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Taarabt’s miss proves costly in latest scoreless draw – full match report
Taarabt’s miss proves costly in latest scoreless draw – full match report
Sunday, 3rd Feb 2013 22:42 by Clive Whittingham

QPR were left to count the cost of Adel Taarabt’s second half penalty miss as they drew 0-0 for the third time in four league games, this time against Norwich at Loftus Road.

In March 1996 relegation haunted QPR welcomed Leeds United to Loftus Road for a crucial premier League game. As had happened so often that season things quickly went wrong as Leeds – experienced, pacy and too powerful for QPR’s naïve, confidence-shorn young side – surged into a two goal lead with Tony Yeboah scoring twice.

But despite a miserable winter period that had brought seven consecutive league defeats for the Super Hoops, Ray Wilkins’ side rallied after Kevin Gallen pulled one back and by the middle of the second half only the flying form of veteran goalkeeper John Lukic was keeping the London side at bay. It felt like a matter of time before an equaliser arrived and when centre half David Wetherall inexplicably thrust up an arm and palmed a high cross away from danger referee Graham Poll awarded a penalty and it seemed the moment had arrived.

Rangers were dominant at this stage, and an equalising goal with the best part of 20 minutes left for play could have laid the platform for a memorable win. Gallen took on the responsibility, but Lukic denied him with another fine save. Momentum killed, wind taken out of sails, Rangers lost 2-1 and were relegated at the end of the season with a game to spare.

Harry Redknapp can only pray that history is not repeating itself 17 years on. Gallen’s crucial miss was the third important spot kick Rangers had spurned that season – Simon Barker had fired over against Middlesbrough and Bradley Allen wide of the target versus Chelsea – and the modern day Rangers are two thirds of the way towards matching that after Adel Taarabt’s tame kick was saved by Norwich’s Mark Bunn at the Loft End on Saturday. The R’s have had two spot kicks this season, both against Norwich, and scored neither of them. At Carrow Road in August Bobby Zamora converted the rebound and a creditable draw was secured but here there was no such reprieve for Taarabt and QPR had to settle for a single point once again at a time when draws are in plentiful supply but not good enough for the stricken West London club.

A dead ball situation or penalty always looked the most likely source of a goal in this tense, niggly Saturday lunchtime encounter. Redknapp was forced to go into the match without £7m striker Loic Remy who injured a groin in training during the week and despite completing 38 transfers or loans in or out of the club this season Rangers are still in a position where one injury to one centre forward reduces them to playing Jamie Mackie on his own in attack with Taarabt for support. This dire situation makes Remy’s seemingly fragile physical state a serious concern, and the decision to allow first Djibril Cisse and now apparently DJ Campbell as well leave the club on loan all the more mystifying.

The makeshift front two certainly couldn’t be faulted for effort and enterprise. Within seconds of the match beginning Taarabt had shot wide after a solid challenge in the centre of the park from Shaun Derry – partnering Stephane Mbia in the middle of midfield with Spurs loanee Andros Townsend making a debut on one wing and Shaun Wright-Phillips running about to little positive effect on the other. Then the Moroccan rode one challenge, beat a second man and shot wide when he had absolutely no right to even still have possession of the football, let alone work a shooting opportunity. When Wright-Phillips then won the ball back on the edge of the Norwich area Taarabt was busy and bright again, skilfully setting up Mackie who dragged a shot across the face of goal. Later he returned the favour, feeding Wright-Phillips in the danger area with a majestic pass that the diminutive winger killed with an immaculate first touch and then hacked wildly wide with an amateurish second.

At this stage Taarabt looked like he was in the mood to put on a show and when Javier Garrido tempted the industrious Mackie with a slack pass back in the second period and goalkeeper Mark Bunn rushed from his line to upend the former Plymouth man it seemed the time had come. Taarabt, like Gallen before him, could only produce a tame shot in front of an expectant home crowd and Bunn saved easily. It was a sickener for Rangers, and Taarabt in particular who has been in wonderful form of late but seemed to be really effected by both his crucial miss and the attentions of Norwich’s Alexander Tettey who grew into his man marking role after a nervy beginning.

