Allardyce Hammers Hughes on grim night in W12 – full match report
Tuesday, 2nd Oct 2012 23:11 by Clive Whittingham
Much maligned West Ham boss Sam Allardyce made a mockery of Mark Hughes’ assertion that his QPR team is always meticulously prepared for games with a comprehensive victory at Loftus Road.
Like a horny teenager on a lads' week away to Magaluf, fate never has required much tempting.
In the post-survival euphoria of May, Mark Hughes stated that QPR would never find themselves in such a precarious position again while he was the manager. Not content with being made to look more foolish for that comment with each passing week of the new season, Hughes came out with another sound bite prior to Monday night's match with West Ham. "We prepare the team meticulously to give them the best chance to be successful," said Hughes before kick off, which made what followed kind of inevitable.
The Hammers were well prepared, well drilled and came with a clear game plan that they executed solidly. They came with a midfield three of in form Kevin Nolan, Mark Noble and Mohammed Diame who picked QPR apart comprehensively for Wigan at the DW Stadium last season. Those three look like they should be minding the door of a dodgy East End gentleman’s club, not lining up in midfield for the local team, but QPR picked a lightweight foursome of Shaun Wright-Phillips, Esteban Granero, Alejandro Faurlin and Ji-Sung Park to play against them and strung them out across a four man midfield. Rangers were bullied, physically dominated and comprehensively outplayed as a result.
Without even going into the puzzling decision to drop Junior Hoilett after two excellent displays, or the continued absence of Adel Taarabt from the starting 11, or the perplexing faith in Wright-Phillips and Park who are currently offering little to the team, this team selection suggested that nobody at QPR had ever seen West Ham play before.
It was the kind of management that has club owners considering their options. Tony Fernandes stated unequivocally before and after the match that Mark Hughes is his man, and both manager and chairman pointed, with some justification, to a lengthening injury list that seems to be almost exclusively targeting the defence. With Jose Bosingwa, Fabio Da Silva and Anton Ferdinand already out Hughes was left to lament Kieron Dyer's own temptation of fate. After a spate of recent interviews about saliva tests, extreme training regimes and new found fitness, surprise surprise he was ruled out of this meeting with his former club as well.
The back four basically picked itself as Hughes selected the only four remaining fit senior players – Nedum Onuoha, Ryan Nelsen, Stephane Mbia and Clint Hill – in front of Julio Cesar. They were shambolic, conceding a pathetic goal after two minutes, a second before half time, and avoiding a second five goal thrashing of the season more by luck than judgement. They made Carlton Cole – a fine physical specimen but with a work rate and cowardice to rival Jay Bothroyd – look like a Premier League striker which is no mean feat. His supporting cast of Matt Jarvis and Ricardo Vaz Te needed no second invitation to run riot and help themselves to a goal apiece.
The first of those came inside three minutes. Clint Hill could count himself unfortunate to see a sliding tackle on Vaz Te that would send the ball out for a corner nine times out of ten rebound back to the West Ham man and when he found Nolan in the area the marking was so slack that he had all the time he wanted to shin a percentage ball up to the back post where Jarvis was also unmarked and maintained enough composure to nod the ball delicately into the far corner from close range.
A minute before this, QPR had managed to disrupt a promising West Ham attack throughout which Jarvis remained unattended, with Onuoha tucking into the centre back position and Wright-Phillips standing down the field marking nobody but pointing at the former Wolves winger.
An early shambles.
The QPR back four is what it is at the moment: injury hit, constantly changing, makeshift, full of players out of position, full of players out of form. Mark Hughes can do little about it until he gets bodies back. Mbia looks like a central midfielder out of position, Onuoha and Hill certainly don’t look like Premier League full backs and Nelsen is getting a bit old to be holding a monkey’s tea party together.
In midfield though Hughes has enough options to be able to leave Adel Taarabt, Junior Hoilett and Samba Diakite on the bench. The lack of the first two meant Rangers lacked creativity, the lack of the Mad Malian meant West Ham were able to physically dominate in midfield and carve a path to goal at will. As the time ticked into double figures Diame shrugged off Wright-Phillips as if he wasn’t even there and then had enough time and space to try a long range shot which deflected off Ryan Nelsen, flew over Julio Cesar’s head, and fortunately flew fractionally too high to nestle in the top corner.
