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Much improved QPR held to draw by Chelsea — full match report
Much improved QPR held to draw by Chelsea — full match report
Sunday, 16th Sep 2012 20:35 by Clive Whittingham

Talk about handshakes dominated the coverage of QPR’s goalless draw with Chelsea at Loftus Road on Saturday – but it was Rangers’ vastly improved performance that was worthy of more column inches.

The sun, the full house and the clutch of players making home debuts gave Saturday’s game the feeling of an opening day of the season and QPR were in no mood to turn down a second chance to make a first impression.

A month ago Swansea City turned up at Loftus Road and systematically destroyed Mark Hughes’ men 5-0. The Welshman’s claim that Rangers would never again find themselves in relegation trouble while he was in charge looked arrogant and foolhardy as Michael Laudrup’s men carved their opponents apart in a comprehensive destruction. Tony Fernandes’ money spent on big names seemed to have created a collection of individuals rather than a team. It was a chastening experience.

That made the visit of European champions Chelsea a daunting one, especially as Roberto Di Matteo has spent the thick end of £70m strengthening his team’s attack since beating QPR 6-1 in their last meeting. But there were positive signs for the hooped faithful before this game even kicked off. All eyes and cameras were trained on defender Anton Ferdinand during the pointless monotony of the pre-match handshakes and as predicted he ignored Chelsea’s John Terry and Ashley Cole as the fallout from last season’s racism row continued. What fewer people noticed was that QPR’s captain Ji Sung Park – who wasn’t even at Loftus Road when Terry was caught on camera calling Ferdinand a fucking black cunt – also spurned the former England captain’s empty gesture in solidarity with his team mate. Park went on to have his best game in QPR colours so far as part of a vastly improved overall team display.

Perhaps the collection of individuals is coming together as a cohesive unit after all.

Hughes has added quality to his side since the Swansea debacle. Esteban Granero made his home debut in the centre of midfield with Ale Faurlin – a beautifully balanced left and right partnership made up of two players who are just as defensively strong as they are creative. It’s a dream pairing worthy of a much bigger, more established, club than QPR and the two of them outplayed their Chelsea counter parts here supported well by Park down the left, and slightly less ably by Shaun Wright-Phillips down the right. Up front the former Fulham duo Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson started together. At the back Ferdinand started at centre half alongside Ryan Nelsen with Fabio Da Silva at left back and Jose Bosingwa facing his former club at right back

Probably the biggest decision facing the QPR manager was in goal where Robert Green paid for his poor start to life at the club by losing his place to Brazilian international Júlio César who made his first start after moving from Inter Milan. César wasted little time in showing his new supporters what he can do by denying Chelsea an opener after three minutes. Ramires got going down the right flank and fired a low cross into the edge of the box where Eden Hazard arrived right on cue with a low shot that the keeper confidently turned aside.

QPR are currently without psychopathic Malian midfield enforcer Samba Diakité for reasons unknown, and another athletic African who likes to anchor the base of a team’s midfield Stéphane Mbia was denied his first appearance in hoops by an injury picked up on international duty for Cameroon during the week. But any thought that a midfield pairing of Faurlin and Granero would be too lightweight and technical in the cut and thrust of the Premier League was put to bed with their respective performances here.

Granero was caught in possession after 12 minutes but fought back with a cynical foul to deny Chelsea a chance for a quick break. That’s an intelligent thing to do against the Blues because any free kick they get within 40 yards of the goal is almost always kicked weakly back to the goalkeeper or into the wall by Frank Lampard after a three quarter of a mile run up and that’s exactly what happened here. From the resulting corner Rangers were able to counter attack themselves and when Faurlin was chopped down by Ramires he became the first player shown a yellow card by referee Andre Marriner.

Ramires was perhaps fortunate to stay on the field two minutes later when he was caught in possession on the touchline thanks to some hard work from Fabio and he retaliated with a nasty foul. Fortunately for him Marriner waved play on as Rangers accelerated into the penalty box and Bobby Zamora drew a routine save from Petr Cech with a low curling shot. Sadly, after he’d made a bright start to the game, that tackle ended Fabio’s participation in the game and he was replaced by Nedum Onuoha a short time later, with Bosingwa switching from right to left back. Ramires was lucky the referee chose not to pursue retrospective action when the ball eventually went dead.