An early introduction for Bobby Zamora from the substitute’s bench in place of Wright-Phillips betrayed Redknapp’s desperation for a win. The former Fulham striker has been heavily criticised in some quarters for a questionable attitude on the field, and ill-timed newspaper interview where he stated his dislike for football and lack of interest in it when he’s not playing himself, but it was hard to fault him here. Clearly struggling with a hip injury, he performed admirably for 41 minutes when the doctors had said he could only manage 20, providing an experienced hold up and lay game that QPR have badly missed without him.

But even with Zamora up front, and the dominant force of Chris Samba on debut in defence alongside Clint Hill allowing the back four to play higher up the field and dispense with the need for a holding defensive midfielder, Rangers have an infuriating aversion to putting men in the penalty area during attacks in open play. Zamora dominated Norwich centre back Michael Turner, winning every header he challenged for, but on countless occasions intelligent and well placed flicks ons and chested lay offs found only visiting players scurrying around on a clean up mission.

The R’s simply didn’t get enough bodies around Zamora to take advantage of his fine target man play and when the impressive Townsend made strides in attacking wide areas he regularly looked up to see a penalty box containing just one or two team mates. When another substitute Tal Ben Haim chipped an inviting cross in from the right with time running out Zamora was flat footed and outside the six yard box allowing Norwich to clear. The lack of QPR players desperate to get their nose under the cross bar and sniff out crucial goals has been a persistent problem all season, and remains an absolute ball ache. Immediately after half time a Taarabt free kick from wide whistled right through the very heart of the six yard box and was eventually headed wide by Mbia at full stretch when anybody gambling in the centre of the goal would have had a simple opening goal – a reasonable appeal for a penalty for a foul on Samba as the ball was delivered doesn’t detract from the point. When Zamora did get into the right position to attack a back post cross from Townsend eight minutes from time he could only head wide when he seemed certain to score. No wonder the loaned Tottenham winger – impressive on his first QPR start – went himself five minutes later and drew a save from Bunn with a 25 yard howitzer.

Rangers didn’t have things all their own way though – this was certainly no attack v defence-type contest. Norwich, a very limited side in poor form, lacked ambition and invention for almost the entire game but when there was a chance to pose a threat they had no such issues with packing the penalty box full of attacking threats and feeding the creative force of Wes Hoolahan and Robert Snodgrass in good areas. In the third minute Hoolahan lifted the ball over from close range after being found in an offside position by Snodgrass – the flag stayed down, it would have counted, he should have scored.

Having then recovered from the early loss of Anthony Pilkington – who scored a fine goal in this fixture last season but could only last 20 minutes on Saturday owing to a thigh injury – they twice worked heading opportunities for Snodgrass in quick succession around the midpoint of the first half. The winger, part of a plethora of former Leeds men in the Norwich ranks, headed an absolute sitter flush against the cross bar when these sides met at Carrow Road earlier in the year and here he headed wide at first, and then straight at keeper Julio Cesar with his next chance after Rangers had lost three challenges one after the other in midfield.

Redknapp will have been disappointed with that, and tellingly it was Stephane Mbia, rather than the ageing Shaun Derry, who made way for Jermaine Jenas when he came on for a debut in the second half. Mbia is a wild, raw player – quite possibly a centre half playing out of position in midfield. He committed two cynical fouls to draw a warning from referee Jon Moss, and then received a yellow card for a third challenge on Snodgrass who curled the resulting free kick low around the wall and wide of the target. That seemed harsh on the Cameroonian, who got plenty of the ball in the Snodgrass challenge and was so furious about the award of a free kick it looked like he might talk himself into a red card. Mbia would no doubt point out that while he was warned after two fouls and booked after three, pantomime villain Grant Holt was whistled four times in the first half without so much as a word on the run from Moss who the let him off again with a fifth infringement immediately after the break.

