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Battling QPR hold Spurs to hard fought draw – full match report
Battling QPR hold Spurs to hard fought draw – full match report
Sunday, 13th Jan 2013 23:06 by Clive Whittingham

QPR’s surprisingly decent start to 2013 continued on Saturday with another clean sheet and good result against a Champions League-chasing side. For Harry Redknapp, it was a point well won against his former Spurs team.

Harry Redknapp says he is not a man to dwell on the past: no grudges, no regrets, and no thoughts of what might have been or should have happened. But the QPR manager is only human, and as he sat himself down on another Saturday evening flight to another foreign scouting trip and another attempt to persuade another player to come and join QPR’s seemingly doomed season of toil he surely must have been troubled by a pang of frustration and lament.

An amazing chain of events that started at Loftus Road nearly 18 months ago when the England captain lost control of his temper in a 1-0 Queens Park Rangers win against Chelsea has affected Redknapp more than most. If John Terry wasn’t such a vile human being then Fabio Capello may still be the England manager, and Harry may well be managing a Champions League side at White Hart Lane. Instead Roy Hodgson found himself in the big job, and Redknapp unemployed altogether during the summer after allowing speculation about his candidacy for the national team position to derail a Tottenham season where a league championship didn’t look out of the question at one stage.

Now he spends his days running QPR’s rag-tag bunch of misfits up and down fields rented from a college at the end of Heathrow’s main runway while his replacement Andre Villas Boas develops the team he inherited at Tottenham’s brand new, state-of-the- art training complex. On Saturday it was all Redknapp could do to put a plan in place that held and frustrated the Spurs team which he had such a hand in building over the past four years. Last season QPR had to be at their absolute best just to hang onto Tottenham’s coat tails in a 3-1 defeat at White Hart Lane where the home team’s performance was as good as anything you’ll ever see in the Premier League, and on Saturday at Loftus Road it required a super-human effort to keep them to a 0-0 draw. Redknapp surely believes he’s served his time in such scraps and deserves more illustrious surroundings – he hides it well if that is the case.

What Redknapp has done is turn QPR into a crap side that works hard and if that sounds like an insult it’s certainly not meant to be. The group of players he inherited from Mark Hughes – surely a strong candidate for QPR’s worst manager of all time – was hardly a team at all. It was a mess: a bloated collection of over-paid players that didn’t get on off the field, and didn’t play well together on it; a dressing room divided along economic and attitude lines; a football team incapable of competently managing even the rudimentary basics of the sport; a club destined for relegation, saddled with a bunch of mercenaries who seemed thrilled to death about it.

That Redknapp has been able, in two months, to turn that into a unit capable of winning at Chelsea and then becoming the first team to prevent third-placed Tottenham from scoring away from home this season is testament to his coaching and motivational ability.

Andre Villas-Boas’ team is wonderful when in full flight: Dawson and Vertonghen a physically dominant and yet classy pair of centre backs; Kyles Naughton and Walker as good going forward as they are defending from full back; Dembele oozing class from the centre of the park with first Sandro and then later Scott Parker as a minder; Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale thrillingly quick and fleet of foot with only their respective tendencies to collapse to the ground in strong breezes setting public opinion against them; and Jermain Defoe a constantly moving ball of goal scoring trouble. Remove Emmanuel Adebayor and add a striker with attitude to match the ability and this is a title contending team waiting to happen.

For QPR, buoyed by a shock win at Chelsea but still adrift in the relegation zone with only two wins to their name all season, it rather felt like battling tanks and Apache helicopters armed with slingshots and tooth picks. Stung by a thrashing on this ground against Liverpool, Redknapp has found solace in the canny knowhow of old warhorse Shaun Derry in front of his back four. Derry protects a centre back combination of Ryan Nelsen and Clint Hill to form a trio of players Rangers have come to rely on with three working knees and two ankles between them. The crowd sang Hill’s name after a typically robust challenge knocked Dembele to the floor under a Tottenham corner, and Nelsen was given a rousing reception from the Loft at full time in a week when he announced he would be leaving to take charge of Toronto – exactly when that will be is unclear and his continued participation is key to QPR’s slim survival chances.