Chelsea had two men sent off on this ground in a 1-0 league defeat last season and having narrowly escaped a red card there the visitors were then grateful for Marriner’s leniency for a second time when Ryan Bertrand crashed through the back of Shaun Wright-Phillips with the type of air born, two footed, out of control tackle we’re told is now a mandatory red card offence. He was only booked, and 11 man Chelsea drew another save from César when Torres moved into the penalty area, turned back inside and then went searching for the far bottom corner.

But the visitors soon had cause to be upset with the match officials themselves as QPR survived two quick fire penalty appeals. First John Terry appeared to be pulled to the ground in the area by Ryan Nelsen after getting in front of the New Zealand international under a wide set piece. Nelsen clearly had hold of Terry’s shoulders, but the Chelsea captain only hit the deck when he collided with Fernando Torres which perhaps persuaded Marriner to ignore the claims. It looked a penalty at first glance though. As did Shaun Wright-Phillips’ risky contact on Hazard just before the half hour as the Belgian international accelerated beyond him to the byline in the penalty area. The £35m man certainly hadn’t been shy of theatrically falling to ground in the opening half hour and Marriner had already waved away free kick appeals from him, Torres and Branislav Ivanovic so maybe it was the style of his fall that saw a goal kick awarded for what really should have been a spot kick.

As the debate raged – Terry and Frank Lampard are apparently allowed to discuss anything and everything with the referee at length whenever they feel the need – Mark Hughes had to redesign his side for a second time as Andy Johnson pulled up injured and was replaced by Jamie Mackie.

I thought Mark Hughes got a lot right on Saturday, and in defeat at Man City before the international break, but I wondered whether he could have done something a little different here. Shaun Wright-Phillips was clearly selected for his work rate and defensive ability, helping Bosingwa and later Onuoha out with a dangerous left sided combination of Cole and Bertrand, but I’d have preferred to see Mackie or Hoilett there. Similarly, I think I’d rather have seen Adel Taarabt or particularly Djibril Cissé come on for Johnson and go up front alongside Bobby Zamora. Hard to criticise the overall performance, tactics and team selection though.

As QPR tried to settle down after two changes in 15 minutes Chelsea should have taken the lead when David Luiz was left unmarked from a corner but headed over – Bobby Zamora put his hand up to apologise for the lack of marking in that instance. Two minutes later Torres – who spent the whole afternoon collapsing to the floor clutching his vagina then moaning when no free kick was awarded – finally won a free kick 35 yards from goal. Luckily Lampard stepped up, went through his routine, began his run up at Shepherds Bush Market, and sent the trademark low bouncing pass back straight into the arms of César.

Chelsea were starting to get on top, and QPR looked like a side that was trying to play out time and get to the break which is always a dangerous game. The visitors peppered César’s goal with shots five minutes before half time following a foul on Ashley Cole by Wright-Phillips but the defence muscled up and Ferdinand deserves particular credit for blocking a fierce strike from Mikel away with his head.

The injuries and substitutions created three minutes of added time at the end of the half during which Luiz was penalised for climbing over the back of Zamora and Granero hit a weak free kick wide of the target when perhaps a chipped cross up to the back post would have yielded greater reward.

There was renewed purpose and ambition about the Super Hoops at the start of the second half and after neat build up work from Bosingwa and others Jamie Mackie tested Cech early with a shot on the turn which flew too high when the former Plymouth man would ideally have liked to execute a low drive towards the bottom corner. Cech was also able to comfortably claim a header from Park five minutes later when the Korean found himself arriving unmarked eight yards out on the end of a glorious cross from Granero and he really should have scored with that one.

Di Matteo responded by introducing Victor Moses for Ryan Bertrand but play continued to flow towards the School End. Faurlin, dictating the pace and pattern of the game at the heart of midfield, drilled a foot over the bar from long range then his crafty partner Granero caught Cole out with an inch perfect through ball that Wright-Phillips should have done so much more with than thrash a wild first time shot into the Chelsea fans behind the goal. Two minutes later Mackie broke down the left and squared the ball across the face of the penalty area for Park to strike first time but his shot flew over. It was one way traffic at this stage.