Perhaps it’s worth pointing out that while QPR were bringing in 12 players on big contracts and for club record transfer fees during the summer, West Ham picked up Diame for nothing. He was everything Rangers needed and more on Monday night, just as he had been when we played at Wigan a year ago.
On a rare occasion when QPR were able to get Faurlin and then Granero on the ball in a good area the Spaniard worked the ball wide to Wright-Phillips and then received it back in the penalty box but hammered a first time shot over the bar. Five minutes later Wright-Phillips was felled on the corner of the penalty box by Joey O’Brien, who was perhaps lucky to escape a yellow card from referee Mark Clattenburg considering what came later, giving Granero a chance to deliver a free kick into the heart of the danger area. He did just that, tempting Jaaskelainen from his goal line and into a rash punch that missed the ball completely and knocked centre back Winston Reid clean out. Play was immediately stopped and Reid was eventually replaced by James Tomkins.
West Ham, in contrast to QPR, had fielded the same back four for the previous three matches to this point and only conceded a single goal in that time but having been forced into one change Sam Allardyce quickly had to make another when O’Brien left the field with a tight hamstring and was replaced by George McCartney.
In the meantime Cisse’s shoot on sight policy had brought one routine save from Jaaskelainen and another near miss over the bar from 25 yards out. Cisse wasn’t playing well, his partnership with Zamora spluttering and lacking cohesion – albeit in the face of meagre service from elsewhere – but he did at least pose a goal threat to West Ham. Ten minutes before half time he controlled a ball in the area, turned and lashed the ball goalwards but saw the shot blocked away and then two minutes later he executed a technically brilliant airborne volley from the edge of the area that Jaaskelainen tipped over the bar.
But don’t be fooled into thinking this meant QPR were in the game though, because they weren’t. They were already crying out for a change in personnel and system. I’d have been tempted to introduce Diakite in between Faurlin and Granero with either Hoilett or Taarabt (I said Hoilett at the time, just to prove I’m not being wise after the event) as early as the fifteenth minute because this was a match going in only one direction.
Hughes stuck with what he had and just after the half hour what he had conceded an inevitable second goal. A corner from Noble initially caused absolute havoc in the QPR six yard area and although they survived and Bobby Zamora was able to poke it away his clearance didn’t even clear the penalty area and after Tomkins returned it to the back post Cesar contrived to concede a weak, slightly deflected, shot from Vaz Te who seemed to have nothing to aim at but nevertheless sent a shot snaking into the net at the near post.
If the first goal was a shambles then this was a defensive catastrophe. Hughes had to make a change now. Rangers were being overrun and out played; they were carrying Park and Wright-Phillips in a system that played into West Ham’s hands in every possible way and they had players on the bench who could have changed the game.
The teams exchanged headed chances as normal time drained away from the watch – Carlton Cole’s powerful near post effort from Vaz Te’s cross was a good deal closer than Zamora’s from Wright-Phillips’ centre that he rather got underneath and could only guide into the lower School End.
The Reid injury brought four minutes of added time in which Cisse saw a shot blocked and Mark Noble joined his team mate Diame in Clattenburg’s book – both for clumsy fouls in the midfield area.
I’m taking a breath and holding my tongue at this point. I think you can probably guess what I thought about Hughes sending the same flawed team in the same flawed system out for the second period.
Repeating the same action and expecting different results is the definition of insanity and therefore it was no surprise to the sane to see the second half start in exactly the same way the first had ended. Within a minute the Hammers had forced a corner which Tomkins came close to connecting with at the back post. Rangers failed to clear properly and when Jarvis returned it Clint Hill had to hack out from under his own cross bar as Vaz Te loitered for a tap in. Hill could only found Nolan who played it back into the area and Cesar was this time called into action by a firm strike from Diame which he turned behind.
We were now at the stage where QPR and Hughes deserved absolutely everything that came their way. Another 5-0 defeat was certainly not out of the question.
Finally, finally, some 55 minutes too late, QPR sent on Adel Taarabt and Samba Diakite for Ji-Sung Park and Shaun Wright-Phillips and switched out of the totally ineffective and wide open 442 system into a more solid, competitive and creative 433. Mercy.
Play restarted and Diakite immediately won the ball in the midfield, rode two challenges from Cole and Diame and accelerated to the edge of the West Ham area to set up a crossing opportunity which West Ham scrambled away. While I was marvelling at QPR finally having some physical presence in the middle of midfield, Rangers won the ball back for a second time thanks to Nelsen. He found Hill who knocked a pretty poor, bouncing pass down the line to Adel Taarabt and it was show time.