Fabio Da Silva played left back and Nedum Onuoha right with Stephane Mbia affecting the midfield in a positive way with an all-action display ahead of Derry, and Ji-Sung Park doing the opposite after coming into the side late when Esteban Granero withdrew injured. Shaun Wright-Phillips appeared revitalised by his Stamford Bridge winner on one wing – although his crippling fear of shooting opportunities has been unaffected by that first goal in 54 appearances – while Jamie Mackie was all hard work and little attacking end product on the other. Adel Taarabt also faced his former club, in the same withdrawn striker role he’d played so well against the European champions.

QPR were set up like an away side, and within five minutes of this early afternoon game getting underway Spurs had shown exactly why Redknapp felt that necessary. The R’s were indebted to the one person who may get into the Tottenham side, Julio Cesar, for a pair of spectacular saves – first tipping Defoe’s long range effort onto the post, then regaining his feet quickly and bounding off his line to shut down Emmanuel Adebayor’s attempt at converting the rebound. World class. Not one to stand and admire his own work, the Brazilian was then sharp at his near post as Bale attempted a cheeky back flick towards goal from the resulting corner.

But thereafter the game became a tense, tight battle of few chances and openings. An arm-wrestle is the oft-used parlance in such circumstances, but this was more a prolonged stare out; the two teams stood a yard apart and looked at each other for the next 85 minutes, waiting to see who would blink first. The crowd was silent for long periods as a footballing chess developed. Redknapp was so wary about unbalancing the stalemate that he left all seven substitutes on his bench unused.

Such deadlock suits a QPR team with Adel Taarabt in its attack because the Moroccan is a player who can conjure breakthroughs through sheer sorcery even while starved of possession. Left isolated to battle with Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen - pound-for-pound the outstanding signing of the last transfer window in my opinion – the Moroccan seemed to be on a hiding to nothing. But there’s a physical strength to Taarabt these days not present when he was released to Rangers by Spurs, and a work ethic born only recently by a pang of responsibility as one of the longest serving players at a club that has loved and indulged him for four years now.

There was much toil for little reward for Taarabt, but when opportunities to assert his quality arose he was right at the very top of his game. As time ticked into double figures he collected the ball, spun and fed a precision through pass into the area for Shaun Wright-Phillips who cut inside, delayed and then attempted to chip the ball beyond the advancing goalkeeper Lloris from close range but saw his shot deflected an inch wide. Much later, with 13 minutes left for play, another through ball drew Lloris from his area to execute a clearance as Wright-Phillips threatened to steal in and win the match. Then five minutes from time, the much maligned but improving winger skipped past Kyle Walker down the wing after backhealing the ball over his head and into the space behind the full back but after racing into the area onto a fine returned pass from Taarabt he got his studs caught in the turf as he was about to shoot. Similarly aggressive, positive running down that flank from Da Silva ended with him playing a one-two with Taarabt and then sending a ball through the goalmouth to nobody when few would have begrudged him a low shot at the goal.

Taarabt’s performance was not only testament to his improving all round game, which will surely bring him a big-money move this summer if QPR are to be relegated, but also a calmer temperament that allowed him to cope with the long spells of the match when he wasn’t even given scraps to feed on. QPR fans present at the club’s last visit to Hull City, when Taarabt became so frustrated that he went on strike in the middle of the game and demanded to be substituted, can only marvel at the development of this supreme talent. His presence means that even a team as poor as QPR, set up as defensively as they were on Saturday, against a team as accomplished as Spurs, managed to craft three or four very decent chances to win the game.

But for the most part the heroes and standout performances were at the other end of the field. Shaun Derry, whose legs were said to be failing him when Neil Warnock took him to Crystal Palace five years ago, snapped at Kyle Walker’s heels as he attempted to test Cesar from distance after Adebayor had touched the ball back to him at the midway point of the first half. The crowd was roused by desperate, determined challenges from Nelsen and Onuoha on the edge of the area five minutes before the break and when Mackie swooped in to add his puppy-like enthusiasm to the shemozzle he was hacked down by Dembele who was booked. The value of determination and hard work that simply hasn’t been there for the majority of this season at Loftus Road was there for the players to see, and the crowd applauded their efforts.

