|Taarabt eruption casts further shadow over Cardiff defeat - full match report|
Sunday, 18th Apr 2010 20:56
Despite being QPR's best player by some distance much of the post match discussion surrounded Adel Taarabt's negative reaction towards the Loftus Road crowd as the R's slipped to a 1-0 home defeat against Cardiff City.
It was an afternoon for firsts in West London on Saturday. I never thought I’d see the day when thousands of frustrated commuters were slowly trudging through the Underground system casually ignoring constant announcements about restricted service to Heathrow Airport due to volcanic ash from Iceland as if it was an everyday occurrence. Is it only me that listens to the announcements on the tube? Would anybody have actually paid attention if District Line services were suspended due to the four headless horsemen of the apocalypse on the line at Stamford Brook? Or a time and space vortex opening up at Elephant and Castle delaying Northern Line trains? It was all very bizarre.
As was the behaviour of the ever unpredictable Adel Taarabt towards the end of our latest unfortunate set back at Loftus Road against Cardiff City. Unfortunate because (see Sheff Wed and Derby match reports) the R’s failed to take advantage of their dominance when it came and then succumbed to one of very few attacks from the visiting team at the other end. It’s a familiar pattern and the soft core of the defence coupled with the lack of threat in attack is there for all to see.
That attack is pepped up (or should that be propped?) by Taarabt who has been in superb form since Neil Warnock took over as manager – scoring or having a hand in 11 of the 13 goals we’ve scored under the new boss. On Saturday, again, he was head and shoulders above anybody else in the QPR team, constantly probing and questioning the Cardiff defence and coming within a whisker of giving Rangers the lead in the first half with a low shot that smacked the inside of the post, flew across the face of goal, and stayed out but inches. Nobody was moaning about selfishness or better options for a pass when he did that, but late in the second half once Joe Ledley had scored for Cardiff and frustration was growing a shot from similar range that this time flew into the Upper Loft brought groans and sporadic boos from the home crowd, which were reciprocated with the typical arms in the air gesture of defiance at the fans from Taarabt. It was embarrassing, screaming toddler in the super market stuff from a player who really needs to grow up.
So far so predictable – QPR fans impatient and fickle, Adel Taarabt young, foolish and impetuous. From there though things took an unprecedented turn. I cannot ever recall seeing a player turn to the bench and demand to be substituted after such an incident. Not only that but then storm to the halfway line and stand, hands on hips, staring down his manager as changes were made demanding he is one of the players replaced. To Neil Warnock as well, if the manager didn’t tear this talented but mentally flawed player a new arse after the match then he’s losing his touch. It added to the bizarre feeling of the entire day, and could perhaps spell and end to Taarabt’s time with QPR. Certainly the pre-Palace Warnock would have had him back at Tottenham in disgrace first thing on Sunday morning.
Things had started well prior to all that. Under a bright blue sky lacking the usual Heathrow related activity and vapour trails Rangers came into the game full of confidence after the excellent win at Crystal Palace last weekend. A win for visitors Cardiff, backed by the usual noisy and poorly behaved 1600-odd morons, would seal their place in the play offs. Warnock came in with a similar line up to that which finished the Selhurst Park encounter with Ramage at centre half instead of Damion Stewart - finally released from hospital on Friday after suffering a fractured skull in the last match – alongside Gorkss with Tosic on home debut at left back and Mikele Leigertwood at right back. Radek Cerny started in goal. Buzsaky and Faurlin were paired again in an attacking central midfield line up with Ephraim ostensibly wide left and Taarabt, Priskin and Simpson rotating around the striker, right wing, and ‘one off’ role between midfield and attack.
Cardiff left Michael Chopra on the bench and went with Jay Bothroyd and Ross McCormack in attack. Joe Ledley had recovered from a hamstring injury sufficiently to start in midfield, Kelvin Etuhu only made the bench after his recent lay off.