Chelsea are a quality side though and the two old adages about needing to score when you’re on top, and it only taking a second for one to go in at the other end almost haunted the hosts in the sixty sixth minute. If Wright-Phillips had been selected ahead of Hoilett and Taarabt for his defensive work then Mark Hughes will not have been impressed with his half arsed attempt at blocking a cross from Hazard that fell plum at the back post for Ivanovic charging forward from full back and he should have at least found the target with a header that ultimately flashed just wide of César’s post. It was no surprise to see Wright-Phillips withdrawn shortly after this and replaced by Cissé who went up front alongside Zamora with Mackie moving out onto the flank.

QPR suddenly had a different, pacier kind of threat for Chelsea to worry about and Mikel was suitably unnerved to leave a nervous pass back to Cech woefully short with a quarter of an hour to go. Given his form in front of goal so far this season QPR couldn’t have wished for anybody better than Bobby Zamora on the end of the chance but he has never scored in 11 games against Chelsea and after rejecting the opportunity to shoot first time he attempted to round Petr Cech in a one on one situation, narrowed the angle for himself too much, and then by the time he’d cut back inside the visitors had massed on the goal line and Terry was able to kick the belated effort away to safety. That was the moment for QPR and having spurned it they were lucky not fall behind immediately when Moses ghosted into the penalty area through the right channel after a superb cross field pass from Ramires and drew a smart save from César from his own narrow angle.

Ramires then hit a shot of his own ten minutes from time that was blocked away by Ryan Nelsen. The New Zealand international was on the other side of the world playing for his country earlier in the week and yet at the age of 34 he was still able to return to London, slot into the QPR defence and turn in an outstanding display of centre half play here. The Terry incident in the first half apart he was calm, confident and assured throughout, always knowing where to be, anticipating danger well, and frequently stepping in front of his man to nick the ball away before it arrived.

The block from Ramires typified an excellent all round display from the QPR centre backs, but when Di Matteo introduced Sturridge a moment later and the striker immediately turned in behind Nelsen and drew a foul you couldn’t help but wonder if things would have gone slightly differently had he been on the field for longer. Torres was ridiculously awful at Loftus Road last season but has improved massively since Di Matteo took charge and came into this game a man in form. Nevertheless he was woefully ineffective against Ferdinand and Nelsen, frequently drawing Chelsea attacks to a premature halt by getting caught flat footed, or diving around for nonexistent free kicks.

The rest of the Chelsea team realised very early on that Marriner was in no mood to blow his whistle every two or three minutes and adapted their games but Torres stuck with his tactic of collapsing under meagre contact, and then whingeing like an old fish wife when he didn’t get a decision. The only surprise was Di Matteo waited until the eightieth to withdraw him and given the immediate impact Sturridge made it’s a good job from QPR’s point of view that he did. Torres stormed off down the tunnel rather than watch the remainder of the game. Must be his time of the month.

That gave the home fans something to chuckle about, but that was nothing compared to the reaction when John Terry felt something go in his leg over by the West Paddock. He immediately pulled up in agony, and ordered Cech to punt the ball into touch so he could receive treatment. Now I’m as sporting as the next man, but not since Chris Morgan took a boot to the face in the QPR penalty box back in 2008 have I cheered so loudly at an opposition injury. I don’t care that it’s puerile, I don’t care that it’s small time, and I don’t care that it’s in bad taste: I found it bloody hilarious. Sadly, it turned out to be something trivial and he could carry on. Personally I wouldn’t have thrown them the ball back either, given that the row between Ferdinand and Terry that started this whole sorry saga actually began when Chelsea’s ‘captain, leader, legend’ ordered his team mates to keep possession and play on in search of an equaliser when QPR kicked the ball out for treatment late in the game. Fuck him, and them as far as I’m concerned.

Zamora had missed QPR’s best chance to win the game, and Eden Hazard did likewise with Chelsea’s four minutes from the end of regulation time. Moses accelerated to the byline then cut the ball back behind the QPR defence which had been sucked into the goal mouth and Hazard was front of a queue of three unmarked players awaiting its arrival but when the cross did come the Belgian could only find the upper tier of the Loft End. A late Chelsea winner would have been harsh on QPR who’d been the better team in the second half but it should have come nevertheless – that was an absolute sitter.