Having seemed reluctant to book anybody but Mbia in the first half, Moss then went rather card happy in the second and showed yellow to Turner, Sebastien Bassong and Mark Bunn for their respective fouls on Jamie Mackie and Garrido for body checking Wright-Phillips after he’d run half the length of the field on a counter attack.

It made for a tetchy, nervous encounter that QPR should have won, but could easily have lost. When Clint Hill uncharacteristically allowed a long ball to bounce he was indebted to Julio Cesar for a point blank save to deny Wes Hoolahan and then, when the ball was returned back to the far post, right back Fabio Da Silva who, not for the first time in his QPR career, was strong in standing his ground and commanding in heading behind as Holt put heavy pressure on him to try and force an effort on goal. When the resulting corner was delivered the home team muscled up with a block from Derry to deny Holt – all bluster, blubber and faux outrage at perceived injustices as usual - and a fine tackle in the six yard box by Samba keeping the score deadlocked.

Da Silva is playing well at the moment, so it was a concern to see him leave the field injured late on given that Nedum Onuoha was already ruled out prior to kick off and the other alternative would be a return for pariah Jose Bosingwa.

Nobody in Hoops is playing quite as well as goalkeeper Cesar though. After denying Hoolahan he palmed wide when Johnson cracked in a long range shot just after the hour, and then later tipped another goal bound effort from Snodgrass around the post. Cesar has conceded one goal in four games now and been magnificent in all of them – he goes into this week’s international friendly between England and Brazil in excellent form as he looks to cement his place in his country’s World Cup squad.

Rangers could do with reducing his workload though. Jenas and Hill were caught fooling around with pedestrian pace possession on the halfway line just after the hour here resulting in Norwich seizing the ball and posing a threat first through Snodgrass and then - controversially considering he’d been motionless on the floor and apparently at death’s door just seconds before when he thought QPR might still have the ball - Wes Hoolahan, but the defence repelled the danger once more. Hill was booked by Moss for his rash attempt to retrieve his own mistake that had felled Hoolahan in the first place.

Once the penalty was missed QPR’s attacks became rather American Football-like on this Super Bowl weekend. Play would stop for a free kick or corner, Rangers would set something up, the play would run, and then the game would ground to a halt again. Taarabt probably wasn’t the best person to take a free kick on the edge of the area a minute after his spot kick horror and sure enough, after Mackie had been felled by Turner and Bradley Johnson had been yellow carded for his latest bout of screaming in a referee’s face, the Moroccan dollied a hopeless shot over the cross bar. When he did find the target in open play, after Zamora had intelligently nodded the ball down to him, Bunn produced a nervy save and was fortunate that Mackie couldn’t steal in on the rebound before the ball rolled too far away from the target for a decent shooting chance.

In the sixty sixth minute the pattern repeated again: Traore counter attacked and was well tackled, Taarabt picked the loose ball up and was fouled by Tettey who was also booked by Moss, Taarabt delivered the free kick, Samba headed goalwards, Turner kicked the ball wide. Ten minutes later Taarabt chipped a corner to the back post and Hill headed into the Lower Loft. Then, when Moss very harshly penalised Turned for a non-existent foul on Mackie as he tried to hold up a Zamora flick on, Jenas tried his luck with a direct free kick but could only find the wall.

A generous five minutes of added time at the end of the game couldn’t separate the two sides. Norwich seemed happy with their point, QPR less so with theirs. To clutch at straws slightly a win at Swansea would mean four points from the week, which if it had been achieved with a win against Norwich and a draw in South Wales, would have been seen as a successful return. But QPR are now six points adrift with just 13 games left to play and need not just one win, but consecutive maximum point hauls to recover an increasingly bleak looking situation.