The pattern for the day was set early when QPR worked the ball into Taarabt, taking up position between the Cardiff defence and midfield, inside the first 30 seconds and he carried it to the edge of the box before firing wide. This drew a deserved round of applause, as most of his efforts did until we went behind through no fault of his.
Taarabt, and QPR, looked really in the mood from the start. The loaned Tottenham man sent a terrific back post cross towards Priskin who went with his feet when a stopping header looked a better bet and failed to connect. Then Leigertwood hit a shot from 25 yards that deflected to Jay Simpson but his shot flew wide. With the time still in single figures Taarabt beat Ledley inside his own half, motored to the edge of the box and fed it into Simpson. He touched it back to Ephraim whose back post cross looked destined for Priskin’s head until Marshall raced from his line to fist the chance away.
It took Cardiff a good quarter of an hour to threaten. When they did Cerny had to be alert as Jay Bothroyd ran into the left Cardiff channel onto a through ball, breaking a rusty QPR offside trap in the process, but his cross into a six yard box populated by both McCormack and Burke (oh for QPR to get two men in the six yard box as we prepare to cross from wide) was claimed well and securely by Cerny who read the play and leapt from his line to kill the danger well. Bothroyd then crossed right through the six yard box for Burke who arrived on the scene late and fired into the Loft with time and space to do better. Whittingham set up McPhail who fired over as Cardiff found their feet in the game.
In amongst those Cardiff chances QPR came as close to a goal as they would all afternoon when Taarabt received the ball in midfield with his back to goal, drew two would be tacklers to him before laying it off to Faurlin and spinning into the space behind him to receive a perfectly weighted return pass. This time his low drive beat Marshall, hit the inside of the post, spun right across the face of goal and out on the other side. Again no complaints from anybody about Taarabt being selfish or failing to pass on this occasion. This must have been no more than a quarter of on inch from hitting the post and going in for an opening goal that QPR would just about have deserved on the opening passage of play.
Rangers were lucky to survive a scare at the Loft End just after the half hour when a long clearance from Marshall, resplendent in hot pink, was totally misjudged by Gorkss who inadvertently headed the ball in behind Ramage for McCormack to run onto in the area. The Scot attempted a lobbed first time finish with the outside of his right boot but Ramage did enough to get back at him and provided sufficient distraction for the shot to loop harmlessly wide. Gorkss’ hit and miss form continues.
Moments before half time Taarabt’s one man mission to make Cardiff wait another week at least to confirm a play off place continued. Picking the ball up on halfway Taarabt marauded down the QPR right to the byline where he fronted up Mark Kennedy, showed him the left and went right to create space for a fine low cross that was then somehow missed at the near post by Simpson, on the penalty spot by Priskin who hit a complete air shot, and then Buzsaky coming in round the back who presumably expected Priskin to make contact and therefore wasn’t expecting it to come through to him. Sorry to labour the point but once again, no complaints about Taarabt being a selfish luxury player at this point.
Frustration for Taarabt, and the rest of the QPR team, grew when his corner was only partially cleared by Cardiff but as the ball dropped on the far side of the area and the attack recommenced play was stopped by referee Michael Oliver because Stephen McPhail was down on the edge of the box clutching his head. Of course as soon as the play was stopped, and the attack ended, McPhail leapt up and there was nothing wrong with him – he even had the nerve to have a go at the referee for allowing the physio on meaning he had to leave the field for three and a half seconds while Cardiff returned the ball to QPR some 100 yards away down the field. Taarabt was justifiably booked for diving in the second half, this piece of cheating, quickly creeping into the game at all levels, was equally worthy of a yellow card.
A tame low shot from Ephraim, gathered by Marshall on the third bounce, ensured that QPR finished the half on top, but not looking likely to do much about it, as has been the case in so many matches at Loftus Road this season. Jay Bothroyd was mediocre in attack for Cardiff, too often caught offside when there was no need for him to be, but without wishing to be contrary it’s exactly that kind of big, physical presence that QPR need in attack for people like Taarabt, Simpson and others to work off. Priskin is detailed in that role at the moment but is nowhere near good enough, physically or talent wise, to do it. I’d expect this sort of striker to be top of the shopping list this summer.