A further counter attack three minutes later from a QPR corner ended with the ball arriving at Lampard’s feet on the edge of the box but Ale Faurlin – 90 minutes into only his third match back after a nine month injury lay off – had tracked back the full length of the pitch and was able to execute one final, desperate sliding tackle to put the England man off his stride and send the ball flying into the QPR crowd instead. Magnificent, no other word for the Argentinean at the moment.

And QPR weren’t far off that themselves overall. The final whistle followed soon after and on the balance of play, particularly in the second half, it was the R’s who should be disappointed to have only drawn, not their more illustrious visitors.

After the recent shambolic performance and fortunate 1-1 draw at Norwich I asked where the spine of this QPR team was. It seemed after bringing in 12 more players in during the summer Mark Hughes had collected trinkets with no tree to hang them all from. Thankfully here there seemed to be the first signs of a real backbone to the QPR team. César was excellent on debut in goal making two very decent saves and inspiring confidence in both the defence and the crowd – I lost count of the amount of times people around me in F Block said something along the lines of “if that had been Green, I’d have been panicking.” Harsh, but probably true. At the heart of the defence Ferdinand had his best game for the club, and Nelsen was a tower of strength and leadership – a real shame we’ve got him at 34 and not 26 as we so nearly did in 2005 when he signed for Blackburn instead. The midfield partnership of Granero and Faurlin is a potential dream come true and Zamora led the line reasonably, while never quite reaching the level of his other recent performances.

This fixture last season began the downfall of Andre Villas Boas at Stamford Bridge. Next Sunday QPR go to the Portuguese manager’s new club Tottenham, and on this evidence could well begin the process for him all over again.

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QPR: César 8, Bosingwa 7, Ferdinand 8, Nelsen 8, Fabio 7 (Onuoha 21, 6), Wright-Phillips 6 (Cissé 70, 6), Granero 8, Faurlin 8, Park 7, Johnson 7 (Mackie 33, 6), Zamora 7

Subs: Green, Taarabt, Dyer, Hoilett

Chelsea: Cech 7, Ivanovic 7, Luiz 6, Terry 7, Cole 7, Lampard 6, Mikel 6, Ramires 7, Hazard 6, Bertrand 6 (Moses 58, 7), Torres 5 (Sturridge 81, 7)

Subs: Turnbull, Romeu, Oscar, Cahill, Azpilicueta

Bookings: Ramires 14 (foul), Bertrand 27 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Ryan Nelsen 8 Considering his age, the quality of the opposition, the lack of football he’s had in the last six months and the travelling he’s done this week I thought Nelsen was excellent. Anticipated problems before they occurred, positioned himself faultlessly, led the defence superbly. Such a shame we didn’t get him earlier in his career.

Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands) 7 This is a referee I like a lot, who has progressed seriously well in recent years and is now rightly seen as the top man in the Premier League along with Howard Webb for the big occasions. Here he marshelled a potentially fiery encounter superbly, laying down a marker early by telling Ivanovic to get to his feet after a dive. He refereed calmly throughout, controlling the game and keeping his cards in his pockets. His game control and management was 10/10. However, Bertrand should have been sent off and Chelsea should have been awarded at least one penalty, so marks have to come off, which is a shame because this is exactly how I want to see football games refereed – sensibly, without fuss, and with common sense and man management used instead of card flurries.

Attendance: 18,271 (3153 away) A good, but not overwhelming atmosphere inside Loftus Road. I really wish we could recreate the hostility we showed in the league game against this lot last season more regularly.

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Pablo_Hoopsta added 21:00 - Sep 16
Really good review! Good to read something that pretty much matches what I saw and thought, and fills in the blanks! Nelson, Granero, Cesar were fantastic and Faurlin is looking better with each game, he is already looking better than before he got injured!
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Roller added 21:29 - Sep 16
Great write up Clive. The most obvious point is how much we missed Faurlin last season. He and Granero could become the best central midfield combination in the league.

