Queens Park Rangers 0 - West Bromwich Albion 2
When two of the highest scoring and worst defending sides in the division meet at Loftus Road (sorry, the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium) the last thing you'd expect is for Albion to keep their first clean sheet of the season. Right?
Wrong, because that's exactly what they did as they won thanks to two first goals. Academy product Nathan Ferguson carried on his superb season with a mazy second half run and a relatively soft strike from distance that QPR keeper Joe Lumley probably feels that he really should have saved.
Then with six minutes of full time remaining, defender Yoann Barbet received a red card for pushing substitute Hal Robson-Kanu down just outside the area, the resulting free kick and the gap he presumably would have filled in the wall making way for Pereira's strike to double the lead.
Overall, a superb performance - Albion had fifteen shots with seven on target while Rangers could only manage five and none. The win took Albion to the top of the table - although it felt like it would probably only be for a few hours, none of the teams that kicked off later managed to depose them and they end the day a point ahead of second placed Swansea.
That was a really impressive performance and problem our most assured of the seaosn in terms of controlling the game.
Bilic went with probably the best available options with Diangana back on the wing and Pereira in the centre. We started very brightly and pushed right up on QPR to the point where they barely got a touch at all in the first ten minutes.
Our back four looked so strong and fast and the squeezed high enabling Livermore and Sawyers to control a compacted pitch and we bossed it for long periods of the first half.
It might be being slightly harsh but it felt like we snatched a little bit at some really good situations we got into and I thought Phillips failed to make to the most of the best of them - firstly one where he was played in at full pace to a 60/40 against the last man in his favour and he bottled it a bit to only win the corner and then right at the end of the half when we won it high and rather than taking the long ball up to him with a clear run on goal (albeit half a pitch) he dummied the ball to let it run through for the much slower Austin and the defender intercepted.
There was lots of nice play in that opening half and we should have done more - I thought probably Austin stood out as the player not on the same level as the rest of them for touch, pace and fitness.
Second half was much of the same but it took a speculative effort from Ferguson, who had been excellent again, who ran up the pitch and when he wasn't closed down took a swing. I think the keeper, the opposition and his team mates all expected him to cut back in onto his right foot and pass inside as he'd done all game but he kept going.
Apart from a 5 minute spell where Ferguson's goal caused him to lose all composure, we continued to totally control the game, suffocating QPR whenever they got the goal and exploiting the gaps when we won it high.
The introduction of HRK and Edwards for Phillips and Austin swung the game even further in our favour.
HRK's strengths - to hold the ball up, roll away and play short passes - were the perfect foil for Edwards, Diagana and Pereira and after they arrived it looked like we might score every time we went forward.
We peppered the goal and really should have notched a couple of goals before HRK drew the red card and our man from Brazil tucked away the free kick through a pathetic QPR wall - I thought his 'The Undertaker' finisher celebration was a bit graphic for the favelas of post-gentrification White City and this along with the silliness when he got subbed shows that he probably needs to mature a bit, but what a player.
The points took us to the top of the league and given that QPR would've done the same with a victory and the apparent gulf in class of this game, you have to think that without getting carried away this might turn into a special season for us. Tuesday night will help us further measure that.
A couple of other interesting tactical adjustments that I think genuinely contributed to the clean sheet:
Bring on dirty Leeds!
Haven't contacted for a while. Listened on Talksport 2 radio with Shaun Derry. So funny. Bit like Don Goodman bias on Sky TV.
A very close mate of mine passed away recently who I attended so many matches with when we were young in the 70's. Sadly I was ill myself, so could not get to his funeral.
The way we played today took me back to the way we played in the 70's. Johnny Giles led the way. Me and my mate were at Leeds when we first got promoted again in the 70's and it finished 2-2. The Albion support at Elland Road that day was amazing.
Same again on Tuesday lads. My mate will be watching. Somewhere.
Slaven Bilic is the new Johnny Giles. An amazing bloke.
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