As if the trip to the League Cup finalists isn’t hard enough, it’s followed after a two week break by a visit from Manchester United. At full time Taarabt shook his head and left the field. A tragedy that somebody who has done so much more than almost everybody else to try and save QPR this season should be the one to cost them so dearly here, but this is ruthless league in a demanding sport. Taarabt knew, he didn’t need telling.

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QPR: Cesar 7, Da Silva 6 (Ben Haim 74, 6), Samba 7, Hill 6, Traore 6, Wright-Phillips 5 (Zamora 54, 7), Derry 6, Mbia 5 (Jenas 69, 6), Townsend 7, Taarabt 6, Mackie 6

Subs not used: Green, Park, Granero, Bothroyd

Bookings: Mbia 38 (repetitive fouling), Hill 70 (foul)

Norwich: Bunn 7, Martin 6, Turner 6, Bassong 6, Garrido 5, Snodgrass 7, Johnson 6, Pilkington 6 (E Bennett 20, 6), Tettey 7, Hoolahan 6 (Becchio 88, -) Holt 6

Subs not used: Camp, Whittaker, R Bennett, Howson, Jackson

Bookings: Garrido 51 (foul), Bunn 54 (foul), Johnson 57 (dissent), Tettey 66 (foul), Turner 80 (foul), Bassong 84 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Chris Samba 7 Clearly Julio Cesar deserves great credit, and probably more than a seven truth be told, for another two or three excellent saves to preserve a point but I also thought the performances of both Townsend and Samba were worthy of note on debut. Ryan Nelsen was a fantastic player for QPR, but the lack of pace between him and Hill hamstrung the back end of the QPR team somewhat and the difference having a mobile, athletic, powerful centre half in there was obvious on Saturday. This is Samba at, by his own admission, 40% fitness which certainly bodes well.

Referee – Jon Moss (West Yorkshire) 6 The big decision in the game was the penalty and that was correctly judged, with a spot kick awarded and a yellow card for the goalkeeper. But I thought he was inconsistent in a number of other areas – very keen to penalise Mbia, warn him and then book him after three first half fouls but not even feeling the need to talk to Grant Holt until his fifth offence just after half time. Michael Turner can also count himself unfortunate to have been penalised and booked for a challenge on Jamie Mackie late in the game that didn’t even look like a foul to me. Not great, but not awful.

Attendance – 17,543 (1,500 Norwich approximately) A flat atmosphere, 1,000 empty seats, and the smallest following we’ve had from Norwich - including a midweek game during their Championship relegation season – in a good long while. Please Sky, no more 12.45 kick offs at Loftus Road.

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MelakaRanger added 23:03 - Feb 3
Samba was good, as was Townsend. No, they were very good. Very good indeed.

But credit due where credits due. Cesar was by far MOM. He stopped at least two certain goals and without his performances these past 6 games or so, we would be so far adrift that any slim hope of survival we have now, would not exist.

If only we could score one goal a game............................................

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Toast_R added 23:48 - Feb 3
Left feeling flat and with that annoying feeling that I'll be losing sleep over that penalty. Sadly it's just the way things go when the your struggling. No lucky breaks whatsoever.

Not giving up yet though.
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carrotcrunch_R added 23:48 - Feb 3
Great report as usual Clive
As I am an armchair viewer and was watching on ze box lol. I can honestly say after watching replays jenus free kick was probably the better one of the lot it he beat the wall and it was heading for goal unfortuanetly mackie's @rse got in the way it didn't hit the net and is irrelevant so there you go but got a funny feeling he may take the next one if on the pitch. I also thought the foul on samba was a clear penalty I despair when defenders are allowed arms right around the attacker and there was another one pushing down on his shoulder why are they allowed to get with it I do not know . Yet when a player goes down like a fairy blown about in a hurricane when clearly not touched (Chelsea Man U Liverpool arsenal players) the ref will blow up I don't get it .
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ozranger added 02:14 - Feb 4
As I stated in a forum post, the real concern in the first half was that Norwich were winning all of the kick-outs and clearances from defence. Not only were they winning the free headers, but contested headers and more so the second ball. That meant, after about a quarter of an hour in we were on the back foot most of the time. Yet when Zamora came on, that changed quite significantly and we were able to compete. Mind you, I would not be surprised if Harry said something about this at the break, such was its glaring obviousness. Also, not wanting to harp on what you have so well harped on yourself, but the lack of a true forward, and in this case a Crouch or similar, means we really need to consider a different tactic - say passing it out from the back.