I’m still not convinced about Onuoha, hopefully he won’t be filling in for Ferdinand, who must have had his best game for us yesterday, while he is out injured.
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hamptonhillhoop added 21:57 - Sep 16
Why are you allowed to use swear words and no one else is?
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ozranger added 22:26 - Sep 16
Another great report Clive. Couple of things though. Ryan is actually the captain of the All Whites (NZ team), which I guess is why he shows such leadership in his position. I also thought it was Torres' tackle (stamp on the ankle) on Fabio that was lingering and caused his sub, but I may be wrong. My Men of the match go to the duo Faurlin and Granero not just because they played well, but because they outplayed the three, not two, midfielders they were up against. I also enjoyed the wing-backs, who, by attacking a lot, which meant the Chelsea backs were more tied into defending than City's were last game - a lesson learnt?

I was a little surprised to see Wright-Phillips again, and even more surprised when Mackie was brought on for Johnson. The lineup for next weekend could be quite interesting if injuries linger, but with such new depth, at least we do not have to worry too much about a significant drop in standard.

This was an exciting derby game to watch and holds a potential to become a very strong rivalry, similar to the Manchester, Liverpool and north London ones.
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QPRCambs added 22:28 - Sep 16
It was great to see us genuinely match them in every department. I know we beat them last year but that was a bizarre match in which they pressed their self-destruct button with the two sendings off though even then they gave use the run-around in the second half with nine men. This was a much, much better performance by QPR with clearly still much more to come. I genuinely thought we would lose this one and that it would be into next month before we saw the cohesion we saw on Saturday, so I was very pleased with the performance and I'm really looking forward to the Spurs game.
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WokingR added 22:39 - Sep 16
What a relief to hear that Torres actually has a vagina as we were all saying how pretty he was looking yesterday
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Kiwi76 added 22:49 - Sep 16
Had Nelson's performance included in the national news down here, after AB's but still in there and top effort from him given travel and slight improvement in quality of opposition from Solomon Is to Chelsea!!
Lot to like about our midfield and on another day Park could've had 2 or 3 but certainly not for lack of trying.
Johnson has impressed in couple of games but have to admit want to see Cisse and Hoilett in mix sooner rather than later.
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TacticalR added 23:14 - Sep 16
Thanks for your report.

The really weird thing is, this is the team performance we had been crying out for, and expected we probably weren't going to get for ages. A performance not to be underestimated...we comfortably matched one of the most expensive teams in the world, a team that had previously beaten us 6-1, and in my eyes that was more of a victory than our 1-0 win last season.

The midfield was crowded, but our players handled it really well, and the gaping holes that opened up at Stamford Bridge were nowhere to be seen.

Even though Cesar didn't have that much to do I'm sure a lot of the confidence in the team came from his presence. His save against Hazard early on calmed the team.

Great cross from Grenaro for Park's header. Is there anything that Grenaro can't do? There is a touch of the Pirlo about some of Grenaro and Faurlin's long passing. The great thing is they do it when it's worth doing, not when they feel like doing it.

Park's best game for us so far. Previously I was very concerned that he did not seem to be on the same wavelength as the other players, but he really looked like he knew what he was doing in this match. If he had scored he would have driven the Koreans crazy. By the way, if Asia loves Park, and Park blanked Terry, does that mean the whole of Asia now hates Terry? :)

Bosingwa doesn't seem to have got much of a mention, but to my surprise I was very impressed with him. He was very good on the ball, had a good understanding with Park, and introduced an element of unpredictability into our play.

The only concern is that we didn't score, but hopefully that will come.
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N12Hoop added 00:10 - Sep 17
I was wondering if the excellent performance of Ferdinand was the result of having the guidance of Nelson alongside him. Nelson showed what we've been missing by being a calm, authoritative and commanding figure in central defence. I thought Bosingwa, although looking disinterested, was absolute calmness personified, and it seemed that the whole defence were suddenly comfortable playing the ball out rather than just getting rid. Was very impressed by Johnson's link-up touch and movement and him going off was a blow. You can see that he is very hard to defend against. All in all positive signs but it means nothing if we revert back to type next week. Let's hope this is the start of something beautiful!
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QPRski added 07:26 - Sep 17
Who before the match expected us to keep a clean sheet against Chelsea?
What an improvement from the last Premiership home game!

A very good and disciplined performance form the whole team and manager. I am particularly pleased with Anton's performance in what must have been a very difficult match. I am sure it will have done wonders for his confidence as well.

My only minor quibble is the non usage of Taarabt or Hoilett in the 2nd half but I am sure Hughes is justified by the result.

