Still just a potato – full match report
Tuesday, 21st May 2013 23:16 by Clive Whittingham
QPR slipped quietly to a twenty first and final defeat of a dreadful 2012/13 season at Liverpool on Sunday with Michael Harriman putting his team mates to shame on a first Premier League start.
There is a scene on The Simpsons, when The Simpsons was good, where Lisa, wrongly believing she has inherited genetic brain decay, commandeers a five minute opinion slot at the end of the evening television news to tell viewers about her concerns. Alarmed, the producer on the sound desk says "I'll cut her off" but his senior alongside him simply holds up a hand and says: "No, let her speak. I'm trying to get fired."
The more Harry Redknapp talks and the more Harry Redknapp acts the more Harry Redknapp gives the impression that he's quite keen on the idea of a mutual parting of the ways from Queens Park Rangers. Brought in as undoubtedly the best man for the job when the R's went through the first 13 matches of the season without a win with a remit to try and salvage salvation he has, through little fault of his own, failed. Horse picked, course run. But QPR now seem keen for him to stay and try to rebuild in the division below – a division Redknapp hasn't managed in for eight years and shows few signs of having any desire to return to now. There is a danger Rangers are saddling up a flat racer for a steeplechase.
Asked a fortnight ago whether he was picking his teams with an eye on next season given that Rangers were already relegated Redknapp said no. That seemed an odd answer at the time and was made to look even more stupid at Liverpool on Sunday by 20 year old Michael Harriman on his first Premier League start.
Harriman is as rare as a clearly spoken word from Andre Villas Boas – a player with ability who has emerged from QPR's youth system with a sound attitude. While those before him have either been picked off by bigger clubs in their early teens, released by QPR having not made the grade, or trundled through a series of unsuccessful loan spells with lower division clubs who didn't much care for their mood, Harriman has quietly got on with graduating from a system that plays Barnet and Colchester on park pitches to a starting position in the Premier League.
After a minute at Anfield on Sunday he hacked a free header from Philippe Countinho off the line. Another referee may well have judged it in, but Clint Hill will tell you that Martin Atkinson isn't crash hot on such matters, and the scores remained level. From there the young right back grew into the game, keeping Liverpool's latest great white hope Jordan Ibe – who like Harriman has a background with Wycombe Wanderers – well under control. He fell into none of the usual traps of a young, inexperienced player given a chance on one of the game's biggest stages: there was no rashness, no diving into tackles, no headless chicken routine. He stayed on his feet, he stayed calm, and he dealt with everything that came his way.
Harriman did this while being effectively hung out to dry by his team mates. Redknapp started a 4-5-1 formation with striker Loic Remy initially playing wide on the right. Remy was never likely to offer a lot of defensive cover to a full back behind him and the situation was exacerbated by the continued mystifying selection of Stephane Mbia as the midfielder immediately to Remy's left. The Cameroon international doesn't even track his own runner from midfield never mind anybody else's and so Harriman was left with Ibe, Coutinho, Enrique and pretty much anybody else Liverpool wanted to send his way. Two on one, three on one…. only Nedum Onuoha – impressive again at centre half alongside Clint Hill – offered any semblance of help. It was almost as if Redknapp was angry at being forced by supporters to remove Jose Bosingwa from the team during last weekend's final home game with Newcastle and had deliberately set the alternative up to fail to show the faithful why their Portuguese nemesis had continued to be selected. Thankfully the manager did soon switch Andros Townsend from left to Remy's position on the right to provide extra cover.
But Harriman hadn't failed, or stood out as actually needing that cover. In fact he was excellent, which once again raised the questions of why Bosingwa has been selected for so long ahead of him, why Redknapp hasn't been picking a team with an eye on next season, and why players like Mbia have been keeping out other, keener fringe players like Max Ehmer? On this evidence Harriman should have been playing from the start for months – and wouldn’t QPR have got a good deal more out of this long painful death at the end of the season had he done so? Wouldn’t the atmosphere have been so much better at the last home game?