Rangers started the second half in as they had the first – Taarabt crossed for Ephraim who headed tamely at Marshall, Tosic crossed for Priskin who shot straight at the Cardiff keeper under pressure from Gerrard and Faurlin struck a poor long range effort into Marshall’s hands.
Five minutes into the second half it was Cardiff who almost broke the deadlock when Radek Cerny made a worrying return to the form that saw him dropped from the side and replaced by Carl Ikeme just after Christmas. A foul by Ramage on Bothryod as the striker threatened to run through on goal drew a deserved yellow card and set up a free kick 30 yards from goal left of centre. A routine strike from Ross McCormack flew over the wall but seemed to be posing the keeper few problems as it bounced on the edge of the six yard box. Whether it kicked up more than he expected or he was put off by the onrushing Cardiff players only Cerny will know but he made a real hash of the save, allowing the ball to bounce back into the danger zone off his chest and Ramage had to sweep in and toe it behind for a corner as Gerrard hunted a tap in.
Bothroyd acrobatically hooked over after meeting McCormack’s cross at the near post as Cardiff enjoyed a five minute spell of pressure in front of their own fans.
Rangers had a great chance to take the lead after the hour mark courtesy of a glorious through ball from Alejandro Faurlin. Collecting the ball inside his own half over by the South Africa Road dugouts Faurlin played a genuinely world class 60 yard pass down the field, perfectly weighted and angled to drop in behind Gerrard and plum onto the boot of Jay Simpson. His first touch killed it, but took the ball behind him, meaning he had to set up Hogan Ephraim instead of shooting himself and showing his usual lack of conviction in front of goal Ephraim side footed high over the bar from eight yards out.
Ephraim is a source of some conjecture at the moment, with many wondering just why he is selected ahead of Cook when he clearly doesn’t pose as much attacking threat. Ephraim is a poor finisher, is too lightweight, and isn’t pacy or tricky enough to beat many full backs consistently which makes him a pretty mediocre left winger even on a good day. However for me, and presumably for Warnock hence his regular selection, his work rate and positioning when we don’t have the ball is superior to Cook who can leave us badly exposed to overlapping full backs down that flank. Ephraim is nothing more than ordinary at the moment, and we need him to either get better or be replaced by better, but that’s why he’s in the team as far as I’m concerned. The QPR fascination with Cook being the great white hope despite almost three years of injuries and poor form clouds the issue.
Dave Jones sent on Michael Chopra with half an hour to go, but the Cardiff problem of constantly being flagged offside whenever they attacked continued as he ran through and fired over only to turn and find the flag long since raised against him. A disciplined back four could nullify this attack with a reasonably well drilled offside trap quite easily.
Taarabt’s curate’s egg of an afternoon continued when he tricked two Cardiff players on his way into the area before collapsing theatrically, farcically, under meagre contact from Darcy Blake. It was the most clear and obvious yellow card referee Michael Oliver will ever hand out, although credit to the referee for not being influenced by the crowd in the most partisan corner of Loftus Road.
The crucial goal came ten minutes from time and sadly it was Alejandro Faurlin, exemplary for weeks, who must take most responsibility for it. The Argentinean collected possession deep in his own half and rather than work it out into the safety of the wide area he tried a risky pass through the middle that was never really on and was easily picked off. From there Cardiff worked the ball left through first Whittingham (no relation) and then Kennedy who stood a great ball up to the back post for Ledley to charge in unmarked to head home from close range. I couldn’t quite decide who was meant to be marking Ledley, and Radek Cerny’s failure to get at least a hand on the cross as it dropped hardly covered him in glory, but you could see from Faurlin’s reaction, slumped in the side netting after chasing back, he knew it was his mistake that began it all. Still in the same way that I don’t believe you can slate Taarabt for trying things that sometimes come off and sometimes don’t it would be harsh in the extreme to point any accusing fingers at Player of the Year elect Alejandro Faurlin.