A very promising platform for the next game. Well done to all!
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JB007007 added 07:47 - Sep 17
Thanks Clive.
A very good team performance. We need to see that commitment and work rate week in week out now.
Just about agree with Nelsen on his MOM, we was immense. I was worried about Faurlin after about 10-15 minutes as he was everywhere getting stuck in and I just feared something would go wrong. But It seems as though his knee is perfectly strong enough and he appears to have grown another lung as well.
If we take this performance to Spurs, who knows...
Finally, enjoyed the song about that despicable little man being John Terry's bitch.
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Roller added 07:52 - Sep 17
It is important to consider the effect of the two forced substitutions that Hughes had to make in the first half. We will never know what he plans were, but maybe he wanted to keep it tight and then unleash Hoilett or Taarabt in the second half. He certainly adapted to the unfolding circumstances well and did make a positive change earlier than I expected.
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R_in_Sweden added 08:03 - Sep 17
Thanks again.

Planty of positives to take out of this game and by far our best performance of the season. The midfield looks tasty, great to see Faurlin back. Agree with some of the other posters, would liked to have seen Adel (or Hoilett) involved in the second half. SWP never seems to complete what he starts, most of his endeavour seems to fizzle out. Still I suppose Hughes saw Adel as a potential danger both to us and them and played it safe, shame.

WokingR - top comment.
JB007007 - Couldn't make out the Ashley Cole song on TV, now I know, thanks.
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parker64 added 08:45 - Sep 17
Much quicker tempo and proper closing down, none of this standing off and just marking space. Felt I saw a proper game of football. Great workrate throughout the side.
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dixiedean added 14:26 - Sep 17
I think the subs showed that Hughes is not a gambler and will play safe where necessary, ie he didn't want to risk losing the game by making a bold sub,hence Mackie rather than Djib came on for AJ. Fair enough in the circumstaces as most of us would have been happy with a point beforehand. That's also why I think he doesn't trust Traore, although he may have to this week if Anton & Fabio inj. Still think we should play Djib as he's a proven goal-scorer,even if less reliable defensively. Nelson is the new Clint Hill ! I suspect he'll be on the bench v Spurs . And I thought Bosingwa couldn't defend ? On that performance he certainly can. And why didn't BZ fall over when Cech caught him ? No doubt Torres or Hazard would have got a pen there. And the pen they might have got for Hazard made up for the joke one they got in the Cup game last season.
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Jigsore added 19:56 - Sep 17
And not a single yellow card for QPR. Looks like we've gone a long way to fixing our ill discipline from last year
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jjc1964 added 20:37 - Sep 17
Can anyone see where/how Mbia and or Diakite make into into the squad when they return? Also, Hughes gave Taraabt #10, might he pair our new #10 with Zamora if Taraabt can play a little defense once in a while?
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sipower added 01:30 - Sep 18
Great report ...few additional thoughts. I really have sympathy for Green but Swansea wasnt his first for us he had another huge howler in the preseason in Asia - Cesar was the root of defensive solidity and the good save after a few minutes was just what he and we needed. Nelsen has been very very good, a wise old head in the middle of defence and a suitable home for the armband if we ever need one. Speaking of which Parks solidarity may have been related to Rio not to Anton but in either case he WAS wearing the armband and it was the right choice. The vilification that Anton and even worse. his family, have had to go through, is monstrous for something he never did. All that rubbish aside - we looked strong at the back (sorry mate neither was a penalty) and mouth wateringly lovely in midfield - a little more threat up front would be nice but the opposition werent bad. Finally I thought Mariner was excellent - in what could have been an explosive bloodbath on and even possibly of the field - he took no crap from dives and left the game as an afterthought - which given the circumstances was a great performance.
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francisbowles added 17:40 - Sep 18
Good report as usual and an improvement on what I thought was a good performance at City. Really bad luck for AJ and also looks like we will have to shuffle the defence for while. Mbia, Bosingwa or Clint Hill could possibly partner Nelson and the later two or Keiron Dyer could be at full back. Much as I feel that SWP is much improved from last year there is still no end product and he is not strong enough. Be interesting to see if MH puts Cisse in or reverts to a 5 man midfield and maybe start with Tarabt, Hoilett or Mackie.

Faurlin seems taller than before his injury?
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