I am wondering just how many 0-0 draws we are going to suffer from here on. A solid defence with no attack equals nil-all most days. I think both of the next two games could be solid candidates.

Finally, did anyone else note that Caesar, on one occasion in the second half left the goal kick to Samba to take, but eventually played it short to him. Wonder what that was all about?
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Kaos_Agent added 02:22 - Feb 4
Thanks Clive. I thought Tarbs' penalty shot was well designed to go just inside the post in a controlled manner. Have to credit Bunn for a first rate save. Add to the "good but not very lucky" file. He's still the most magical player on the field, but does need to improve his dead ball kicks. Soon.

Hail Cesar yet again. Samba looks like doing his duty like Nelsen, and like getting a goal or 2 as well. Fabio is impressing me more and more. Traore seems more durable and has his moments. Derry solid again. Townsend looks like a fine catch by Harry. Have to trust that Remy's issue is minor and that they they did the right thing by keeping him out, but groins can be slow healers. Still don't understand why Hoilett is not starting in place of SWP. Hughes and Redknapp seem to be on the same wavelength with that one.

Stephane: for lessons in how to effectively clutch and grab without getting caught, talk to any or all of Clint, Shaun, and/or Bobby about proper technique. They'll put you right because we can't afford a yellow card a game. You're on pace for missing 2 games at the worst possible time, probably around mid March when we have more "winnable" matches. Maybe that term should be outlawed. And Bravo for not collapsing to the field this time. I'm kind of dreading the return of Samba #1 from the Africa Cup. He may be just what's needed, or just what's not.

As a final farewell to gone-but-not-forgotten Ryan Nelsen, have a look at:
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/sport/7810350/Ryan-Nelsens-once-in-a-lifetime-h

The Kiwis should be bloody proud of him.

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isawqpratwcity added 02:27 - Feb 4
Thanks for the report, Clive. Full-time left me angry and frustrated because that game was basically ours for the taking if only we could find a decent finish.

Transferring Cisse out early has proved to be a mistake with the only incoming striker succumbing to injury. Why DJ doesn't even get a seat on the bench is beyond me. Is this Harry's hubris or is TF leaning on him to make whatever economies he can?

That's not to say that there weren't a lot of positives from the game, as you have listed. But we should have pulled back a couple of points here and we are getting short on opportunities to do that. I still think we will escape relegation, unlikely a prospect as that seems, but I really wish TF had fired Hughes sooner.
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gerry123 added 07:38 - Feb 4
Another issue on Norwich game is that they must be the dirtiest team seen so far this season. 5 bookings - all justified - and 20 fouls. They chopped anyone going past them and used the "clever" tactic of taking it in turns to hack.
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JB007007 added 08:00 - Feb 4
Thanks Clive.
The lack of ambition up front against this Norwich team hasn't given me any more hope of survival. We look far more organised and solid, but just dont get bodies forward in support in the final third. Perhaps this will change when BZ is back and starting along with Remy. Games are ticking down and with the safety point now 6 points away, that leaves 11 games in real terms. Wigan and Villa will start coming up with wins like Reading, so we had better start at Swansea. I thought Townsend had a really good debut and was my MOM.
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Monahoop added 09:12 - Feb 4
Good report.
Agree with JB007007, but this was another frustrating game and Norwich,going on their current form were there for the taking.
Was very impressed with Townsend and Samba did OK as well. Cesar ensured R's didn't lose this one with a couple of fine saves. He has improved ten fold since HR's arrival as have others, but penalty miss aside, the club lacks that ruthless quality to win games. I may use the old cliche that the club have set themselves up not to lose games, but not to win either. They have become draw specialists, which is OK if you are encamped in the mid table comfort zone, but when you are bottom and losing ground on the safety net, not so ideal.
Haven't quite lost faith just yet though.
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N12Hoop added 09:19 - Feb 4
Qu: how many goals have our starting 11 scored between them?
Ans: not many
We have Bobby: fitness problems
We have Remy: fitness problems
We have Betty: hmmmm
We have DJ: Harry doesn't like him and he'll probably out on loan by the end of the week
Last year Cisse scored vital goals. We needed him to come off the bench. It's all very well loaning him out to save £60k a week or whatever, but if you're prepared to spend £15m or so on 2 new players, then getting rid of a proven goalscorer when you don't have other options seems false economy.
The fat lady's exercising those vocal chords.
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QPRski added 09:27 - Feb 4
There are many positives from this match : another clean sheet, very good debuts from Samba & Townsend with no need to states "we need to gel", we looked more agressive in set pieces and another MOM performace from Cesar who on current form is probably the best GK in the PL.

