Everton prolong QPR’s winless run – full match report
Monday, 22nd Oct 2012 22:59 by Clive Whittingham
QPR remain bottom of the Premier League after drawing their latest home match 1-1 against Everton who played the final half hour of the game with ten men.
Is that a light at the end of the tunnel, or another train approaching?
Under-fire QPR manager Mark Hughes will certainly hope it’s the former, and will take plenty from Sunday’s 1-1 draw at home to high-flying Everton to back his case. The same result against the same opponents last season sparked a subsequent run of five consecutive home wins that catapulted Rangers to safety and despite extending the winless run at the start of the season to eight matches – the worst since 1991 – there were signs here that the feat could be repeated.
Hughes finally selected Junior Hoilett from the start in attack and he only deepened the mystery of why he’s been used so sparingly so far this season with a fine performance and opening goal – albeit heavily deflected – after two minutes. His drive, effort and attacking ambition was much needed as his supporting cast up front struggled to offer much by way of help as Everton double marked Adel Taarabt and Bobby Zamora turned in his worst performance of the season.
In midfield Hughes partnered Esteban Granero, who was impressive, and Samba Diakite who finally showed some of the form that he produced during a loan spell last season but has been sadly lacking since QPR made the move permanent in the summer. Rangers were better as a result, though they could scarcely have been worse than their recent performances against West Ham and West Brom, and may well have won the game had a stone-wall penalty been awarded to Hoilett for an obvious trip by Seamus Coleman in the second half.
But concerns remain. Everton may be in good form and fourth in the league, but they weren’t anything special in this game and still held QPR at arm’s length while playing with ten men for the best part of half an hour at the end of the game after Steven Pienaar was sent off. Selecting Armand Traore knowing he was only fit enough to play 70 minutes, and 35-year-old Ryan Nelsen fresh off the plane from New Zealand, betrayed a lack of confidence in the other options and meant that two substitutions were accounted for before the game had even kicked off. When the time came for them to be withdrawn Hughes made straight swaps, adding first Nedum Onuoha and then Anton Ferdinand to the mix despite Everton’s numerical disadvantage. One straight swap could be explained, two smacked of a lack of ambition.
And then there’s Ji-Sung Park who put in an improved performance here, but still nothing to write home about and certainly not enough to justify his constant selection this season ahead of the likes of Taarabt, Hoilett, and now Alejandro Faurlin who remained an unused substitute in this game. A tragic waste of a talent that could form a terrific midfield three with Granero and Diakite.
Initially at least things seemed very positive indeed. Everton forced two early corners but when captain Phil Neville dallied about returning the second to the penalty area Hoilett nudged him out of possession and then stormed forward down the centre of the field with Taarabt for company. He could, and perhaps should, have fed the Moroccan into the left channel but elected to take on a shot himself and saw the ball loop up off Leighton Baines, past the already-committed Tim Howard, and into the net. One of those buying a ticket to win the raffle situations.
Baines has been one of the stars of the Premier League season so far, combining beautifully with Steven Pienaar down the left flank and ripping apart better teams than Queens Park Rangers. That made the decision by David Moyes to move Pienaar infield and bring Kevin Mirallas across from the right to the left wing a strange one in my opinion and Everton were nowhere near as good as they have been when I’ve seen them previously this season as a result. Admittedly they were attempting to cope without injured duo Darron Gibson and Marouane Fellaini but still, it seemed strange to break up a combination that had born so much fruit this season.
The visitors could have gone two behind in the seventh minute when Howard took too long dealing with a back pass and then lost his footing on the sodden turf as Junior Hoilett closed in hunting a second goal. The American keeper survived by poking the ball out to the edge of the area but Zamora collected it, fed Taarabt and he teed Traore up on the overlap to deliver a low cross into the six yard box where Zamora had advanced and perhaps might have scored from close range had he gambled a bit more.
Perhaps Moyes was simply trying to give QPR a bit of something they hadn’t seen from Everton so far this season. That could well have been the thinking behind a free kick at the midway point of the half – very harshly awarded against Granero who appeared to win the ball cleanly – which looked ideally placed for set piece specialist Baines to strike but was instead hit by Jelavic and easily saved by Julio Cesar in the QPR goal.
Rangers did more with their own set piece from a similar position moments later when Park was fouled and Granero hung a ball up to the back post where Zamora and Stephane Mbia rather got in each other’s way competing for a header and the ball went over the bar.
