Sat 18 Feb 17
at 17:00 PM
Report: Blues 1 QPR 4
Blues suffered a disappointing and comprehensive home to defeat to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday afternoon.
Although they were missing several key players, Blues could have no real complaints about the result as they were generally disjointed throughout and struggled to cope with QPR's greater attacking threat.
It was an uphill battle for Blues after they fell behind after just 18 minutes from Matt Smith's header. They then conceded a second just two minutes into the second-half when Conor Washington scored from close range and then two in the last ten minutes from substitutes Idrissa Sylla and Yeni Ngbakoto.
Emilio Nsue's stoppage-time goal for Blues was scant consolation on an afternoon to forget.
Gianfranco Zola made no less than five changes to the side that had started against Preston.
Two of them were enforced, with Craig Gardner suspended for one game after his sending off against the Lilywhites, and striker Lukas Jutkiewicz out after picking up a hamstring injury during training on Friday.
Zola elected to start with a three-five-two formation, with Josh Dacres-Cogley, Ryan Shotton and Jonathan Grounds in as the three at the back and Cheick Keita and Emilio Nsue playing as attacking wing-backs.
It took just 45 seconds for Blues to try their luck when Che Adams drove forward with the ball before dragging a shot wide of the posts from the edge of the box.
But the R’s were soon on the offensive themselves and Ryan Manning blasted a shot over the bar, before Tomasz Kuszczak was forced to palm away Luke Freeman’s attempt.
The game was being played at a really high tempo, with the action swinging from end to end.
And on 13 minutes Blues had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock when Jerome Sinclair's cross from the right was met close in by Nsue.
But from just three yards out the Spaniard headed the ball down into the ground and it flew just the wrong side of Alex Smithies' post.
Blues had to be thankful to Shotton for clearing the ball off his line with Matt Smith set to score.
But it was only a temporary reprieve as Smith headed the visitors into the lead.
Disappointingly it was another set-play that cost Blues dear, as Smith met Freeman's corner with a powerful header.
Blues suffered another blow just before the half-hour mark when Keita was forced to leave the field after taking a bang to his head, with Paul Robinson sent on to replace him.
Blues were struggling defensively and Kuszczak had to be alert to pull off a good low save from Pawel Wszolek's firm header.
But after re-grouping Blues began to pose more of an attacking threat of their own. Adams saw his attempt blocked, before Jerome Sinclair's shot was deflected onto the bar.
Then in the minutes leading up to half-time, Greg Stewart curled a free-kick over the bar from 25 yards.
Blues were fortunate not to fall further behind after 43 minutes when Smith failed to connect properly with the ball close in and Kuszczak was able to make a comfortable save.
Chances were continuing to be created, and in stoppage time at the end of the first-half Adams' shot was deflected wide.
Half-time: Blues 0 QPR 1
Blues made a second substitution at the start of the second-half with Kerim Frei replacing Dacres-Cogley and Blues switching to a back-four.
But it did little to shore up the back line as Rangers found themselves two goals to the good within two minutes of the restart.
Blues failed to clear the ball from the danger zone inside their area and Washington made no mistake as he smashed a low shot home inside the near post.
Stung after conceding so early, Blues knew that they would have to get a swift goal back if they were going to get a positive result out of the game and began to pour forward in numbers.
But they were struggling with the final ball that would unlock the R's defence.
On the hour mark, Sinclair managed to turn inside the area before attempting a shot, but it was comfortably saved by Smithies.
But Rangers continued to look dangerous on the break and Kuszczak was forced to tip Grant Hall's header over the bar.
However, Blues hadn't totally given up hope of getting back into the contest and Nsue was inches away from pulling a goal back with a low shot that went just wide.
Stewart then tried his luck with a header which flashed across the front of the Rangers goal.
But Blues' afternoon went from bad to worse when Sylla headed home Pawel Wszolek's cross on 84 minutes and then two minutes later the rout was complete as Ngbakoto made it 4-0 when he tried his luck with a 35-yard free-kick which went in off the underside of the bar.
With the match into the fourth minute of stoppage time Nsue pulled a goal back with a first-time finish into the bottom corner.
Blues must now look to quickly regroup ahead of next Friday evening's trip to Midlands rivals Wolves.