With his first touch of the game the Moroccan brought a difficult ball under control, moved in field, checked back on himself briefly to trick Demel into conceding a yard of space, and then used that gap to unleash a 25-yard barnburner into the top corner of the goal, almost ripping the net off the back of the posts in the process. Jaaskelainen never moved.
Clattenburg booked him for over celebrating – still the single worst rule in the sport just as it was when it was applied to Cisse last week, but still one that everybody knows about and players should not invite trouble from. That said, as Taarabt didn’t actually remove his shirt fully, it does rather beg the question why Manchester City players are allowed to reveal various slogans on vests in this way without punishment but QPR players are not.
Of more pressing concern was the yellow card picked up by Diakite two minutes later for a deliberate chop on Vaz Te as he threatened to race away. Now there’s nothing wrong with this taking-one-for-the-team type foul ordinarily, and just after the hour McCartney was also booked for a similarly cynical pull back on Diakite. The problem is the Malian is to self discipline what Jimmy Saville is to child protective services and a quarter of an hour later he foolishly lunged in on Demel attempting to win a ball that was never his and was sent off.
In between the two bookings the complexion of the game had changed completely. Suddenly it was a contest, flowing from end to end in front of a raucous crowd. It was basically everything it should and would have been had QPR picked the right starting 11.
Jaaskelainen was forced into a decent one handed save after Granero worked space for a shot on the edge of the area. The Spaniard was better after moving out of the cut and thrust of the middle of the park but has played a lot of football lately after going months without regular matches and looked tired alongside Ale Faurlin who was also flagging long before the end and played poorly.
At the other end Cole stormed through on goal after Diakite lost his footing on the edge of the area but rolled a one on one chance wide of the target. He was somewhat more cute with a back-heeled attempt moments before that, but Cesar was equal to it.
Relieved to still be in the game, Rangers came again. Taarabt produced a superb ball for Cisse to run onto and draw a nervous save from Jaaskelainen with a low shot.
Sensing a change in the flow of the evening Allardyce sent on his giant loan striker Andy Carroll instead of Carlton Cole, but a minute later Diakite did the West Ham manager’s job for him. The only defence I can offer for the former Nice man’s moronic action is that plenty of referees would have awarded a free kick and settled for a final warning given his small amount of time on the pitch, during which he’d only committed two fouls. But both challenges were bookings and he has only himself to blame.
It should also be said that by this stage Clattenburg was almost walking around the field with the card permanently in his hand. He booked Jaaskelainen for time wasting after the Granero near miss, then Carlton Cole rather harshly for a challenge on Clint Hill because it was the latest in a series, and then Kevin Nolan for complaining about all of this.
That took us to eight bookings already in a far from dirty match and the ninth sent Diakite off for a taste of the early bath water. Later there were time wasting yellows for both Tomkins and James Collins in the West Ham defence as well meaning nine Hammers had seen yellow on the night.
While it’s easy to criticise Clattenburg for being card happy and suggest he could have managed the game in a slightly calmer manner – he was and he could have – I had a good deal of sympathy with him. How many times have we moaned about a referee doing nothing about flagrant time wasting other than occasionally pointing at his watch and then adding the standard four minutes to the end of the game that he’d have added anyway? It was nice to see an official actually do something about it – booking four and adding six minute at the end.
Similarly, why should Kevin Nolan be able to follow Clattenburg all around the field of play yelling at him about every single decision all night? Captain’s privileges only go so far, and considering Clattenburg broke off briefly from the card fest to let Nolan off with a late tackle on Mark Hughes’ third sub Junior Hoilett four minutes from time when Diakite was sent off for something similar Nolan can count himself fortunate to have stayed on. Sam Allardyce said afterwards that it was never a game that warranted 11 bookings, and for tackles he was right, but half the cards were for things other than fouls which sort of ruins his point. Clattenburg should have taken a breath, calmed down, and put the card away for a bit, but I’m not going to complain too much about the way he handled the game.
The sending off killed QPR’s comeback hopes, and the atmosphere in the ground, stone dead. Deprived of the physicality in midfield, Rangers went back to being dominated and were grateful to great goalkeeping from Julio Cesar to tip a fizzing volley from Vaz Te onto the bar, and then a slice of luck when Nolan saw two goalbound shots blocked after Carroll had retrieved a seemingly lost cause on the byline. Rangers had played 55 minutes with nine men, and the last 20 with ten – for the 15 minutes the teams were equal they looked like they might win.
