Cesar stars again as Nelsen bids farewell – full match report
Wednesday, 30th Jan 2013 20:31 by Rob Gilbert
Julio Cesar was the star of the show again as QPR kept another clean sheet and claimed another unlikely point from one of the division’s better sides – Man City the victims this time. Rob Gilbert was there for LFW.
Perhaps the worst part of this absolutely wretched season has been the feeling that our club has been systematically ripped away from us, the fans. On Tuesday night - in the pissing rain, howling wind and under the Loftus Road floodlights - it felt like the fans were finally given something back by this shell of a football club. Bodies on the line, old pros giving everything, a maverick number ten and a noisy crowd saw Rangers pick up a thoroughly deserved point and inch just a little closer to safety.
The Champions were in town and after a mauling at the hands of MK Dons that subsequently saw a dressing room bust up, Anton Ferdinand exiled to Turkey and Ryan Nelsen declare that this would be his final game before he leaves for Canada most fans expected the worst.
The game itself had become something of a sideshow as the transfer window takes centre stage. The tactic of following Newcastle chief scout Graham Carr around has brought Loic Remy to W12, but Harry Redknapp has decided that now is the time to call on old pros he has worked with before. Just hours before the game the story broke that QPR are in talks with Stoke to bring Peter Crouch back home to Loftus Road, the only sticking point is that Tony Pulis wants Jamie Mackie in return. As if to add fuel to the flames Mackie didn’t even make the bench here, apparently suffering a back injury after a collision in training but his resoluteness against anything other than a broken leg since he signed for QPR from Plymouth meant his absence set tongues wagging.
I do hope we aren’t getting rid of Mackie, he is exactly what we need and if Bobby Zamora is coming back to full fitness I don’t quite see the point in bringing in Crouch. But these opinions and thoughts are all for transfer deadline day. Shudder.
The team that was tasked with somehow taking something from the juggernaut that is Manchester City was Julio Cesar, Nedum Onouha, Clint Hill, Ryan Nelsen and Armand Traore at the back. Fabio played in an unorthodox right wing back/midfield position with Esteban Granero, Stephane Mbia and Shaun Derry sitting deep in midfield. Adel Taarabt was on the left with Remy making his home debut up top. Redknapp actually named two goalkeepers on the bench instead of using any youngsters or Jose Bsoingwa - bare bones.
Manchester City fielded Joe Hart in goal with Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy at right and left back. Javi Garcia joined Jolean Lescott in defence due to Vincent Kompany’s absence. James Milner and Gareth Barry sat deep with David Silva, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri operating as a front four. Frightening stuff.
As the game kicked off Loftus Road rose, as one to chant the name of Tony Fernandes just to let him know that the majority are still behind him and if he leaves now the club is very much in the mire. The opening minute saw Rangers get nowhere near the ball as City knocked it around with zip and purpose across the damp turf. When Rangers did finally pick up the round yellow object Adel Taarabt beat three men with a sublime piece of skill and went on a little run. Too good for you indeed.
The game then settled down into an obvious pattern: City looked to get their fleet footed front four on the ball as often as possible whilst QPR sat deep and looked to release Loic Remy on the counter attack.
The wind picked up and Manchester City used it to their full advantage. When Sergio Aguero won a corner and Samir Nasri swung it in, the ball caught in the breeze and swerved right under Julio Cesar’s crossbar. The Brazilian failed to deal with it properly and palmed out straight into the path of Jolean Lescott who, from six yards out, should have hit the back of the net. Instead he fired over into the baying Loft.
Rangers were struggling to keep hold of the ball and the chief culprit was Esteban Granero. The well read Spaniard couldn’t pass water and continuously gave the ball away just as Rangers looked to build momentum. The pivoting, passing, suave Madridista we met back in August appears to have given way to a nervous, lazy, glory hunting mess. His stock has fallen dramatically amongst the R’s faithful and his performance here did little to endear himself any more. One such squander of possession in the twelfth minute released James Milner on a jinking run, but the R’s back line saved Granero’s blushes.
City continued to look dangerous from corners by using the conditions to their full advantage but Julio Cesar was growing in confidence and started to connect with the bullet like deliveries from Nasri. On 19 minutes City looked for all the world as though they were going to take the lead. Sergio Aguero beat Fabio with a drop of the shoulder and found David Silva in the box, the playmaker then delivered a sweet ball to the back post where an onrushing Pablo Zabaleta met the cross with a flying a header but luckily for Rangers the ball rattled the crossbar instead of nestling in the back of the net. It was a warning of just what players like Aguero and Silva can do in an instant. To reinforce the point Javi Garcia then went close when, from fully 40 yards, he absolutely leathered the ball which caught in the wind and zipped past a full stretch Cesar and drifted agonizingly wide.
