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QPR left to lament killer three minute spell – full match report
QPR left to lament killer three minute spell – full match report
Monday, 18th Mar 2013 00:22 by Clive Whittingham

QPR came away from Villa Park on Saturday beaten and seven points adrift of the home side in the relegation battle. But they could so easily have won an end-to-end encounter that swung on a crucial spell just before half time.

Rarely has three minutes of football felt quite so significant.

Three minutes was the time that referee Kevin Friend elected to add to the end of the first half at Villa Park on Saturday as two of the Premier League’s strugglers faced off in a key clash at the bottom of the table. Three minutes in which the entire match was turned on its head by two key incidents, and therefore three minutes which QPR may come to rue at the end of the campaign.

Relegations are works of weeks, months and years. If it’s a fate this is to befall Queens Park Rangers this season then the final analysis will look at poor signings, mismanagement, under performance, naivety, lack of infrastructure and plenty more besides dating back to the moment the club was promoted in the first place. But for all that, there was a growing feeling the situation could still be rescued and had Jose Bosingwa’s powerful right-footed free kick found the top corner in the first minute of that added time rather than striking the inside of the post, rebounding out into the danger area but then bobbling wide off a Villa defender then that suspicion would have grown into genuine belief.

It would have been a goal QPR richly deserved. They dominated the entire first half of this crucial match in a manner that 3,000 travelling supporters could scarcely have dreamed about the night before. Villa’s youthful and accident-prone defence simply couldn’t cope with a forward line of Bobby Zamora and Loic Remy who pulled them this way and that for the entire first period allowing the effervescent Andros Townsend space to threaten in from further back.

Manager Harry Redknapp made the difficult decision to leave out Junior Hoilett despite some fine recent performances in favour of Jermaine Jenas eyeing an extra body for the midfield - along with Ji-Sung Park and Stephane Mbia - as well as the former Tottenham man’s passing game which would help the visiting team retain possession for long periods, increasing the audible angst among the massed home ranks. Rangers were perfectly set up to pray on both Villa’s nerves and their weaknesses and for 46 and a half minutes that’s exactly what they did.

Only Brad Guzan, the home team’s American goalkeeper, kept the score down. A long free kick played into the penalty area in the ninth minute found the head of Chris Samba who seemed to have judged the connection perfectly but was denied by an improbable save as the goalkeeper back peddled, got himself airborne and thrust out a sufficiently strong hand to claw the ball wide in a fraction of a second. Moments later, with Villa preoccupied with an offside appeal against Zamora, Samba tried his luck with a curling shot through a crowd of players but Guzan’s acrobatic form continued and the game remained deadlocked.

Rangers could have become anxious at opportunities missed but they looked in no mood to dwell on their misfortune. When Bosingwa gave the ball away in his own half Mbia swooped in and chopped own Anders Weimann. An early yellow card from Kevin Friend for the slightly barmy Cameroonian wasn’t ideal, but it showed the R’s were not afraid to mix it with their opposition and Villa were soon swapping Nathan Baker for Joe Bennett after the defender was left spark out on the sodden turf following heavy contact from Samba.

Villa were being bullied. When Bennett played a nervous pass in field from left back Jermaine Jenas was far more alert to the possibilities than Bannan and seized possession before released Zamora on the counter attack. Guzan was once more equal to the initial shot – saving with an outstretched foot – but Jenas had continued his run and slid home his second goal in as many games. The away end was in full voice, the home players wore haunted expressions.

Redknapp switched Remy from the right to the left side, with Townsend going the other way, and amidst the resulting confusion the young loaned winger was able to skip and trick his way right across the edge of the penalty area and win a free kick which Zamora stuck a foot or so wide of the top corner with even Guzan beaten on that occasion. The keeper than pulled off a camera save to turn a 25 yard shot from Remy aside at full stretch.