But we failed to strike the killer punch and score goals! We can rue the penalty, but really we did not have enough bodies forward, or the fluiditiy, when we tried to attack. This is our issue and I hope we can improve this for the next match.

We are still unbeaten in the league in 2013, but we must turn these draws into wins. If we cannot win against the "easier" teams, we will need to turn in great performaces against the "better" teams.
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dixiedean added 10:17 - Feb 4
Agree with N12Hoop. Our striking options are very thin indeed. Essentially all we've done is swap Remy for Cisse, in full knowledge that Mackie will never be a prolific scorer at this level, and that BZ was a long way from fitness and the other 2 back-ups are Championship players really ( JB & DJ) So failing to land Crouch and/or Odemwingie is now looking like a big loss.Townsend was a big plus- exceeded expectations and we now have 2 players in the club who can cross the ball (!) Pity is we don't have anyone to get in the box to head it and I can't see us changing that gameplan in next 2 matches v Swans & Manure ( we'd get picked off if we did)
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AshteadR added 13:19 - Feb 4
Thanks for the report Clive.

Some very positive debuts and a good 2nd half performance. Samba is an absolute beast and made Hill look small during their warm up together.

There are lots of positives (apart from goals), but we're running out of games fast and I'm not convinced we'll turn things around fully in time.
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R_in_Sweden added 14:44 - Feb 4
Frustrating draw against a fairly poor team who know exactly when and where to foul. When Norwich did actually foul in the wrong place we couldn't take advantage of it, felt sorry for Adel after his penalty miss but the keeper read it well. We are so lightweight up front both in numbers when we should be piling into the box and in ability. Cesar and Fabio performed very well again and Townsend looked good going forward, although he must have been wondering where his teammates were.

Nice to say a very quick hello in the Crown and Sceptre afterwards Clive, but it is now getting on for four years since I actually witnessed a victory live. Maybe I should stay put.
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HastingsRanger added 15:12 - Feb 4
One thing Harry has achieved is taking an unbalanced, mixed ability and mixed commitment group of players and turned them into a working team. This current blend has now stabilised the whipping boys 11 that we were fast turning into. We can hold anyone but the problem is how this has been achieved. We are playing deep and compact and this is working well against the top teams. The problem is with the 'if only they were winnable' games, such as Norwich on Saturday, we cannot create enough to convert a win. By changing the formation too much, we are at risk to the counter, which was all too apparent against Saturday's average opposition. There is not a lot we can do, games are running out and we are now looking at games like Swansea as a possible away win rather than a more realistic draw, which isn't enough. I fear the worst simply due to the diminishing number of games. As said above, the only major change left is SWP and I still cannot fathom why he is still a first choice. And why oh why didn't we sack MH after the opening game of the season, Harry was available then and Hughes had had his 6 months honeymoon period and it wasn't planned, meticulously or otherwise.
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