Harry Redknapp has made his survival blueprint pretty clear: get Taarabt on the ball in dangerous areas and let him unlock defences. Loic Remy was brought in to get on the end of Taarabt’s through balls and for the first twenty minutes the two barely seemed to have met with Remy picking the wrong run every time the R’s number ten was in a dangerous area. In the twenty fourth minute it almost clicked into place when Taarabt took a quick free kick and slid in Remy who had just Garcia between him and a shot on goal. The Frenchman knocked it to one side and pulled the trigger, but Garcia did just enough to deflect the ball wide past a flailing Joe Hart. The volume inside Loftus Road went way, way up. The roar of the crowd saw Rangers grow more into the game and even though Sergio Aguero had the ball in the back of the net he was miles offside.
Despite the attacking talent on show it was time for the goalkeepers to take center stage. Seven minute before half time Rangers broke with Taarabt picking up the ball deep in his own half. He drove into the space in front of the City back four, sold Clichy with a step over and found himself face to face with Joe Hart. The City shot stopper then showed why he is England’s number one, rushing from his line quick as a flash with his angles absolutely spot on to smother Taarabt’s goal bound shot. Fantastic keeping.
If that was a good save, what followed from QPR’s custodian was world class. City worked the ball wide before Silva found Gareth Barry on the edge of the box and the central midfielder curled a sumptuous strike towards the bottom corner but Cesar flung himself full stretch and got a strong right hand behind it to palm the ball away for a corner when it seemed inevitable the net was about to bulge. Like I said, world class. The half drew to a close with Taarabt nutmegging Gareth Barry but failing once again to find Loic Remy.
The second half saw referee Phil Dowd come to the fore with a controversial display. It all started brightly for Rangers with Taarabt once again beating three men and driving to the edge of the City penalty area but seeing his shot deflected through to Hart. City soon regained control after that and Rangers retreated back and kept their solid shape.
On 53 minutes Dowd took over as the game’s chief protagonist. First he awarded Man City controversial and questionable free kicks for Onouha supposedly holding Silva and then for Granero holding the same player. Both barely fouls, both irking the home support. Then came controversial moment number one: Sean Derry challenged David Silva for the ball and stabbed his boot out in a 50/50 challenge. The ball ran out for a throw in and David Silva turned around and aimed a kick at Sean Derry, making contact in the process. The Ellerslie Road stand rose up in disgust but Dowd and his team had missed it. The kick was soft but by the letter of the law Silva should have been given his marching orders.
Away from kicking people the Spaniard was constantly probing for the Champions and getting on the ball as much as possible. However every single time the ball found its way into the Rangers box the two warhorses at the back put their bodies, heads and whatever else was required in the way. There was lots of possession but very little end product from the visitors as a result and Mancini was growing more and more agitated. He decided to throw on the recent scourge of QPR, Edin Dzeko, just before the hour.
The man that made way was Samir Nasri who had switched over to the left wing midway through the first half to have a go at Onouha. The former City man had been a coleuses all night and Nasri hadn’t gotten an inch. After one particularly bone shuddering challenge my cousin actually stood up and bellowed ‘Nedum will you marry my sister?’ The atmosphere inside Loftus Road was growing by the minute. Feeling wronged by a referee who wasn’t giving Rangers the time of day the home fans were booing every City touch of the ball. At one point as the ball spun out of play into The Ellerslie stand one fan took it upon himself to hurl the thing back at Gareth Barry as hard as humanly possible. Magnificent stuff.
It wasn’t until the sixty second minute that QPR fashioned another chance but after Fabio was fouled in the middle of the park the ball squirmed free to Taarabt who released Remy. With three men around him the Frenchman took a touch and curled the ball just over Joe Hart’s bar. The comparisons between Remy and Cisse are obvious but for my money Remy does more running and his all round game seems far better than his compatriot. If we keep it tight like we did here against City and Taarabt and Remy grow as partnership there really is the potential for goals.
The good mood of the home fans culminated in a song to Joe Hart: ‘He’s got a dry scalp, he’s got a dry scalp. Joe Hart, he’s got a dry scalp’ sung the Loft, mocking Hart’s frankly ridiculous Head and Shoulders advert. The England keeper gave the fans a thumbs up who then sung ‘We can see your dandruff.’ I love it when Loftus Road is like this, the fans in full voice, the players putting in a shift a real sense of togetherness all round. You could feel the belief grow, but City could have been ahead when a long ball found Pablo Zabaleta completely unmarked at the back post, he pulled the ball back for Sergio Aguero who, from 12 yards out, fired over when he really should have done better. That signaled another change from the City bench with Jack Rodwell replacing the ineffectual Tevez.