Twice QPR committed fouls worthy of cards only for Friend to play advantage and then fail to take retrospective action. Frustrated, Barry Bannan then hauled back Mbia and was yellow carded to the fury of those in claret and blue. Bosingwa’s piledriver against the post came after Samba had been felled on the corner of the box and Weimann was booked for his protests. Rangers were doing a number on their opponents and with boos ringing out from the Holte End and Paul Lambert’s inexperienced team visibly wilting under the strain of it all it’s likely that the lead being doubled would have killed the whole thing as a contest. Three, four, five nil? Anything seemed possible at this stage. The first strains of the Great Escape rolled down from the Doug Ellis Stand.

Then, self-immolation.

Bosingwa received a clearance from his own corner but elected to dance on the ball rather than return it to the danger area. Possession was lost and soon Matthew Lowton was making the most of left back Fabio Da Silva’s failure to close him down nearly quickly enough by dollying up a hopeful cross into the heart of the QPR penalty area. And it was dollied up as well. There was no pace or curl or bend or zip on this ball; it was just a tired, forlorn punt in the general direction of the target that gently fell from the sky on the edge of the six yard box and should have tempted any goalkeeper in the world – let alone one previously considered one of the finest on the planet – from his line to execute a routine punch or catch. But Julio Cesar, returned ahead of Robert Green who was apparently now injured himself, stayed rooted to his goal line and could therefore do little to prevent Gabriel Agbonlahor glancing home from point blank range under little duress from the scattered ranks of the QPR back line. Bosingwa could be fingered for a non-existent challenge on the goal scorer but really the much-maligned Portuguese full back had every right to believe that the man with the gloves would be taking charge of the situation.

It felt like a seminal moment – so close to 2-0 at one end, and now sucker punched at the other. Of all the half time lament one line seemed pertinent: “I hope they’re not all in that dressing room feeling as gutted as we are out here.” Sadly, it seemed that was exactly the case.

Post-restart it was hard to believe we were even watching the same game. Injury and illness forced Redknapp to remove Zamora as the focal point of his attack and send on Hoilett but it meant the ball wasn’t sticking in the Villa half as it had done before. Suddenly it was the home side full of vim and vigour with the blue and white hoops dissolving into a panicked shambles before them. Villa’s top scorer Christian Benteke started to influence the game for the first time and behind him Agbonlahor and particularly Weimann were running amok. Cesar flapped at an early corner, then Benteke ended a goal mouth scramble with a volley over the bar after Park had conceded possession when he had good cause to believe he’d been fouled. Benteke stampeded through three challenges and crossed for Weimann who forced Cesar to tip his header wide of the top corner. Paul Lambert sniffed blood and added Charles N’Zogbia to the potion instead of the more defensive minded Yacouba Sylla.

If you’d said after 40 minutes of play that Villa would lead before the hour mark you’d have had the men in white coats after you. But the about turn in the run of play sparked by Agbonlahor’s goal was so pronounced that when Weimann was afforded too much time to turn in the penalty area and used the space to lash a second goal into the bottom corner it had an air of inevitability about it. Cesar culpable once again.

QPR looked spent and down on the touchline Redknapp was starting to dither. The goal had come while he was considering a change, and Adel Taarabt was still being readied when Weimann once more made the most of the visiting team’s negligent tracking of runners from deep when he seized onto a long distance one-two but dragged a shot wide when he should have scored.

Now the Londoners needed a transformation every bit as dramatic as the one Villa had conjured. Taarabt looked in the mood to provide it. Dropped after a sharp decline in his form and absent for recent wins against Southampton and Sunderland, the Moroccan seemed eager to prove his worth and he helped the Super Hoops wrestle control of the game back.

With 18 minutes left for play Loic Remy shrugged aside one challenge and evaded another before squaring the ball to Park and then Townsend whose crisp volley took a slight deflection and skipped off the moist grass on its way into the bottom corner. Guzan, for all his first half heroics, could have done more and the goal was every bit as against the run of play as Villa’s first had been.

Now we were witnessing a footballing lottery. A bumper crowd of 38,000 roared the players on, captivated by an end-to-end encounter being played at a thousand miles an hour. It was anybody’s game now with shape and discipline giving way to luck and individual brilliance. Taarabt provided plenty of the latter – running at the Villa defence and feeding Remy into the right channel where he likes to roam and threaten at every possible opportunity. Like the first half, the home team’s defence had few answers. Now it seemed like QPR were the more likely winners and Remy almost put them in front when he cut in from the right and smacked a deflected shot wide of the post with Guzan left to rely on prayer.