The improvement to the right side of the defence still wasn't enough to prevent the twenty first defeat of a wretched campaign. QPR were absolutely ideal opponents for Liverpool in a game that didn't matter to the league table, but did bring down the curtain on veteran defender Jamie Carragher's one-club 737 game career. Liverpool do such occasions better than any other club in the country and the city was in almost full on state funeral mode all day. The Kop created a tapestry of the player's face, name and number as he emerged from the tunnel to a guard of honour. All they needed was a willing volunteer to drop to their knees in front of the long serving skipper and QPR are football’s Monica Lewinsky on such occasions.
A five man midfield wasn't enough to prevent the mercurial Coutinho floating around in acres of space and pulling strings while in third gear. He curled an early corner so close to the QPR goal Rob Green was required to flick it over and later the keeper was fortunate to be awarded a free kick by Atkinson when, at first look, he seemed to have simply dropped a routine ball into a dangerous area for what Opta later revealed to be the thirteen thousandth time this season. Another shot was deflected wide by Shaun Derry before Glen Johnson clicked through the Armand Traore-shaped turnstile and sent a lethal looking cross whistling through the six yard box. Later the right back came in field and fired over. Hill saw yellow when he decided an agricultural body check on Coutinho was a safer option than a 20 yard foot race with him and Jordan Henderson justified his decision with a tame free kick into the wall. Carragher came up for another set piece and saw a shot blocked away to meagre handball appeals.
QPR threatened sporadically. Remy, who Redknapp may have been well advised to leave at home given the gang rape allegations that now look set to condemn him to at least starting a World Cup year in the Championship, looked sharp and keen. He hit the deck in the Kop End penalty box after five minutes and while the home side would almost certainly have been given a spot kick for an identical offence at the other end Atkinson, as he has done from the first moment QPR arrived in the Premier League two years ago, showed absolutely no interest whatsoever in giving the Londoners anything at all.
Ploughing – and he's certainly not much quicker than your average bit of farm machinery these days – a lone furrow up front was Bobby Zamora who contributed next to nothing and missed an absolute sitter at the near post when Traore cut a ball back from the byline eight minutes before the break. Redknapp's apparent belief that his former Fulham striker can lead a team through a 46 game Championship season is another item for concern.
The only goal of the game was a sweet strike from the – as ever - unmarked Countinho that zipped into the bottom corner from long range at the midpoint of the half after Ibe had cut infield and teed him up. The QPR fans tutted and tossed inflatables around. A sex doll was immediately seized and punctured by the overzealous stewards – as one Twitter wit pointed out it wasn’t the first thing QPR fans had been disappointed to see go down too early this season.
By the way, if you're playing Armand Traore injury sweepstake this weekthe winning time was 12 minutes.
Redknapp, for the second week in a row, removed Mbia at half time. That old theory about repeating the same action and expecting different results sprang to mind. On came Esteban Granero who must have had a scout in the crowd because he sweated more here than he has done for the previous six months combined. Sadly he lacked sufficient pace to accelerate away when he got in behind the Liverpool defence, and on another occasion Pepe Reina sprang from his line to palm a ball away right on the edge of the penalty box as Remy closed in. The Spanish midfielder looked, in flashes, like the player QPR were supposed to have signed.
But in truth, the 'Liverpool win to nil' bets circulating the away end weren't unduly troubled: Green punched an early shot wide in unorthodox fashion and then did well to get a boot to a shot from Sturridge; Henderson missed a scissor kick after Traore had cleared a ball from the goal line and saw a volley blocked; Downing sent a shot flush into Traore's chest after Green had parried a low cross into his path and the keeper flung himself into the air to palm a long range strike from Enrique away from danger.
