Refereeing and defensive calamities see QPR lose again - report
Sunday, 8th Mar 2015 23:35 by Clive Whittingham
QPR lost for the eighth time in nine outings on Saturday, going down 2-1 at home to Spurs thanks to a mixture of dreadful refereeing and even worse defending.
Another bad day for QPR, another day to forget for the Premier League’s embattled refereeing fraternity.
QPR aren’t getting thrashed this season. Apart from a couple of big defeats early in the season at the height of Harry Redknapp’s risible “bonus game” approach to the away matches, Rangers have lost consistently but rarely by much. Against Arsenal on Wednesday player fitness and unavailability was cited, along with Niko Kranjcar, in a one goal defeat; at Hull Joey Barton’s stupidity and ego was to blame; against Man Utd it was Eduardo Vargas’ wastefulness; against Southampton it was rank bad luck and lack of concentration at the death and so it has gone on. Each week different circumstances, different excuses, but ultimately the same disappointing results.
On Saturday at home to Tottenham, in a potentially vital game in hand, many left Loftus Road talking about referee Craig Pawson.
The Sheffield-based official, new to the Premier League list, had been to Shepherd’s Bush twice already this season prior to Saturday and awarded Rangers a penalty against both Hull City and West Bromwich Albion – both questionable decisions. Maybe he was minded to make sure a third didn’t follow, less questions be asked of his integrity, because against Mauricio Pochetinno’s side he turned down two stone-wall appeals and a third very decent looking shout.
The most obvious came a quarter of an hour from time. A corner form the right, a ball dropping in the area, and Charlie Austin was on hand to sweep home a goal his all-action, tireless overall display richly deserved. Except for Nabil Bentaleb, who bravely, but illegally, flung himself in front of the shot with both his hands raised above his head and palmed the ball away to safety. A brilliant save. If he was the goalkeeper. We’re told the interpretation of the ‘deliberate handball’ rule is the hands being in an unnatural position. Bentaleb’s could scarcely have been in a more unnatural position had he detached them and worn them as shoes. It was so astonishingly blatant it was laughable. Pawson, and his linesman, looked right at it, from two different angles, and waved it away.
That followed a first half incident where Mauricio Isla, recalled to the starting 11 on the right side of midfield ahead of Nedum Onuoha at right back, nudged a dangerous cross past visiting goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and then hit the deck as the French stopper caught him in the gut as he rushed out to meet his opponent with a flying star jump. Again, it was a penalty. Again, Pawson looked right at it and awarded nothing. There was another in the second half when Eric Dier, impressive otherwise, seemed to climb over the top of Bobby Zamora, who partnered Austin in attack, and illegally wrestle him away from the ball in the penalty area.
Ryan Mason, a wonderful player you’d kill to have at the base of QPR’s midfield, particularly on a day like this when Karl Henry and Sandro offered almost nothing positive in either direction, was allowed to commit two bad fouls before finally being booked for a third. When Henry nailed him back Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino was allowed to come out of his dugout, walk onto the field and drag his player away so prevent him reacting and being sent off. Ten minutes later Pochetinno was, bizarrely, out on the field again, remonstrating with Pawson for failing to give a free kick, while the play was progressing down the field. No action was taken.
In the first minute of the game Hugo Lloris staggered across his goal mouth and reached up to produce an unorthodox but effective one handed save up in the top corner as Bobby Zamora tried to angle home a clever header. Pawson awarded a goal kick. He thought it had hit the bar. That didn’t bode well.
It is universally accepted that the standards of refereeing in the Premier League this year are abysmal. Far worse than they’ve been for years, certainly as bad as we’ve seen since the officials turned professional.
Howard Webb, still the best referee in the country when he retired last season, has responded to this not by promising improvements and admitting problems, but by defending the indefensible. When placed on the spot on Monday Night Football early this season with clips of three hideous Manchester City tackles on QPR players that were punished only with the award of a free kick only for Mike Dean to then yellow card Sandro for a routine trip on the halfway line, his and Rangers’ first foul of the game after half an hour, he produced five mealy mouthed minutes the upshot of which was he believed Dean was right. Last week, after Kevin Friend had made a mess of Southampton v Liverpool that a deaf, blind, mute would have struggled to replicate and Roger East had sent the wrong man off at Man Utd before claiming that all the television footage you’d seen had fooled you and he was in fact right after all, Webb was treated to a three page blow job in the broadsheets about how he has to counsel the officials after every game because the criticism is so fierce. He insisted again that 95% of the decisions given this season have been correct, according to the assessors. The same assessors who watched Martin Atkinson referee Chelsea Burnley in a manner so incompetent it actually became dangerous for the players to be out there with him and concluded he’d got every decision right. How can standards improve when the people in charge of ensuring that happens don’t think anything is wrong?