But such frantic situations require cool heads and with ten minutes to go Clint Hill lost his. After losing an aerial challenge with Benteke on half way he then attempted to atone for his error by chasing the ball away down the Villa right as they built an attack. Meanwhile Benteke lumbered off towards the penalty box unchecked and so when Weimann burst through a token effort at a challenge from Jenas in the area and cut the ball back from the byline the giant Belgian was totally unattended and able to slam in a crucial fifth goal of the game. Hill’s foolhardy charge over the top ended cruelly with him flat on his back in the back of the net with the ball – in his defence the withdrawal of Da Silva for Taarabt meant the R’s were always going to be short of defensive numbers in wide areas. Jenas was left to dust the sand out of his lady parts on the far side of the penalty area.

Once again Villa had scored while QPR were pisballing about with a substitution. Whether the dalliance over Jamie Mackie’s introduction had cost them or not is unclear, but the game wasn’t up yet. Immediately from the kick off Hoilett crossed and Remy headed down and wide when he should have found the target – not the ideal time to lose the clinical cutting edge he’s displayed since arriving from Marseille in January. Taarabt then slalomed into the penalty area only to see a shot blocked when the net seemed certain to bulge. Townsend had a shot deflected wide.

Villa had sent all hands to the pump and found nobody had the strength required to operate it. They looked vulnerable and although a series of wasted QPR corners – one leading to a booking for Hoilett for a crude chop on Benteke to prevent a dangerous break – you sensed another chance would come.

Five minutes of added time brought anguished cries from the Holte End and Rangers nearly rescued a point in the very final second with the last kick of the game when Clint Hill, of all people, strode confidently onto a square pass on the edge of the area and lashed a first time shot an inch too high and wide. It would have been a fairytale way to break his top flight goal scoring duck, and an extraordinary finish to a pulsating Premier League encounter but the feeling it wasn’t to be Rangers’ day had persisted since the Agbonlahor goal and so it proved. Friend blew his whistle for the final time as the shot clattered into the crowd behind the goal.

It was hard to fault QPR’s endeavour, attack and effort levels. Their defending was shambolic, but then so was Villa’s. This was a game that could have gone either way. If you wanted to be cruel you could brand it a tale of two goalkeepers but QPR could easily have run out winners in spite of the respective form of Cesar and Guzan.

Harry Redknapp put on a brave face afterwards, restating his belief that five wins can be achieved and would be enough to propel his team to safety. Perform as they have in the last three matches and it’s eminently possible, but seeing hooped shirts slumped on the ground across the pitch at the end leads to the same concern expressed at half time that the players feel as beaten, heartbroken and desolate as the supporters.

A tough one to take but an even tougher one to get over – and that’s the challenge now.

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Villa: Guzan 8, Lowton 7, Clark 5, Baker 5 (Bennett 20, 5), Vlaar 6, Westwood 6, Sylla 6 (N’Zogbia 58, 6), Bannan 6, Agbonlahor 7, Weimann 8 (Bowery 84, -), Benteke 7

Subs not used: Given, Dawkins, Carruthers, Holman

Goals: Agbonlahor 45 (assisted Lowton), Weimann 58 (unassisted), Benteke 81 (assisted Weimann)

Booked: Sylla 30 (foul), Bannan 41 (foul), Weimann 45 (dissent)

QPR: Cesar 3, Bosingwa 5, Hill 5, Samba 7, Da Silva 5 (Taarabt 66, 7), Park 6 (Mackie 87, -), Jenas 6, Mbia 6, Townsend 7, Remy 7, Zamora 7 (Hoilett 45, 6)

Subs not used: Murphy, Onuoha, Wright-Phillips, Granero

Goals: Jenas 23 (assisted Zamora), Townsend 73 (assisted Remy)

Bookings: Mbia 12 (foul), Hoilett 88 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Andros Townsend 7 Another lively, energetic and dangerous display capped with a second goal for the club. Townsend is proving something of a revelation since arriving at Loftus Road on loan from Spurs. Very unfortunate – along with Taarabt, Zamora, Remy, Samba and one or two others – to be on a losing side.