QPR’s keeper was overworked and Townsend's frustration at the whole thing got the better of him when Atkinson failed to award him a free kick on the edge of the box for an obvious foul and he was booked for his reaction. Derry was also carded for chopping Fabio Borini moments after he’d replaced Ibe who was given permission to leave Harriman’s pocket in order to hit showers early.
Rangers almost contrived to produce two entirely different outcomes, both of which you'd say were absolutely typical of them.
After an hour Jamie Carragher, who has only got three goals to show for those 737 appearances, drew his boot back from 30 yards and pinged an unstoppable shot against the top of the post. It went like a shell, and really deserved to join the likes of John Jensen and Lloyd Doyley in QPR folklore. A down-to-earth, hardworking, one-club man in this age of agents, signing on fees, and a player as dreadful as Phil Bardsley laying on the floor of a casino covered in £50 notes – I suspect even the QPR fans who’d travelled north wouldn’t have begrudged Carragher his goal. Somehow though it seemed more apt for the man to go so close, and not quite get there. He was withdrawn five minutes from time to a standing ovation from all four sides of the ground. We’ll rarely see his like again.
But the R's could so easily have spoiled the party right at the death when Junior Hoilett skipped along the byline and cut the ball back to his fellow substitute Jamie Mackie who betrayed his lack of confidence with a leaning-back finish high and wide of the goal when it seemed easier to score. The incident briefly stirred the sleeping South Korean in the away end who’d nodded off after Ji-Sung Park’s withdrawal for Hoilett ten minutes from time. Only his travelling fan club can possibly hope that he returns to action in hoops in August.
Rarely can the end of a season have been met with such relief. For QPR the rebuilding job ahead is a sizeable one. Sadly, the project manager's post-match comments once again sounded more like those of a man who fancies a pay off than somebody who is relishing the challenge of taking it on.
Liverpool: Reina 6, Johnson 7, Carragher 7 (Coates 85, -), Skrtel 6, Enrique 6, Henderson 6, Lucas 6, Downing 6, Ibe 6 (Borini 64, 6), Coutinho 8 (Suso 74, 6), Sturridge 6
Subs not used: Jones, Wisdom, Coady, Assaidi
Goals: Coutinho 22 (assisted Ibe)
Bookings: Henderson 7 (foul)
QPR: Green 7, Harriman 7, Onuoha 7, Hill 6, Traore 6, Remy 6, Mbia 4 (Granero 46, 6), Derry 6, Park 5 (Hoilett 80, -), Townsend 6, Zamora 5 (Mackie 72, 6)
Subs not used: Murphy, Fabio, Ehmer, Bothroyd
Bookings: Hill 31 (foul), Derry 66 (foul), Townsend 71 (dissent)
QPR Star Man – Michael Harriman 7 What a breath of fresh air. A rare thing at QPR, not only as a youth team graduate capable of first team football, but also somebody who can reflect on a successful 2012/13 season. Apprenticeship served at Wycombe he has now staked his claim for regular consideration in the Championship next season. The feel good element of seeing a youth team graduate play that well was much needed on Sunday and should really have come several weeks earlier when we were messing around with Jose Bosingwa. Imagine the difference in atmosphere at the Newcastle game had Harriman been given a start at home.
Referee – Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire) 6 Very little to referee in an end of season game with little speed to it but still managed to be irritating with it. The Townsend booking was of the referee’s making because it was a foul on him in the first place and I’m sure he would have given the Remy penalty at the other end. Countinho’s first minute header was over the line as well.
Attendance 44,792, (2,000 QPR approx) All credit to the QPR fans on Sunday. With nothing at stake to see so many people travel all that way to watch this lousy team was wonderful and except for one incident where a couple seemed to be thrown out after getting embroiled in a row about whether they should be abusing Junior Hoilett as he warmed up the atmosphere was excellent. Nice to see the QPR fans, to a man, applauding and recognising Carragher as well. This group of supporters deserve a lot better.
Pictures – Action Images
Photo: Action Images
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