If only Zamora had been so keen to compete in the air just after the half hour when Everton bagged a fortuitous equaliser that from a QPR point of view was the very definition of soft. First the R’s left their weakest defensive player, Adel Taarabt, to deal with two Everton players from an attacking throw in. That left Rangers outnumbered and scrambling about and they quickly conceded a free kick when Zamora fouled Jagielka. When Pienaar dollied that set piece up to the back post Zamora completely lost Distin and his free header rebounded into the net off the back of Julio Cesar having initially struck the base of the post. An all round shambles.
Understandably, given the start they’ve made to the season, confidence is fragile among the QPR squad. The home side was fortunate not to fall behind twice within two minutes of being pulled level. First Nikica Jelavic fell in the area after Stephane Mbia trod on his foot but referee Moss waved the appeals away. Everton immediately forced a corner from which the marking was almost as dreadful as it had been from the free kick a moment before – this time Jagileka took time out from a dominant defensive display to smack a header against Cesar’s bar.
What the R’s really needed to do was to put their foot on the ball and calm the situation down or face a repeat of the collapse that cost them points they deserved in a recent defeat at Tottenham. Thankfully, it seems some lessons have been learnt because for the remaining five minutes of the half that’s exactly what they did. A good move down the right set up Zamora in the area with his back to goal and he teed up Hoilett who fired high and wide. Then Granero was at the heart of a superb move that progressed right across the face of the area before being cleared. And the half ended with Taarabt firing over after Hoilett laid him in.
The second half was a nervy, staid, laboured affair punctuated by basic possession concession and pernickety refereeing.
Cesar summed up the mood with a nervy punch in the opening seconds of the half and Leon Osman shot over in trying to punish him. At the other end Samba Diakite, thanks initially to a lack of options to pass to, carried the ball past four men on a typically buccaneering assault and although his final ball into the area was good Park saw his attempts to force it home blocked away.
Still, it was good to see Diakite playing as he had done last season. He was my tip for Player of the Year this season and if he can keep this up then that’s not a bad shout but he needs a consistent run in the team and to show he’s capable of performing like this on a regular basis. Sadly, he’s just back from one suspension and he picked his customary yellow card – 11 in 14 matches since joining Rangers – for chopping Kevin Mirallas who was racing forward on a counter attack after Park had conceded possession. Prior to that he’d swept in and brought a brutal end to an Everton attack after Traore conceded possession in his own half. Park and Traore both owe Diakite a pint of whatever it is he drinks – blood? Tears of fallen Fulham players?
While Diakite – and Granero in four minutes injury time at the end of the game – could have few complaints about Jon Moss’ decision to fetch out a yellow card the referee rather lost the lot somewhat just after the hour mark. First there was a late tackle on Hoilett by Pienaar that left the QPR man requiring treatment and the South African picking up Everton’s first yellow card of the afternoon, but when Phil Neville did something similar to the same player five minutes later Moss elected not to issue a yellow card having initially taken the book out of his pocket. Does Neville know something about Moss that he doesn’t want to get out or something? Whatever the Everton skipper said it appeared to talk the referee out of booking him which I can’t ever recall seeing before.
And the farce deepened a moment later when Bosingwa – much improved on a horrendous showing at The Hawthorns last time out – got going down the right and lost his footing after catching Pienaar with his foot as he went to cross the ball. It was barely a free kick and yet having awarded it Moss immediately sent Pienaar off for his second yellow of the afternoon. That was a ludicrous decision in my opinion, one of the softest most unjustified red cards I’ve ever seen and far, far less serious than several other incidents in the game that went unpunished.
Moyes sent on Steven Naismith for Victor Anichebe – who makes the Cowardly Lion look like Evander Holyfield – and Hughes introduced Djibril Cisse for Bobby Zamora.
That was a straight swap, as was the introduction of Onuoha for Traore and then Ferdinand for Nelsen. The theme of a QPR player getting into a good attacking position only to find a lack of options to pass to continued when Hoilett embarked on an identical run to the one that brought him his goal and was again forced into a speculative shot through the want of something better to do with the ball. Rangers, and Hughes, have to be braver.
There was a nervous, frustrated air around the place. The crowd quietened down, the team was laboured, and Hughes stuck rather than twisted. Everton were clearly happy with a point given the flagrant time wasting from Howard that went persistently without check from Moss and the late introduction of Heitinga for Jelavic, but they could easily have won the game. First Mirallas cut in from the left and struck a long range shot that looked destined for the top corner before flicking up an over the bar off Mbia. More lousy marking from the resulting corner could easily have brought Everton a winner but Cesar made an outstanding save to deny Jagielka and keep the scores level.