Referee – Kevin Friend (Leicestershire) 7 Hounded off the field at half time by the home fans for perceived bias in favour of QPR. Their valid gripes were his failure to return and book QPR players after initially waving advantage through their fouls, while at the same time carding Bannan and Sylla for similar offences, and I certainly see their point there. But the booking for Weimann and the free kick Bosingwa hit the post with were correct decisions and overall he just about kept hold of a game played at a frightening pace.

Attendance – 38,594 (2,900 QPR approx) A massive crowd and a great atmosphere in a famous old football ground. It was nice to experience it to be honest, and it’s a shame we’re losing so many of the game’s traditional venues up and down the country. It really was the perfect stage for a great match.

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Kaos_Agent added 01:17 - Mar 18
Good assessment Clive. It was a great match despite the outcome.

"A tough one to take but an even tougher one to get over – and that’s the challenge now."

Yeah the lads have lost their head of steam but in the last 3 games they've proven that they can score goals and create opportunities and that should make it easier to bounce back, but our defenders simply have to find their form.
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MelakaRanger added 01:39 - Mar 18
The story of our season

We have only ourselves to blame.

At half time we should have been 3 nil up. Ok their goalie was superb but still out team was streets better than Villa in that first half.

Yes relegation is based on a full seasons results but this was the game that will be seen as the one that sent us down. The 'if only' game.

It was a bit the like Spurs match earlier. We outplayed them for all but 4 mins but in those 4 mins they scored twice. Same old same old.

Roll on next season.
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Kiwi76 added 03:35 - Mar 18
Result is a huge boot in the nethers - will see if fight is still there.
Not as disheartening as the capitulation at Blackburn last season but still feels worse due to size of gap and no. of games remaining.
Just had a vent at Lpool fan in the office over their performance and feel a little better....
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vegasranger added 04:40 - Mar 18
Good match report. The only mark I would disagree with is Fabio's. He had a big part in Villa's first 2 goals and had an all round shocking game.
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themodfather added 07:38 - Mar 18
how guzan kept them alive i'll never know...we were punished for any mistakes and they rode their luck, i still don't know why they booed the ref, he gave them too much, sylla should have seen red for endless fouls. it all seemed so good..in hoops, great loud support, taking the lead..scoring 2 away and losing?? the train home had me deflated and shocked.
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JB007007 added 07:53 - Mar 18
Thanks Clive,
I was in absolute pieces at half time and felt like I'd been kicked in the knackers. I just knew what was going to happen.
However frustrating this was not to take three points, we've not been relegated on this game. Its all the other either piss poor performances or missed chances earlier in the season.
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R_in_Sweden added 08:29 - Mar 18
Thanks for that Clive.
Gutted. Just to repeat what others have said, their equaliser was already in the script after we hit the post. Very bad decision making by Cesar, no communication with Bosingwa when the cross came in and they both speak Portuguese! If Green had played? Whatever. If my auntie had bollocks she'd be my uncle.

Be interesting to see how we pick up the pieces at Fulham. If anything at least we're in for a (painfully) entertaining run-in
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ngbqpr added 08:51 - Mar 18
Felt very much like a Coventry 96 moment...the main difference being that my main memory of the Cov game was a distinctly not up for it performance typified by Hateley ducking under a ball rather than head it, whereas Villa 2013 was a game we could / should have won.

Is it only me who feels Samba & Hill were equally culpable for the first goal? Presuming Cesar didn't call, one of them should have taken the decision to jump ahead of the much smaller Agbonlahor. They could have reached it - or at the very least stopped it reaching him. Likewise, I think the criticism of Cesar for the second goal is harsh. I was most annoyed with him for his rush of blood on the third.