Perhaps, as well as dropping this pointless façade about all the decisions being correct, which we can patently see is utter bollocks, Webb and Mike Riley, might like to look closer to home. There are 17 professional referees this season, down from 22 when they first turned pro. They are overworked. People make mistakes when tired. Why in the name of God was Pawson dragged down from Sheffield to London last Sunday to be the fourth official (monkey work) at the League Cup final, only to then be sent all the way up to Carlisle for a nothing League One game with Cheltenham on Tuesday, and then back to the other end of the country on Saturday for this? Was there nobody else to sit and listen to Mourinho’s conspiracy theories and operate the board at Wembley? Are there no League One referees to referee Tuesday night League One games at pissing Carlisle? A human being who has done nothing this week other than travel and referee made mistakes. Who would have thought it?
This is what you get when you take Mike Riley, one of the worst referees of the modern era, and put him in charge. The only surprise is he hasn’t yet introduced a rule whereby Manchester United get to take a penalty after every goal they concede, as he tried so desperately to effect when he was trotting around with the whistle wrecking football matches.
At which point we turn to the classic line the beleaguered football officials of this country like to trot out when their backs are to the wall like this and they’ve made clear, obvious mistakes that didn’t need television replays to expose. The players make mistakes as well. For all the justified complaining about Pawson and his decision making here, QPR were poor and deserved to lose.
It wasn’t Craig Pawson, for example, who looked at Matt Phillips suddenly playing brilliantly on the right wing, and grabbing four assists in as many games, and decided to move him to the left from the start here. A perplexing move from Chris Ramsey, a man who has done so much to reinvigorate Phillips’ career at Loftus Road in his month in charge so far. Phillips’ recent success has been based on a simple premise that he should get the ball tight to the touchline, take the full back on and deliver a cross. The results have been refreshingly brilliant. On Saturday, shifted to the left, he was back to the cutting inside, over-complicated bullshit he produced to no effect whatsoever when Harry Redknapp was shuffling him around and using him as a striker and other such total nonsense.
Nor was Pawson wearing a blue and white hooped shirt and standing in a back four that managed to craft two of the worst goals you’ll ever see from a defensive point of view for Harry Kane.
Kane had already provided a warning, as if one were needed, of his predatory instincts in the fifth minute when he headed powerfully towards goal after former QPR loanee Kyle Walker had got going down the right flank and crossed well. On that occasion Rob Green produced a fantastic, instinctive save, but the goalkeeper was badly at fault when the England hopeful opened the scoring on the half hour.
Initially it looked like QPR had actually engaged in the Premier League’s dark arts to good effect – Steven Caulker interrupting a counter attack with a tactical foul on Kane wide on the right enabling Rangers to get their defence back in shape. But when the routine free kick was delivered the whole thing turned to shit. Green started to come, then hesitated, then came anyway. Onuoha ducked out of the way to try and allow his goalkeeper a clear path. Kane headed into the empty net. Amateur hour. Green has had an excellent season, but that’s three highly suspect goals he’s conceded in three matches now at a cost of three points.
When Tottenham made mistakes, QPR weren’t as ruthless. A misjudged back header towards Lloris from Walker fell short after 20 minutes and suddenly Austin was in on goal but the French keeper saved, and survived the subsequent melee with his clean sheet intact. Later Caulker caused panic in the visiting ranks by joining the attack after passing the ball left giving QPR an extra man up front. The space it created opened up for Austin who blasted a powerful shot past Lloris this time only for the ball to rebound back into play off the underside of the bar.
There was the Isla penalty appeal, and a deflected Kyle Walker shot that Green did well to save, before half time but any hope QPR would be reinvigorated after the break soon melted away. Christian Eriksen beat Green from 25 yards but struck the post and Kane muffed the rebound. A bad pass from Caulker gave Townsend a sight of goal against his old club but he dragged a shot wide. QPR couldn’t rely on this profligacy continuing and Kane wasn’t as forgiving when given a second sight of goal midway through the second half. Rio Ferdinand’s lazy tendency to drop four yards deeper than the rest of the defence, while still appealing for and somehow expecting the offside flag to be raised, finally caught his team out when Mason fed Kane and he waltzed round Green to score.