Of all the QPR players it was Junior Hoilett who was doing the most to try and secure a victory. Taarabt set him up for a low drive that Howard parried down and Granero blasted into the side netting when he really should have squared it back into the danger zone. Then the young Canadian was clearly brought down in the penalty area by Coleman after stealing the ball off him on his blind side but Moss wasn’t moved. The frustration at that injustice seemed to drive Hoilett on more and within 30 seconds he’d cut in from the left flank and driven a powerful shot towards the far corner that Howard kept out with a camera save.
How in the name of God this lad hasn’t been starting regularly for QPR this season I do not know.
Moss may have missed Hoilett being tripped, and the foul on Jelavic in the penalty area in the first half, and sent off a player for very little while letting others off with much worse, and basically been a pain in the arse for the entire second half, but one thing he did decide to be very hot on with two minutes to go was the placing of a free kick in the QPR penalty box. Cesar was told to move it back, which he did, and then told to move it back further, which he did, and then lectured by the referee which required him to run half the length of the field and back again before play could restart.
Mr Moss is a school teacher, and don’t we all remember a school teacher like him? When there’s bullying, some kid setting fire to stuff, a fight, a serious issue he can be found hiding in the staff room. When there’s a kid wearing the wrong colour shoes, or a tie that’s a bit too shot, he’s there on the scene with detention slips. A fiddling while Rome burns sort of a fellow. What on earth did he gain by delaying the match for a minute forcing Cesar to take a free kick deep in his own half seven yards away from where he actually placed it in the final minute of the game? Do me a bloody favour.
The sides traded free kicks as the time ticked away. Granero was fouled by Mirallas and Taarabt lifted the set piece over the bar, then Baines had a wild attempt from similar range after Bosingwa’s mindless foul on Leon Osman.
In four minutes of injury time Granero showed his advanced thought process by squaring a free kick wide to Bosingwa rather than just chipping it up into the area. The Portuguese full back’s cross was poor but was only cleared out as far as Diakite and although his shot was blocked it looked for one glorious moment that it was going to fall back to Granero in the area but Jagielka crowned a man of the match display with a last ditch clearance to deny him a tap in.
There were plenty of positives to take from this match: Granero, Diakite, particularly Hoilett, the result against a very good Everton team, the improved solidity after the recent debacles with West Brom and West Ham. But several negatives as well: Zamora’s poor performance, the continued underperformance of Park, the dreadful marking at set pieces, the lack of ambition when playing against ten men.
It’s Arsenal away next but then there are three winnable games against Reading and Southampton at Loftus Road and Stoke away. We’ll know whether this game was brief respite or the start of the long climb back by the end of that run. Two wins from the four has to be the minimum target.
QPR: Cesar 6, Bosingwa 6, Nelsen 6 (Ferdinand 83 -), Mbia 6, Traore 6 (Onuoha 72, 6), Park 6, Diakite 7, Granero 7, Taarabt 6, Hoilett 7, Zamora 5 (Cisse 71, 5)
Subs not used: Green, Wright-Phillips, Faurlin, Mackie
Goals: Hoilett 2 (unassisted)
Bookings: Diakite 66 (foul), Granero 90 (foul)
Everton: Howard 7, Coleman 6, Distin 7, Jagielka 8, Baines 6, Osman 6, Pienaar 6, Neville 6, Mirallas 6, Jelavic 6 (Heitinga 83, -), Anichebe 5 (Naismith 52, 6)
Goals: Cesar og 33 (assisted Distin/Pienaar)
Bookings: Pienaar 51 (foul), 60 (foul)
Sent off: Pienaar 60 (two bookings)
QPR Star Man: Junior Hoilett 7 Committed, hard working performance from somebody clearly determined to stay in the team. Posed a genuine goal threat throughout the game, often with limited support from those around him. Run close close by Granero and Diakite.
Referee: Jon Moss 4 Three big decisions in the game – two penalty appeals and a red card – and he got all of them wrong. Compounded that by paying intricate, microscopic attention to several incidents that he could have comfortably ignored altogether in the interests of getting the game to flow a bit more, while missing things that were actually important and needed dealing with. “Typical school teacher,” my dad would have said. And he should know, he was married to one.
Attendance 17,959 (3,000 Everton fans approx) Great to see this game sell out well in advance, the team needs all the support it can get at the moment. The atmosphere struggled at times, and peaked at others. It felt a bit like the team’s performance really – sort of laboured and nervous – all of which is understandable.
Pictures – Action Images
Photo: Action Images
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