The one problem with our generally improved form since Xmas is our seeming inability to both attack & defend well in the same game. Either we park the bus successfully to earn a clean sheet whilst offering no goal threat; or we take a more offensive approach but the defensive frailties return to kill us. I guess that's why we are where we are
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DesertBoot added 09:10 - Mar 18
Samba and Hill seemed fixated on Benteke which is ironic as he was left alone for their winner. Christ their equaliser was sickening. Play the game again and we'd win comfortably.
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simmo added 09:29 - Mar 18
The most disappointed I have been after a game for quite a while. Also the best ground I have been to this season apart from White Hart Lane but Aston and Birmingham itself is an utter shit hole.
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derbyhoop added 09:35 - Mar 18
It's not the losing, it's the manner of the losing. I saw the heads go down when they went in front and the despair on so many of the players (see the pictures above of M'bia, Jenas and the much derided Bosingwa) at the end means that Harry has a huge motivational job to do over the next 2 weeks.

If last weekend showed that it can all go right, this weekend gave us the other side of the coin. It is still possible to stay up but much more improbable.
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HastingsRanger added 10:09 - Mar 18
So close and now too far, I think.

I feel that tragedy is that we have finally assembled a team worthy of the Premiership thanks to HR (and TF backing) which would do very well if there was another season. Sadly, the reality is next season this team will be broken up and we will be going through another team building project scratching around in the lower half of the Championship.

Finding it very hard to be upbeat here, sorry.
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Metallica_Hoop added 10:18 - Mar 18
Cheers. When their keeper made that save from Big Chris I had a feeling it wasn't going to be our day.

C'est la Vie.
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francisbowles added 10:37 - Mar 18
Yep also gutted and feel worse after seeing it again on MOTD.

Maybe the way to solve the attack or defend problem is to revert to our 4-2-3-1 formation. Zamora up top to start with Remy on right and Remy to move forward when BZ is withdrawn and the game stretches.

Hopefully, the two week break will help us all get over it.

Anyone for DUBAI!
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TacticalR added 11:06 - Mar 18
After half time the defence started to look very shaky. The second goal from Weimann was a turning point, as Villa showed they could pick their way through a packed central defence.

Going three at the back was risky. For the final goal, Villa attacked with pace, a lot of our players got drawn towards the ball, and Benteke ended up with acres of space to take his shot.

Agree with ngbqpr that we still haven't found the right balance between defence and attack. I don't think we played as well as some people seem to think we did. There were too many long balls, too many misplaced passes. We can't expect to win every match, but we were good enough for a draw.

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Bosingwa. Very casual. Tried to be clever and take the ball towards the goal, and passed back to the goalie. Didn't handle Agbonlahor well. Even though Bosingwa hit the post from a free kick, a better choice would have been an outswinging ball to take advantage of our tall players. He then took a corner from the left, and that passage of play led to the Villa opening goal. Wasn't that risky, for a right-back to take a corner from the left, as it's very hard to get back to the opposite corner of the opposite end of the field?

Samba. Great header on goal, but hopefully we can find a way to use his power on corners, rather than him just trying to float balls into the goal.

Townsend. Not sure why he was on the left at the start. Looked better on the right.

Rémy. Nice shot from the edge of the box in the first half. Why was he out on the left? Seemed to be playing too deep at times. Good pass to Park for the second QPR goal.

César. Not sure if I can blame him for the first goal, as there was no pressure on the ball from Bosingwa. César probably should have got the ball for the second goal.

Jenas. Although he scored the goal he seemed to disappear from the game for long periods. He made a very limp challenge on Weimann for the third goal.

Fabio. Just didn't seem right. In the second half, even prior to the goals at one point he completely lost Weimann.

Taarabt. Impressive for the short while he was on, but looked like he needed more time on the pitch after being out for a few weeks. A couple of times I thought he could have shot earlier when he was approaching the box.