Earlier referee Lee Probert had concocted a bizarre drop-ball decision in the QPR penalty area after blowing his whistle and awarding a corner prematurely, not expecting Julio Cesar to prevent the ball from leaving the field. Both goalkeeper and referee saw the funny side – this an official who once sent off Jude the Cat for looking like Paul Furlong remember.

Cesar continued his fine form with a leg save from Jermain Defoe after half time as the tiny striker worked space in the area, and Ryan Nelsen swooped in with a firm tackle to deny Adebayor a clear shot on goal as the Togo international dallied too long in the red zone.

There was a degree of Tottenham playing into QPR’s hands at times. Aaron Lennon, magnificent in a recent victory at Sunderland, was too keen to cut in field which suited the home team’s intention to defend in a deep and narrow formation. Lennon became frustrated, executing a theatrical attempt to win a penalty in the first half for which he was fortunate to escape a card, then when he was fouled after the break somehow managing to stagger a further five or six yards and collapse in the area hoping for a spot kick rather than the free kick it clearly was. Kyle Walker lashed that set piece half a foot over the bar with Cesar beaten, and the keeper was fortunate to get away with some nervous handling when Bale tried his luck with a dipping dead ball from the other side of the field although one couldn’t help but think Bale would be better served just stepping up and taking his free kicks like a normal person rather than spending so long posing, marking out run ups, and taking deep breaths. I blame Johnny Wilkinson personally.

Later Villas-Boas removed Lennon for the less mobile Gylfi Sigurdsson just when Jamie Mackie had committed a couple of clumsy fouls that suggested tiredness was setting in. That change seemed as odd as Redknapp’s refusal to call anybody from his own bench, but in truth only really the forlorn figure of Ji-Sung Park warranted replacement and even he was still getting around the field and offering nuisance value in an otherwise poor individual performance.

The visitors could also point to bad luck. Sandro, an influential midfield figure in their recent run of seven wins from nine league games, was carted off injured in the first half and replaced by Scott Parker who covered every blade of grass in typical style but is a different kind of player to the one he replaced and couldn’t help to create space for Moussa Dembele to operate in. Both found Stephane Mbia an oppressive force on their games – the Cameroon international mixed a sound defensive display with some swashbuckling attacking runs, the usual array of comedy play acting and a yellow card for a blatant handball in the centre of the park. There was also a late incident when he raced onto another fine Taarabt through ball and decided to ignore the offside flag and referee’s whistle and charge into goalkeeper Hugo Lloris anyway before collapsing to the ground in apparent agony which quickly vanished when the referee and goalkeeper arrived on the scene in fits of laughter. A strange individual.

Dawson headed a corner over the bar, Parker blasted just too high from long range and the introduction of Clint Dempsey for Emmanuel Adebayor also failed to unlock the QPR door – while they couldn’t have complained about a defeat, Rangers were ultimately good value for a point that they worked extremely hard to win.

Redknapp seemed pleased at full time, describing it as a fantastic result. He was right, but the circumstances QPR find themselves in make it two more points dropped on a weekend when Wigan, Reading and Southampton all improved their own tallies. The improvement brought about by the change of manager in W12 is clear for all to see but, as if the size of the task needed underlining, even the ever-positive Redknapp admitted that having flown to Marseille last week to discuss the possibility of signing striker Loic Remy the striker not only wouldn’t entertain the idea, he wouldn’t even politely entertain Redknapp himself and the pair never spoke.

Having fashioned a team from QPR’s group of individuals the tragedy now is that Redknapp needs not only extra quality that is unlikely to be tempted to a team in this position, but also the one thing he cannot buy or instil: more time and more games than Rangers have left.

