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.
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.
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.
Pictures – Action Images
Photo: Action Images
Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
You need to login in order to post your comments
Blogs 30 bloggers
Matches of Yesteryear - Northampton v U's 24/4/99 by wessex_exile
Well, here we are going through the exhilarating highs and despairing lows of what it is to follow the U’s rollercoaster journey this season – one wonders what Saturday will bring, apart from yet another storm (Dennis this time). Vale Park is a tough enough place to go at the best of times, so will howling winds and lashing rain be the great leveller for the U’s? We shall see, but in the meantime, how about we go back to a time when our perennial concentration around this time of the season always seemed to be at the wrong end of the table, maybe put things a little bit into perspective…
Matches of Yesteryear - Bees v U's 11/3/03 (eventually) by wessex_exile
It was noted that Saturday’s stunning defeat of promotion rivals Plymouth Argyle was the first time we had beaten them since our League Cup victory back in 2003. Well our record against tomorrow night’s opponents Grimsby can challenge that – if you’re wondering ‘not another Tuesday night trip to Blundell Park’, the last time we played at Grimsby on a Saturday was also back in 2003…and the last time we won there? Over 40 years ago believe it or not, on 22nd September 1979, winning 2-1 thanks to two goals from Trevor Lee, with the U’s managed by none other than Bobby Roberts on that day.
Matches of Yesteryear - Southend v U's 17/2/04 by wessex_exile
“…Parky couldn’t quite keep the momentum from September going in the league, and we finished 11th at the end of the season. However, for the entertainment of the faithful, he was just about to embark with the U’s on two successful runs in both the FA Cup and the LDV Vans Trophy, the latter just about to start the following Tuesday (14th October) at Cheltenham”.
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Blackpool 11/10/03 by wessex_exile
Ahead of our upcoming match at the Abbey Stadium tomorrow, we again go back to the Parky era, and for this match his first full season in charge at Layer Rd. It’s funny, when I first started following the U’s in the 70s, matches against local rivals Cambridge United always seemed to be a really big thing, up there with Southend in many ways – they just don’t seem to have quite the significance these days?
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Wivenhoe 23/2/91 by wessex_exile
And so the unbeaten run goes on. Ahead of yet another vital match against a promotion contender on Tuesday night, we pay our first visit to a yet to be featured competition, going back nearly thirty years in the process. Last time in the Matches of Yesteryear series we explored our furthest distance for a ‘local derby’ match at Wycombe, this time we reflect on what must surely have been the shortest distance ever between the U’s and opponents for a competitive match?
Queens Park Rangers Polls