Just seconds later came the second moment of controversy. Mbia found Loic Remy on the corner of City’s penalty box. The man from Marseille looked up, sold Lescott with a drop of the shoulder, ghosted past him and then went tumbling inside the box. It looked stonewall from where I was sitting, but replays showed that there was minimal contact, still you’ve seen them given.
The fans were furious with the referee and their ire grew further when Rangers won a free kick and the Man City wall refused to stand ten yards back. Eventually when in position Granero blasted the ball over the bar from a great spot. Why he takes the free kicks mystifies and angers me. He offered very little tonight save one through ball for Remy, whilst Taarabt tricked and teased his way through the physical City midfield. The fans sung ‘Taarabt’s too good for you’ just to let Granero know what they thought of his effort.
Julio Cesar had been a force throughout, collecting crosses and dealing with everything fired into him, however his pièce de résistance came eight minutes from time when Sergio Aguero fired in a cross for David Silva who smashed the ball goalwards from a few yards out. Cesar not only got down and pulled off another magnificent save, but pushed it out of harm’s way for the defence to scramble clear.
Scott Sinclair replaced James Milner and the former Rangers loanee soon picked up the ball on the left wing and looked to skin Nedum Onouha. Out came the right back’s leg and Sinclair went tumbling inside the box, the City fans protested but Onouha had just gotten a toe to the ball. Like Remy’s appeal you’ve seen them given but once again Dowd was having none of it.
Granero was replaced by Park with two minutes to go before once again another sublime piece of Taarabt skill brought another run and another block forcing a late corner which City easily cleared. Four minutes of added time provided nowhere near the drama that the two sides witnessed at The Etihad last May and Dowd’s full time whistle was greeted with a huge cheer.
Every single QPR fan then rose to their feet and bellowed out ‘There’s only one Ryan Nelsen’. The Kiwi applauded and trudged off a football field for the last time. The stability he has brought to the back line has given Rangers a fighting chance with six points picked up from an insanely difficult set of January fixtures. The man will never have to buy a drink in West London again.
As for the rest of the team they performed admirably, huge hearts and gritted teeth. That’s all we have ever asked for as QPR fans, for the team to show a bit of fight and on Tuesday night in a sodden Shepherd’s Bush 11 men rolled up their sleeves and fought for every single blade of grass on that football pitch. That chip chip chip sound you hear is the sound of QPR very slowly knocking away at the gap that has opened up above them, let’s just hope they don’t run out of time.
QPR: Cesar 9, Onouha 8, Hill 8, Nelsen 8, Traore 8, Derry 7, Mbia 7 (Faurlin -), Granero 5 (Park 88, -), Fabio 6, Taarabt 8, Remy 7 (Zamora 90, -)
Subs not used: Green, Murphy, Ben-Haim, Bothroyd
Booked: Granero (foul), Mbia (foul)
Man City: Hart 8, Zabaleta 8, Lescott 7, Garcia 7, Milner 6 (Sinclair 85, -), Barry 6, Nasri 5 (Dzeko 58, 5), Silva 7, Aguero 7, Tevez 5 (Rodwell 72, 6)
Subs not used: Pantalimion, Kolarov, Nastasic, Rekik
Booked: Zabaletta (foul), Barry (foul)
QPR Star Man - Julio Cesar 9 Very tempted to give this to one of the full backs, Onouha and Traore, both of whom were faultless in defence. But once again that man Julio Cesar carries on the fine form from Chelsea, West Ham and Spurs to earn Rangers valuable points as they look to pull off the impossible great escape.
Referee – Phil Dowd 5 A decent first half gave way to a poor second where he seemed to favour the ‘big’ side far more than QPR, perhaps I have hooped shaped glasses on though. Missed the David Silva kick but was consistent in not awarding either of the dubious penalty claims which keeps him from dipping to a four.
Attendance 17,894 (1,500 Man City approx) The best Loftus Road has sounded all season. The fans were right behind the players from the word go and really created a marvelous atmosphere under the floodlights. The Joe Hart song was hilarious and the Ryan Nelsen tribute fantastic. It goes to show that if the players put in a shift then this fanbase is more than happy to get right behind the team. The City fans barely sung except for the odd rendition of Blue Moon.
Tweet @loftforwords, @RobGilbz
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