Ferdinand, after encouraging displays at Sunderland and Hull to give hope that there may be life in his overpaid legs yet, gave a performance here that reaffirmed the urgent need for him to retire. He looked like a dad in a dads v lads match. Not one of the good dads either.
Zamora's penalty appeal was followed by a volley from a tight angle that flew wide through a combination of Lloris and the outside of the post. There was then a ludicrous incident where he stood perfectly still with his arms by his side to make his point to the referee that he was being sinned against rather than the other way around under a long throw, and Pawson gave Spurs the free kick anyway. But QPR weren’t particularly effective with or without the ball. Matt Phillips seemed set to go through on goal at one point but he was tackled and the ball flew behind for a corner which he duly wasted with a dreadful delivery.
The game became niggly. The Mason and Pochettino incident was followed by Bentaleb hacking into Henry for a deserved yellow card. Ramsey introduced Junior Hoilett for Mauricio Isla, Reece Grego-Cox for a Premier League debut instead of Henry who’d had his worst game for some time, and then ridiculously deep into injury time Shaun Wright-Phillips for Sandro. Hoilett did at least cut in field and shoot over the bar to provide some sort of threat, but the thinking behind bringing on Wright-Phillips, a player who has contributed the square root of fuck all to QPR in his four years at the club, with just 90 seconds of time to go, was lost on me. It did little more than waste our own time. For the first time audible boos were heard from the home fans directed at the winger. June, and the expiry of his ludicrously long and lucrative contract, will be celebrated with a barbecue at LFW Towers. You’re all invited.
It was increasingly Charlie Austin against the world in front of the watching Roy Hodgson, and a visiting manager who could do worse than have QPR’s leading light at the top of his shopping list this summer. When Green saved from Kyle Walker in a one on one situation just before the hour and the ball fell loose in the goal mouth the game seemed well and truly up, but remarkably Austin turned up on his own goal line, 100 yards from his actual position in the team, to execute a last ditch clearance. He was everywhere, playing every position superbly. He’s getting better as QPR are getting worse. He’s wonderful.
A little stint on the right wing shortly after the second Spurs goal saw him cross low to Zamora who laid the ball off for Sandro - so commanding on Wednesday, so anonymous here – to hammer in his first goal for the club from 20 yards. Suddenly the game was in the balance, and could have been drawn from the penalty spot had Bentaleb’s obvious handball in the six-yard box been penalised.
You can debate whether a team that defended in the manner it did for both Spurs goals, and made an absolute mess of all its own attacking set pieces, deserved the good fortune of a penalty award to get them out of jail. If QPR had done their own jobs properly, Pawson’s incompetence wouldn’t have mattered. But it was a penalty all the same, and another point lost.
Throw it on the pile with all the rest.
QPR: Green 5; Onuoha 6, Caulker 5, Ferdinand 4, Suk-Young 7; Isla 6 (Hoilett 71, 5), Sandro 5 (Wright-Phillips 90+3, -), Henry 5 (Grego-Cox 88, -), Phillips 5; Zamora 6, Austin 8
Subs not used: Hill, Kranjcar, McCarthy, Comley
Goals: Sandro 75 (assisted Austin/Zamora)
Yellows: Henry 59 (foul)
Spurs: Lloris 6; Walker 6, Dier 7, Vertonghen 6, Davies 6; Mason 7, Bentaleb 6; Townsend 7 (Dembélé 65, 5), Eriksen 6 (Stambouli 88, -), Chadli 6 (Lamela 79, 6); Kane 8
Subs not used: Rose, Soldado, Vorm, Fazio
Goals: Kane 34 (assisted Townsend), 68 (assisted Mason)
Yellows: Bentaleb 61 (foul), Mason 79 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Charlie Austin 8 The improvement in his all round game from the start of the season is there for all to see, but him limping around on that troublesome foot injury by the end of the game shows the potential cost of him trying to do absolutely everything in his power to keep QPR up, which is now seeing him pop up on his own goal line to execute clearances when necessary. Fantastic clubman, great player, the heart and soul of the team.
Referee – Craig Pawson (Sheffield) 2 Shambolic.
Attendance – 17,992 (1,800 Spurs approx) Unfortunately there was a quiet resignation to QPR’s apparent fate around the ground as well as the team on Saturday. As silent as Loftus Road has been all season.
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