadically threatened the former West Ham United ‘keeper, but moved into a 2-0 lead shortly after half time, courtesy of a disputed own goal by Green.

Armand Traoré’s header spun in the air before dropping underneath the bar, and despite claims that Antoine-Fortune impeded the 32-year-old, referee Chris Foy ruled that the goal should stand.

Rangers were listless for the opening hour or so and relied largely on the trickery of Adel Taarabt to create chances, but suddenly reduced the arrears with 22 minutes remaining.

Stéphane Mbia, once again superb in the midfield enforcer role, threaded a wonderful pass through for lackadaisical striker Djibril Cissé, who slotted the ball past Ben Foster to give the Rs hope of a comeback.

Poacher | Djibril Cissé gets a goal back for the hosts shortly after the hour mark. (Image | Daily Mail)
Poacher | Djibril Cissé gets a goal back for the hosts with just over 20 minutes remaining. (Image | Daily Mail)

It was so nearly a fairy tale, but Clint Hill continued to suffer grave misfortune in front of goal, as his downward header was brilliantly saved by Foster.

Meanwhile a succession of late corners and concerted pressure on the West Brom defence also yielded strong shouts for a penalty, as Liam Ridgewell appeared to block Mbia’s header with his elbow.

Truthfully it was a very languid display, particularly from a side that now props up the Premier League table with 10 points from 19 matches.

While the required urgency and tempo was largely provided in the closing quarter of an hour, it had been lacking from kick off and in truth, this was one of the Baggies’ easier away days.

Long shots have been a feature at home in recent games, and following on from Brett Holman’s opener for Aston Villa earlier this month, Brunt was given all the time and space he could possibly have wished for to take aim and fire.

Prior to kick off, Redknapp would have known that West Brom were well-organised, defensively solid, difficult to break down and able to create chances.

Maybe the players failed to take in his team talk properly but they allowed the away side to dictate the game, play it at their tempo, and expose the Superhoops for exactly what they are: an expensive folly.

Standing out | Youssuf Mulumbu dominated midfield despite the best efforts of Stéphane Mbia. (Image | Daily Mail)
Enforcer | Youssouf Mulumbu dominated in midfield despite the best efforts of Stéphane Mbia. (Image | Daily Mail)

When watching other top flight teams in action, the most striking aspect is the pace of game – the same is true at QPR, but it is the slow build up and unfathomably indolent pursuit of the opening goal that shocks the most.

Furthermore, it appears to matter little what form the defence takes, for it remains immune to the following words: clean sheet, marking, concentration, closing down.

Supporters only needed to take one look at the bench today to gain an insight as to the extent of the “personnel problem”.

Only one of the substitutes was not a midfielder, and it would hardly be fair to expect Max Ehmer to step up to the plate, even though he may already be a safer pair of hands than Anton Ferdinand.

Redknapp also did not help proceedings by blaming the referee after the game, simply because his “scandalous” decisions rant almost acts to excuse the players for their impotent display.

First off, despite Green’s protests, the infringement by Antoine Fortuné was not sufficient to merit the second goal being ruled out.

Throughout the game he dealt uncertainly with high balls, often punching rather than catching, and the winner had more to do with his weak clearance than the West Brom midfielder.

Ridgewell did clearly handle the ball, and this was obvious from almost any angle or position, but most of all for the linesman, who failed to spot it.

However, these are excuses which fail to mask the fact that Steve Clarke’s men came with a game plan and executed it perfectly.

They ought to have been out of sight by the hour mark, and are simply playing in a different league to the Rs right now.

An improved display from Shaun Wright-Phillips was a positive to take from proceedings, but the build-up remains tepid and half-baked.

Cissé has developed the annoying habit so many strikers have done at the club of drifting onto the flanks to receive the ball in the absence of the service from midfield.

This almost counts as endeavour from Britain’s laziest footballer, but it is completely unworkable in a one up front formation – as who exactly is the Frenchman meant to cross to in the box?

Quiet game | Adel Taarabt failed to live up to his mercurial display against Fulham. (Image | Daily Mail)
Quiet game | Adel Taarabt failed to replicate his mercurial display against Fulham. (Image | Daily Mail)

Taarabt was rather anonymous late on and drifted far too deep to truly hurt the visitors, while Junior Hoilett did very little after coming on as a substitute.

Herein lies the problem, which is that the squad is inherently unbalanced and several core areas were entirely neglected by Mark Hughes: these are mistakes we are paying for now.

On the one hand today there was a determined, low-key outfit that played attractive attacking football, retained possession effectively and defended well almost throughout.

Unfortunately, the rabble I paid to watch could only offer excuses for yet another failure at home.

Frankly, if the Superhoops cannot beat Liverpool on Sunday, it may well be game over before the New Year even arrives.

Man of the match | Stéphane Mbia

A superb performance in the middle of the park almost saw Rangers repel the threat from the Baggies.

Mbia showed the sort of energy his team-mates could not and set up Cissé’s goal with a superb dinked pass through the visiting defence.

After a shaky start, the Cameroonian put in a marvellous stint against Fulham and was once again instrumental.

Despite this, his series of missed chances from corners suggests that perhaps a little training on headers might not go amiss.

QPR: Green, Traoré, Hill, Ferdinand, Fábio (Hoilett 64), Wright-Phillips, Mbia, Faurlin (Diakité 64), Mackie, Taarabt, Cissé. Subs not used: César, Derry, Granero, Dyer, Ehmer

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