Queens Park Rangers’ first home match since Tony Fernandes revealed plans for an ambitious 40,000-seat stadium ended with the owner-chairman glum-faced, 16,000 home fans frustrated, and Joey Barton back in the dressing room after his eighth career red card. The 31-year-old was sent off for receiving two yellow cards in a minute, petulantly kicking the ball at Gary Taylor-Fletcher seconds after being booked for tangling with the Leicester striker. Barton, in a tweet, described his sending off as “the most ridiculous red card ever”.
QPR, with six minutes of normal time and three of added remaining, were left to try to find a reply to Jamie Vardy’s 41st-minute strike without him. They failed. “The key was we kept a clean sheet,” said Leicester’s manager Nigel Pearson, “collectively we defended very well.”
With the Championship embarking on a new Financial Fair Play regime, the need for QPR, burdened by a huge wage bill, to escape is acute. But despite a squad replete with flair players, further supplemented by yesterday’s debutant Yossi Benayoun, they are struggling to score goals. So far they have 24 in 21 League games. First-team coach Kevin Bond lamented: “It has been the same all season. We haven’t created as many chances as we want to.”
In a bright opening Kasper Schmechel denied Gary O’Neil and Niko Kranjcar before a squirrel held up play for four minutes after invading the pitch. He was chased away by a posse of Foxes, one of whom, Danny Drinkwater, then cleared Clint Hill’s goal-bound header from the delayed corner.
On the half-hour Charlie Austin, scorer of 11 goals this season, was sent clear but Schmeichel denied him, the Dane recovering to save from Wayne Phillips, Liam Moore clearing O’Neil’s shot off the goal-line in between.
It seemed that a goal must come. It did – at the other end. Schmeichel’s goal-kick was headed on by David Nugent and Vardy chested the ball past Richard Dunne to shoot inside Rob Green’s far post. It was the first goal conceded by Rangers since November and, such was their frustration, Benoît Assou-Ekotto and Austin soon had to be separated by Kranjcar after the former’s poor cross.
Leicester, playing on the counter, should have sealed the game in the second period but Lloyd Dyer shot wide and Matthew James’ shot hit the crossbar. Then came Barton’s latest idiocy. “It looked pretty innocuous,” said Bond, adding Barton had to be more careful given his reputation.
QPR (4-4-1-1): Green; Simpson, Dunne, Hill, Assou-Ekotto; Phillips, Barton, Carroll (Benayoun, 69), O’Neil (Hoilett, h-t); Kranjcar; Austin.
Leicester City (4-4-2): Schmeichel; De Laet (Wasilewski, 82), Morgan, Moore, Konchesky; Knockaert, James, Drinkwater, Dyer; Vardy (Taylor-Fletcher, 68), Nugent (Schlupp, 77).
Referee: Paul Tierney.