Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Middlesbrough
EFL Championship Game 3
The Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, London
September 26th, 2020
By Stewart Flaherty (@stewartflaherty)
Middlesbrough picked up a road point at Queens Park Rangers courtesy of a goal on debut from new signing Chuba Akpom. Impressive winger Bright Osayi-Samuel capped a man of the match performance for the home team with an equalizing goal for the Hoops.
You can find a detailed match report on the official club website here.
1 – DEBUT GOALS
Akpom was signed from PAOK in the Greek Super League a week earlier and wasted no time in making an impression on the English second tier. The former Arsenal forward showed dynamic movement and added an edge to the Middlesbrough attack throughout the game. Akpom capped his impressive debut with a set play goal as he cut in front of defender Osman Kakay to head home a Paddy McNair corner. The corner feature clever movement that saw Boro bunch up before Grant Hall span to the back post and cleared a path for Akpom to surge to the near post and make contact for the goal.
The high energy forward almost capped a dream debut with a winning goal, but his late strike was disallowed by an offside flag.
The one thing Akpom will have to get used to, is the fact that Sky Bet Championship officials do not use VAR technology!
2 – DEFENSIVE EVOLUTION CONTINUES
Boro possessed one of the more fragile backlines in the division at many points last year but it has seen a total overhaul since Warnock’s arrival. In fact, none of the starting back four that featured in Jonathan Woodgate’s final game towards the end of last season started this fixture. George Friend left to join former Boro boss Aitor Karanka at Birmingham City while Ryan Shotton is without a club currently after his contract expired. Dael Fry has found himself on the bench of late alongside fellow youngster Hayden Coulson.
Anfernee Dijksteel is in the process of nailing down a permanent starting spot in the back three with consistently good performances. Northern Ireland international McNair, who played most of last season as midfielder has dropped into the back line in what has proved an inspired move by Neil Warnock. A rock solid force defensively, McNair has changed the face of Boro’s ability to play out of the back, and has proved a consistent threat in terms of delivery into the opoosition penalty area, registering his second assist of the season with his corner to Akpom here.
Rounding out the back three in Boro’s 3-5-2 shape is recent signing Hall, the former QPR man is playing in the center of the trio and showing himself to be very strong aerially. Hall is also showing himself to be a threat at attacking set plays, heading one cross wide and having a strong penalty claim denied before he limped off with an apparent calf injury.
Behind the back three, recently signed goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli looks to be making the number 1 shirt his own after Aynsley Pears and Dejan Stojanovic failed to lay permanent claim to the starting spot in goal last season.
3 – FIRST ROAD POINT
It is too early to say whether Boro will be a playoff contender this season, midtable or fighting to avoid the drop again. With that said, the more points they can accumulate, the more the team will be set up for a potential run of form that could see them challenge at the right end of the table.
After a tough opening schedule that has included two games already against teams just relegated from the Premier League, Boro will have been pleased to gain a point in an away game to keep the total ticking over. Warnock and his men will have their eyes set firmly on three points when Barnsley visit the Riverside Stadium next weekend.
1 – UNTRACKED MIDFIELD RUNNERS
Boro’s back three played well defensively but one weakness displayed by the team was QPR midfield runners going untracked and providing numbers up situations in dangerous areas. An untracked Luke Amos ghosted into the penalty area off the shoulder of an unaware Marcus Tavernier and fired the shot which was saved before falling for Osayi-Samuel to equalize, Boro will need to shore up in this area going forward.
2 – HALL INJURY
Just as Boro were starting to show signs of a good understanding among their new back three, Hall limped off during this game with an injury that will likely sideline him for a number of weeks and call Fry into action as his replacement.
3 – FORWARD DEPTH
The signing of Akpom seemed to add depth and options to a Boro attack that has scored only two goals in their opening three league games to start the season. Captain Britt Assombalonga yet to get off the mark for the season, while Ashley Fletcher received an injury last week and will be sidelined for several months.
As a result, Akpom has likely played his way into a starting role already and the primary backup will be Marcus Browne. Though largely unproven, Browne did score his first goal for the club in the recent draw against Bournemouth and played well in Boro’s Carabao Cup defeat to next week’s opposition Barnsley.
THE OPPOSITION – QUEENS PARK RANGERS
1 – NOT EZE TO REPLACE
Attacking central midfield player Eberechi Eze was a key player for the Hoops last season, playing in every league game and registering 14 goals and 8 assists. Eze’s form earned him a big money move to Premier League club Crystal Palace, and the task of replacing him has fallen to Morocco Under-23 international Ilias Chair.
Chair has some clear ability on the ball, but produced an up and down performance that included notably wasting a 4v3 breakaway in the second half by overhitting his pass. Chair cut a visibly frustrated figure on the bench after being replaced by Paul Smyth in the 73rd minute.
2 – BRIGHT SPOT IN ATTACK
Osayi-Samuel could be the next QPR player to earn a move to the division above, putting in a quality attacking display here full of pace, confidence and ability to penetrate. After Bettinelli saved an Amos shot, the winger pounced on the rebound to earn his team a share of the spoils in this game.
3 – OSMAN KAKAY
The right back was another impressive figure for QPR all game, minimizing the attacking impact of Boro wingback Marvin Johnson, while providing a consistent attacking threat on the right flank.
19’ MID Chuba Akpom (Paddy McNair) 0-1
28’ QPR Bright Osayi-Samuel (Luke Amos) 1-1
MAN OF THE MATCH
#11 M Bright Osayi-Samuel (Queens Park Rangers) – The winger showcased his skill, pace and power to become a thorn in Boro’s side all game. Capped an excellent display with the equalizing goal by tucking home a rebound to beat Bettinelli.
Queens Park Rangers
3: LM Bright Osayi-Samuel – Man of the Match.
2: RD Osman Kakay – The Sierra Leone international fullback got the better of Boro wingback Johnson in defense and overlapped all game to provide quality service to the Hoops front three.
1: CM Luke Amos – Kept possession ticking over his team and joined attack to good effect, most notably when his saved shot dropped to the feet of Osayi-Samuel to equalize.
3: CF Chuba Akpom – Quality debut from the striker who netted a goal and showcased speed and ability to penetrate, will surely be a good addition to Boro’s front line over the season ahead.
2: CM Jonny Howson – Tough tackling Howson was at the heart of matters all game for the road team, battling to win possession and connecting passes well throughout the game.
1: CD Anfernee Dijksteel – In what is becoming a pattern, Dijkstell was an impressive force holding QPR at bay, finding himself matched up almost all game against their best attacking player in Osayi-Samuel.
QPR: Dieng, Wallace, Barbet, Dickie, Kakay, Cameron, Amos, Chair (Smyth), Osayi-Samuel, Thomas (Carroll), Dykes.
MID: Bettinelli, McNair, Hall (Fry), Dijksteel, Johnson, Saville, Howson, Tavernier, Spence (Morsy), Akpom, Assombalonga.
Full highlights can be found on the official club website here.