Hill. Got caught out of position for the third goal. Would have been a hero if he had buried that last shot.
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quickpassrotter added 11:22 - Mar 18
It's Monday morning - and have still not got over it (guess I never will). Clive relaying the final 3 mins of the first half really did sum it up. At Sthpton I looked at the big screen and saw the ''additional minutes'' come up at the end of the first half and said just keep it tight and we go in 0-1 up. We didn't ! Same on Saturday - just keep it tight now and we will bounce in 0-1 up. We didn't. We never learn. Cesar totally culpable for the first goal (not better for goals two and three either). Puts his hand up afterwards to admit the mistake - oh good. Can't believe we did not take anything away from that game. Thought Villa Park was great (again). Proper stadium. Good playing surface and brilliant atmosphere. Unfortunately, we were very quiet driving back home after the game. Spent.
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AgedR added 13:25 - Mar 18
One tiny crumb of comfort is that for months we cried out for a team who, irrespective of the result, gave it a go.

We did on Saturday and were by far the better team.

If Harry can rouse the spirits we might well go down, but, we'll do it with pride and definitely take Reading and Wigan with us.

I like to think that this is the start of a great new chapter in our history
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isawqpratwcity added 13:36 - Mar 18
Very good report, thanks, Clive.

It was so disappointing to lose, not because it consigns us to relegation, but because victory would have made escape so achievable. And dammit, we should have nearly been able to quit at halftime for a glass or two celebrating a job well done.

The atmosphere even came through on the internet links (awful though they were). And except from their first goal to their third, I very much enjoyed the game, I haven't said that too often.

It isn't over yet. And I actually welcome the dejection of the team after the game. At least it shows that the team's fate is something they feel concern for. It gives a foundation for what will hopefully be a fairly intense couple of weeks.
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LambournR added 13:42 - Mar 18
It wasn't just this loss, but all the other results bar Reading went against us this weekend. I think Harry is far too optimistic with his prediction - it looks like 40 points will be the minimum to be safe this season. 6 wins from 8 matches needed then - pity we didn't get Harry in a few matches earlier.
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Northernr added 17:22 - Mar 18
Lambourn - I suspect Harry knows that, but if he said "we probably need to win every match now" it's hardly going to inspire and motivate is it?
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batmanhoop added 18:49 - Mar 18
I just know Phil Parkes would have lapped that cross up, but more importantly teams are encouraged to pump the ball high into our area because they know Ceasars static on the goal-line
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AgedR added 19:13 - Mar 18
Don't worry Green will be back to come for those crosses soon....and drop the occasional one in the net.

Cesar was at fault, Green has been at fault, but, overall they have both had reasonable seasons.
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Jigsore added 19:19 - Mar 18
I'm going to miss seeing Big Chris Samba roaring at everything. Pictures of him are always frightfully wonderful
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Myke added 00:11 - Mar 19
I didn't realise I had dared to start hoping until i was so dissapointed at the final outcome. I haven't been that browned off by a result since we only drew 1-1 with West Ham. Couple of small points and again using the benefit of TV as opposed to being there: Benteke was booked for wrestling Samba to the ground leading to Bosingwa's free kick which hit the post, not sure if Weimann was too for protesting but Benteke certainly was. Secondly, notwithstanding Remy's initial endeavours, I believe Par should be credited with the assist for Townsend's goal as he held the ball up well before laying it back into the Spurs loanees path. I feel Samba somewhat at fault for the first Villa goal. Yes, Cesar should have come, but everyones knows non- British keepers don't. Clearly he didn't call and samba had plenty of time to reajust his position instead of letting the ball sail over his head. I was far more annoyed with Cesar for the 3rd goal - if you are going to stray that far from goal you simply HAVE to claim the ball of knock it behind. Feeling a bit sorry for Bothroyd, surely after his performance v Southampton he is entitled to feel he is Zamora's direct understudy , yet he hasn't got a sniff in the last 2 games. Harry is constantly bemoaning the fact we have no-one to hold the ball up and bring others into play, yet he won't give game time to the only other striker we have who is capable of doing that. Also don't like to see Remy drifting wide, we (and Shearer) have commented on how effective his directness on goal is over Tarrabt's more leisurely style, so he needs to stay in and around the box where he can do most damage. Logically we're gone now, fortunately football and logic aren't even on nodding terms!
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merovingian added 05:39 - Mar 19
It's high time to get a Libero & a crackerjack into qpr.
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