MILLWALL lost for the fourth time in five league games as a dominant QPR continued their climb up the Championship table.
Steve McLaren’s side scored twice in two minutes after half an hour, Massimo Luongo nodding in the first and Ebere Eze getting the second.
Jake Cooper almost pulled a goal back early in the second half but his header from Shaun Williams’ corner hit the crossbar before fortuitously rebounding off Geoff Cameron into the clutches of goalkeeper Joe Lumley.
First half – Too Eze for QPR
Tom Bradshaw made his first start for Millwall, but it wasn’t a happy one as he was withdrawn at the break after getting little service.
Instead it was a forward who left The Den in 2016 who tormented Millwall in the first half.
Eze missed out on a professional contract with the Lions before QPR offered him a deal, and he then had a successful loan spell at Wycombe.
The 19-year-old played off Nahki Wells and was an elusive figure, Williams booked for bringing him down midway through the half.
Eze signalled his menace from early on, winning a free-kick on the edge of the box that Wells fired wide, before the former Lions player crossed low but Wells couldn’t get a touch in front of goal.
Eze was popping up on the left and right, and when he zipped a low pass to Wells the striker turned Murray Wallace and was fouled, but again was well off target with the free-kick.
In the 30th minute Ben Amos saved superbly after Wells spotted Jordan Cousins’ run into the box. But that was the prelude to a practiced corner routine, Luke Freeman delivering a low ball in to Wells peeling off the main group of bodies in the box. His left-footed shot flicked off James Meredith, and before Amos arrived Luongo back-headed into the net.
Millwall had barely time to consider where the responsibility lay for that before Wells crossed from the right and Conor McLaughlin could only flick the ball to left-back Jake Bidwell, who returned it into the box and Eze’s left-footed shot hit Wallace before looping over Amos.
The Lions’ best mode to hit back was through corners, and though they did cause some uncomfortable moments for the Rs defence, goalkeeper Lumley wasn’t tested.
Second half – Rs comfortably see it out
It wasn’t a surprise to see Millwall showing more urgency after the break and Steve Morison, on for Bradshaw, forced Lumley to palm his shot away before Cooper hit the woodwork.
The addition of Wells on loan from Burnley has been one key reason for QPR’s resurgence after they lost their opening four league games of the season. His movement continued to strain the visitors, and he forced Amos into a save low to his right in the 57th minute before the goalkeeper got quickly to his feet to keep out Freeman’s follow-up.
Toni Leistner was booked for fouling Lee Gregory wide on the right in the 63rd minute and from Williams’ free-kick Ryan Leonard nodded the ball back in towards Morison who couldn’t twist enough to get his header on target.
But at least Millwall were now more of an attacking force, though Williams didn’t measure his shot carefully enough as Lumley watched the ball go high and wide with 23 minutes left.
The Lions hadn’t won at Loftus Road since 1989 but weren’t giving up on getting something from this game. Leonard powered forward from midfield before being taken down by Freeman, who was booked, before Wallace took the free-kick but shot over from 30 yards.
Amos made another excellent block to deny Luongo after Eze’s clever pass before Cooper cleared Cousins’ shot off the line.
Substitute striker Tomer Hemed forced Amos to palm his free-kick away for a corner and moments later Eze was running at Cooper in the box and appeared to be clipped, but referee Rob Jones instead booked the attacker.
It took Millwall far too long to get going here and they gave themselves too much to do after one of the worst halves of football they have played in some time.
Bradshaw will feel he had little to work with, as the majority of the play was directed towards Millwall’s goal in the opening 45 minutes, most dangerously through Eze and Wells.
As disappointing as this result is, it’s also worth noting that despite a transfer embargo enforced with the Rs paying a fine of almost £42million for over-spending during 2013-14, they can still sign Wells, Cameron and Hemed – the latter who started on the bench – from Premier League clubs. It doesn’t suggest the punishment fits the crime.
Millwall can’t dwell on that – with a daunting trip to West Brom in three days to think about.
Image: Millwall FC