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QPR: Cesar 8, Onuoha 7, Nelsen 7, Hill 7, Da Silva 7, Derry 7, Park 5, Mbia 7, Mackie 6, Wright-Phillips 7, Taarabt 7

Subs not used: Green, Ferdinand, Ben Haim, Faurlin, Cisse, Bothroyd, Campbell

Bookings: Mbia 69 (handball)

Spurs: Lloris 7, Walker 6, Vertonghen 7, Dawson 7, Naughton 6, Sandro 7 (Parker 25, 7), Dembele 7, Bale 6, Lennon 7 (Sigurdsson 79, 6), Defoe 7, Adebayor 5 (Dempsey 69, 6)

Subs not used: Friedel, Assou-Ekotto, Caulker, Huddlestone

Bookings: Dembele 38 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Julio Cesar 8 Two fantastic saves in the first five minutes kept the score level and ultimately preserved a precious point, but it also laid the platform for a performance that was all about not giving up on lost causes and continuing to work hard against the odds. Made another smart save from Defoe in the second half as well and currently looks very confident and assured in goal.

Referee – Lee Probert 7 A decent performance in what, admittedly, wasn’t the most challenging game to referee. The bounce ball in the first half was a bit of a farce, and I think he was generous not booking Lennon for an obvious dive in the first half – then similarly kind to Mbia after his late clash with Lloris. Fine overall though, no big decisions wrong.

Attendance – 18,018 (3,100 Spurs approx) As I suspected, QPR could really have done with playing this match last week immediately after the remarkable win at Chelsea. I’m sure the atmosphere would have been far superior to this had we not had the snooze-a-thon with West Brom sandwiched in between. The style of the game didn’t make for revving the crowd up, and the noise was further dampened by an early kick off. Very large, vocal following from Spurs, but then it’s easy to sing when you’re team is constantly on the front foot and not looking in any danger – most of the QPR fans were busy watching the game from between their fingers.

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HastingsRanger added 00:08 - Jan 14
Having seen the last couple of league performances what is apparent is that we are now proving a very difficult team to beat. This at least will give us draws we would have not previously anticipated.

Is there the capability to change the formation to win the 'winnable' games? If so and assuming all the team (not just the 'championship' players) continue with this level of commitment not previously evident, I am not so sure it is all over.

I will reach for more of those happy pills!!

jo_qpr63 added 00:10 - Jan 14
Taraabt not a centre forward but created chances made for Cisse. I thought we done a job on Spurs defensively but upfront we could do better.
Taraabt had a great game. For me he has got the skill but not the pace to break on the counter attack. Mackie and SWP are not good enough to make good runs.
For me if we are set up for counter attack you got to play Cisse. Mackie and SWP worked hard though. Julio Cesar is Hughes best signing.
Again Hill was good, loving him taking out Dawson, saw what was gonna happen and nipped it in the bud.
Thanks for report Clive

TacticalR added 00:36 - Jan 14
Thanks for your report. That was definitely a point gained against a team that can rip you to shreds.

César. Agree that César was Man of the Match. Kept us in the game with two fantastic saves in quick succession in the first half, and another fantastic save off his legs in the second half.

Park. Had some criticism, but to me looked as though he stuck to his task. I think the main problem is that he is not a creative player, and the more creative decision-making he has to do, the more uncomfortable he is. I think he prefers to keep things ultra simple and just do the obvious. Because the team were in defensive mode, he seemed more clear about what his role was.

Mbia. A lot of good tackles in midfield. His driving runs are impressive. Kept Dembélé quiet, which is not easy.

Fabio. Really harried players on the ball and had some great interchanges with Taarabt.

SWP. The first time since he's been here that I've even had the slightest glimpse that he was ever a great player. Against Wigan his pass through to Cissé was the first time I'd seen him make the right choice. In this match he actually had a couple of flashes of magic. In the first half he did a drag-back which took out Kyle Walker. In the second half, out on the wing and with nowhere to go, he flicked the ball over the head of the player in front of him with the outside of his boot. However, he still looks very nervous when he's anywhere near the box.