To add to the bad feeling around the place, Vaz Te had one of those everything-that’s-wrong-with-the-modern-game moments four minutes from time when he collapsed pathetically to the floor under no contact at all from Clint Hill, rolled around trying to get the QPR man booked, and then refused attempts from first Cesar and then Clattenburg to pick him up. It was one of the most pathetic things I’ve ever seen at a sporting fixture, heaping embarrassment on West Ham who’d been thoroughly excellent all night and didn’t need him performing like that at all.
Clattenburg added six minutes, Hughes slung on Hoilett for Onuoha and the R’s forced further awkward saves from Jaaskelainen as first Cisse and then Faurlin tried their luck from the edge of the box. Cesar denied West Ham the third goal they deserved by blocking Carroll’s drive back to him and the big Geordie skied the rebound into the stand. It mattered little.
QPR have thrashed wildly around over the past few years with scores of new signings and a steady stream of managers. The last thing we need now is more of either. Modern day football and its constant, 24/7, microscopic coverage means that every triumph feels like the ultimate achievement, and every set back like a world-ending disaster. Not getting carried away with either is the key to success – stability, calmness and cool heads will breed success in time.
This defeat was almost entirely Mark Hughes’ fault in my opinion, but bowing to increasing pressure and replacing him at this stage would be mindless.
QPR: Cesar 6, Onuoha 4 (Hoilett 84, -), Nelsen 5, Mbia 4, Hill 4, Park 3 (Diakite 56, 5), Granero 5, Faurlin 5, Wright-Phillips 4 (Taarabt 56, 8), Cisse 6, Zamora 6
Subs not used: Green, Mackie, Ephraim, Ehmer
Goals: Taarabt 57 (unassisted)
Bookings: Taarabt 57 (over celebrating), Diakite 58 (foul), 74 (foul)
Red Cards: Diakite 74 (two yellows)
West Ham: Jaaskelainen 7, Demel 6, Collins 6, Reid 6 (Tomkins 23, 7), O’Brien 6 (McCartney 35, 6), Noble 8, Diame 8, Nolan 8, Jarvis 7, Vaz Te 7, Cole 7 (Carroll 72, 7)
Subs not used: Henderson, Benayoun, O’Neil, Maiga
Goals: Jarvis 3 (assisted Nolan), Vaz Te 35 (assisted Tomkins)
Bookings: (Deep breath) Diame 38 (foul), Noble 45 (foul), McCartney 62 (foul), Jaaskelainen 66 (time wasting), Cole 68 (repetitive fouling), Nolan 68 (dissent), Collins 77 (time wasting), Tomkins 90 (time wasting)
QPR Star Man – Adel Taarabt 8 A different class from every other QPR player on the pitch. Immediately made himself available for possession, and found killer balls even when faced with tight situations whereas the previous hour had been punctuated with a lot of QPR players shrugging shoulders at the lack of passing options. Always wanted the ball, always posed a threat, scored a wonderful goal, turned the most one-sided 2-0 defeat you’re ever likely to see into a potential point for his team.
Referee – Mark Clattenburg (C Durham) 6 Well, what to say about a referee who produces 11 cards in a game with barely half a dozen bad tackles? I felt he could have left Diakite on if he’d wanted to, but by the letter of the law he was correct. He could have let Taarabt off as well under an interpretation of that ridiculous law that has seen Aguero and Tevez escape punishment for doing the same thing already this season. And if he wanted to be consistent he could have sent off Nolan late on. But I’ll defend a lot of his actions here – so often I complain about the lack of action against players trying to referee the game or run the clock down and he dealt with Nolan and three West Ham players for all of that very firmly. A lot of the cards given were purely down to the stupidity of the players, not the incompetence of the referee, although he did get rather carried away in the second half.
Attendance – 17,363 (2,000 West Ham approx) Very disturbing that QPR cannot even sell out a London derby like this, but given the price of the tickets and as the majority of the spare seats are in the Lower Loft which has come under the draconian ‘family stand’ regulations this season it’s no great surprise. Football in general, not just QPR, needs to get real. I did chuckle at the “Bobby Zamora, we’ve seen that before” chant from the away end when he headed over the bar.
Pictures – Action Images
Photo: Action Images
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