Saturday 16 November 2019

Kane double adds to QPR's woes

QPR 1 Tottenham 2

Tottenham's Harry Kane in action with QPR's Nedum Onuoha
Tottenham's Harry Kane in action with QPR's Nedum Onuoha
Queens Park Rangers' Charlie Austin and Matt Phillips appear dejected
Queens Park Rangers' Charlie Austin appeals to referee Craig Pawson

Dion Fanning

The weekend's only Premier League fixture could probably have done without so much attention. Tottenham won't care that they played poorly and won, moving within three points of the top four thanks to two goals from Harry Kane at Loftus Road yesterday.

QPR, on the other hand, are running out of consolations, even as they collect grievances. They should have had at least one penalty but their defensive weaknesses allowed Tottenham to take the points.

"I think sometimes there are decisions that are on fine lines but when you're fighting as we are, you have to grab on to anything you can," said QPR manager Chris Ramsey afterwards.

It was a game that could have served as an official indication that we are now in the end-of-season period when nothing matters but results.

Mauricio Pochettino spent most of his post-match press conference answering questions about Kane but he found time to praise his side's resolve. "The way QPR play puts you to the limit."

QPR's attempt to survive in the Premier League was based on their home form but they last won at Loftus Road in December and their game in hand yesterday was intended to move them out of the bottom three.

It would be wrong to say there was a gulf in class but Kane and the outstanding Ryan Mason provided the moments of quality.

QPR started well in their bustling, artless way. Tottenham had more men in midfield and more imagination but as they came into the game, they relied on simplicity, with Andros Townsend running dangerously on the right.

Kane had the perfect defence to test his skills against. He found room early on between the centre-backs and only a fine save from Rob Green kept his powerful header out.

Tottenham's superiority was not so great that it could conceal their defensive flaws and QPR's best spell of the half came from the kind of direct play which Ramsey appears to favour.

Tottenham's defenders were uncomfortable with it and Charlie Austin was always hovering. He went close twice in the first half, drawing a save from Hugo Lloris after a casual header from Kyle Walker and then belting a shot against the bar as QPR got forward.

But QPR are always vulnerable. They had played well enough for an hour against Arsenal on Wednesday night before they were inevitably outclassed.

They went behind yesterday but in more elementary fashion. With Richard Dunne out, possibly for the rest of the season, Rio Ferdinand was the choice to partner Steven Caulker. An injured Dunne might have been a better option as Ferdinand moved at a stately pace around the pitch, even if Tottenham's goal came from a collective QPR failure.

Townsend took a free-kick on the right. Nedum Onuoha left it, clearly having got a shout from Green, but Kane got to the ball before him and headed in for his 25th goal of the season.

As a Champions League- chasing side, Tottenham might have been expected to deal with QPR's rudimentary approach but they struggled.

QPR's frustration continued. Their first penalty appeal looked the most persuasive when Mauricio Isla was brought down by Lloris as he chased a Sandro through-ball but nothing was given.

The second half began with an air of inevitability. Christian Eriksen hit the woodwork from 25 yards and the ball dropped to Kane but amazingly he put it wide.

QPR were making mistakes as well. Sandro did what he was supposed to do and won the ball but when he gave it to Caulker, he immediately gave it away but Townsend shot wide.

Bobby Zamora went close but Lloris saved his near-post shot, yet the pressure was at the other end. Austin cleared an Eriksen shot off the line after a Walker attempt was blocked and if QPR could somehow deal with the frenzy, their organisation failed them.

The defence with the ageing Ferdinand was playing a high line when Mason put a ball forward which was too good for them. Ferdinand was too slow to recover, Kane was onside and too good to miss.

"He changed my opinion," Pochettino said of a player who was seen by very few as the solution for Tottenham at the beginning of the season.

The QPR fans saw the goal differently. "Rio Ferdinand, it's time to retire," they chanted.

Spurs had the game won but, just as Arsenal had done at Loftus Road on Wednesday, they let QPR back in. Austin gathered the ball on the right touchline and played it into Zamora's feet. He touched it back to Sandro, who side-footed the ball past Lloris.

QPR were energised briefly and they appealed for another penalty when Austin swung a boot at the ball and it appeared to strike Nabil Bentaleb's hands or face or a combination of both, but nothing was given.

The home side slipped back into a life of quiet desperation - Zamora had another penalty appeal turned down - something which became clear with the introduction of Junior Hoilett, who had one moment when he tantalised in the closing second before shooting over. Spurs hung on and can look forward to a trip to Manchester United next weekend.

Irish underage international Reece Grego-Cox was sent on for the final minutes but by then QPR were no longer able to suspend their lack of self-belief.

Ramsey, who worked with the striker at Tottenham, was asked if he would pick Kane for England.

"I'm unlikely to be in that position the way things are going," he said. "I'll be picking him for the cubs soon if I don't start winning."

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