Derry. In the thick of things the whole match. Seemed to win every header. One or two wayward forward passes, but generally kept it simple, sniffed out trouble, and kept us ticking over. Marvellous.

Taarabt. Picked up from where he left off at Chelsea, although he wasn't able to have quite the decisive influence he had in that match. Made a couple of excellent through passes to SWP and Fabio.

The Back Four seemed to concertina really well together when the threat came through the middle.

The midfield seemed to make excellent judgements about when to hold position, and when to track a player.

SonofNorfolt added 00:38 - Jan 14
Cesar's saves should be mentioned in the same breath as Van Persie's finish at West Ham last week. Superb. Did any of us at the game actually realise he'd touched Defoe's shot onto the post?

ozexile added 01:51 - Jan 14
Very proud of the players for a hard earned point. Feel sorry for Harry. Ultimately we have to create more as we need wins. Does he stick to those tactics and try to nick the odd goal and hang on? Or does he choose the matches where we go for it.
If it's the first option then our set pieces gave to be so much better. They really were sloppy in this game. But well done all.

Kaos_Agent added 03:09 - Jan 14
Thanks Clive you've nailed it again. "What Redknapp has done is turn QPR into a crap side that works hard and if that sounds like an insult it’s certainly not meant to be." Exactly. And yet we could be more so much than that if we had more pace and credibility near and in the box. From within the roster it's got to be Cisse or possibly Hoilett (hope he's physically OK); if it's from the transfer window we have to pray that whatever striker Tony buys is just the right puzzle piece and not another costly distraction who requires that stuff of legend, "time to gel".

Tarbs is more and more fun to watch and his passing touches have been beautifully timed and weighted. If he could have served Cisse instead of SWP, it might have been a win, although to his credit SWP does more in transition both ways and in defense than Djibril ever will. Overall, well done again Shawn. Your confidence is growing. I just wish you could bring more physicality and firepower.

Clint and Ryan were rocks again (my apologies on behalf of Canada for luring him away, but clearly Toronto FC have made a good choice). Really pleasantly surprised by Onuoha and Fabio. Park is neither young nor match fit but he reacted when required and didn't really do anything damaging. Can never fault Mackie's effort. M'bia avoided the ham acting until near the end but then just couldn't resist one last histrionic tumble. Stephane. Listen to me. That kind of sh*t will eventually get you yellow carded, and with our luck it will come after an earlier card for any manner of recklessness, and you'll be sent off. You're a critical piece of our survival puzzle. FFS stop it.

Last but certainly not least, the locker room had another solid shift and clean sheet to celebrate, and IMO that more than anything will help to keep us up. Hold the sports psychologist for now, but keep him on standby.

PS on my TV feed, when M'bia gave his shirt to the lad in the crowd (who? me? thumbs up brother!), presenter Ian Darke gave the credit to Jermaine Defoe. Ian, the shirt was white with blue hoops. Do your homework please.

isawqpratwcity added 04:36 - Jan 14
Damn fine report, Clive! Some cracker lines, too!

A credit to all but especially HR for plugging the holes in the defense that Suarez walked through with impunity. I was proud to see them holding it together for the whole ninety minutes.

Gives you serious hope for the Great Escape.

qprmick added 06:45 - Jan 14
If Park rated only a five, a sub of Cisse or Campbell for the last 10 minutes could have given us the game. We may live to regret that change wasn't made, a point at home while a good result won't make a lot of difference at he end of the season.

R_in_Sweden added 07:42 - Jan 14
Great attitude from the players and Harry got it more or less right. Thought that Fabio had his best game for us, would have been interesting to see what would have happened with Faurlin or Granero instead of Park. I suppose Park was played for his ability to generally buzz around and irritate the opposition (and unfortunatley the home fans), he's done nothing since he arrived.

Really enjoying seeing Taarabt develop as a player, he's adding to his repertoire and has matured a lot, there's still the occasional exasperrated gesture or dodgy free kick but to counter that he's starting to play more great incisive passes and is getting stronger.

You've got to have some sympathy for Harry trying to persuade players to come here in our position. They read the table but they don't see the general improvements in our last two league games. I know he's a fahking football manager but he's going to need all of his wheeler dealer skills to entice the right players to Loftus Road.

Northernr added 08:00 - Jan 14
Mick - I think if we'd done that we'd have more likely lost than won.

JB007007 added 08:03 - Jan 14
Thanks Clive.
Some real improving performances both team and individually, particularly Onuoha again and Fabio. We know what we are going to get from Hill, Nelsen, Dezza and Mackie. Such a shame the SWP chance in the first half went the wrong side of the post. What is so frustrating is that now we are working hard and looking like a united team, we have left it too late as others are picking up results making it so hard to make up any ground.

xian added 08:48 - Jan 14
R in Sweden Apparently Granero picked up a late injury and was replaced by Park who, I thought, battled OK.Certainly a worker

francisbowles added 09:41 - Jan 14
Clive I think you got it spot on and I think Harry also was. Had we made that late change and maybe/probably lost, all that good work and boost to our confidence would have been lost. With all our rivals picking up points the gap would have been even bigger. We all know we are desperate to close the gap but the point keeps us in the picture and 5 points is not insurmountable!


I hope he fields a cup side without Tarabt, Hill, Nelson, Mbia and Cesar amongst others.
A game for Cisse and some youngsters.

OldPedro added 09:43 - Jan 14
Good point and clean sheet will hopefully give the team some confidence - if we can pick up a few points and good performances in the next 5 league games we should reach March in reasonable shape - key fixtures which will decide whether or not we stay up come in March and April playing against all the teams in the bottom third of the table. Still a tough ask though.

N12Hoop added 09:53 - Jan 14
I also thought that Harry was right not to change it and go for the win. After all the effort put in throughout the game, if we'd gone at them and lost it at the death confidence would have taken a massive blow. Given the number of quality attacking players Spurs have, we would have been made to go at them and give them the space we'd denied them up.
Now the players have taken 4 points from Scum and Spurs and haven't conceded. That's quite an achievement given what went on early this season when I'd fancy myself to score against our defence.
It will be a huge blow to lose Nelsen who again just looked immense. Can't understand why we continue to be linked to midfielders when defence has to be our prioirity.

DesertBoot added 10:19 - Jan 14
Another point on the board but I think worth far more than that for the squad in general.
It shows we can work together as a team, can play a game where everyone knows their job and we can create the odd chance or two despite being set up to stifle rather than score. It was a very pleasing ninety minutes.
Now we await how Harry sets us up when there are games we really must try and win - starting with West Ham on Saturday and certainly Norwich in two weeks time.

RedbourneR added 12:17 - Jan 14
The only point I'd take issue with is about Hughes. DEFINITELY the worst manager QPR's ever had.

AshteadR added 12:35 - Jan 14
A good performance and a very good point. It will be interesting to see if we play the same formation / style at West Ham - big 3 points up for grabs!

smegma added 14:16 - Jan 14
Due to the long queue to get in as usual, I missed Cesars double save. Only saw i on MOTD2 last night and it was superb. So I basically missed all the action !!!

Metallica_Hoop added 16:13 - Jan 14
Glad Cesar got 'star man' those saves were breathtaking.

dixiedean added 17:12 - Jan 14
Cesar's double save was fantatsic, but to be honest he didn't have anything else of note to do apart from that. My MOM was Fabio,who I thought was excellent. I moaned about Mbia's play-acting last week but he really excelled himself this time. I don't think he's the full ticket. He played quite well though but I see another red card looming if he doesn't stop the nonsense. Now we're after another headcase in M'vila. Any chance we can attract some normal blokes ? Probably not, that wouldn't be the Rangers way. As Clive said many times about Adel, if they weren't flawed in some way they'd be playing for somoene better

RonisRs added 17:35 - Jan 14
I believe it was a good effort and a good point. If we had lost, i think it would have been a disaster psychologically. lets keep believing and plugging away, and it can happen.
look where Wigan were last year. and with HH at the helm, who knows.

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