The frustration was all too much for Taarabt who blew up first at the crowd following a shot over the bar, and then at his manager for failing to remove him from the field as Warnock sent on first Cook, then young Josh Parker, and finally Antonio German. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation, and as you’ve probably gathered I don’t see the logic in applauding and encouraging his shooting throughout the match only to then suddenly turn on him simply because the defence has let us down at the other end, the reaction was extremely immature, totally out of order and should never be repeated.
He didn’t sulk though and went reasonably close to an equaliser after that, again running at the Cardiff defence before shooting narrowly wide with Marshall watching it go and hoping for the best. The keeper was in a much better position to deny Rangers a deserved equaliser when Taarabt (again) whipped in a wonderful cross to the near post where Cook, attacked the ball well and delivered what seemed a goal bound left footed first time half volley but Marshall flung out an arm and kept the ball out.
Cardiff’s sub Kelvin Etuhu then followed Cook’s lead as a nearly-super-sub when he took advantage of Tosic and Faurlin’s lack of pace to race onto a huge clearance from Marshall, keep the ball in at the byline, run laterally into the penalty area and draw a fine save from Cerny who flung himself down low at the loaned Man City striker’s feet to deny him.
With seven shots on target and nine off, to Cardiff’s two and four, it was hard to deny that QPR didn’t deserve at least a point from this match. As seems to be the case with increasingly regularity at home Rangers were the better side without ever really looking like they could turn supremacy into goals, and then got sucker punched at the other end. In my opinion this performance really wasn’t a lot different from our show at Crystal Palace last week – it’s just the Palace are average with a poor manager and Cardiff are good with a very decent boss.
Ignoring the Taarabt issue for a moment I thought Faurlin passed the ball well apart from the goal, but Buzsaky was quieter than he had been at Selhurst Park. Priskin and Ephraim drew much of the post match criticism for their mediocre displays, but the simple fact is Priskin wins more in the air (roughly three out of ten I reckon) than any other striker we have while Ephraim covers overlapping runs from his full back better than Cook does. Personally I think the winger should be an attacking weapon so I’d prefer to see Cook there but I think the criticism of Ephraim is way over the top – while accepting he is too lightweight and nice to make a genuine game changing impact going forwards at the moment. The one time he did kick somebody on Saturday, he bent down to help them up. My father’s face flashed before my eyes.
Obviously you would hope Priskin is now coming to the end of his time at QPR because we need a physical forward who is going to win aerial balls six or seven times out of ten, rather than two or three. I would hope players we have signed up for next season are now given a chance in the remaining three games ahead of those who definitely won’t be here but if Priskin does play he showed with the marked difference in his pre and post Preston performances just how much better he is with confidence – so get off his back for a bit.
I didn’t think you could fault the players’ effort s on Saturday and I stayed at the end to applaud. Last week we played like this and won, on Saturday we didn’t score and played better opposition. Those were the only differences as far as I could see. The problems are clear and obvious, we have an experienced manager and transfer budget ready to address them, we are, however unpalatable this may be for season ticket holders who have paid £600 or more for the privilege, effectively now just playing out time.
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QPR: Cerny 6, Leigertwood 6, Ramage 7, Gorkss 6, Tosic 6, Ephraim 5 (Parker 84, -), Buzsaky 6, Faurlin 6, Taarabt 8, Priskin 5 (German 90, -), Simpson 6 (Cook 83, -)
Subs Not Used: Putnins, Vine, Hill, Oastler
Booked: Ramage (foul), Taarabt (diving)
Cardiff: Marshall 7, McNaughton 6, Blake 6, Gerrard 6, Kennedy 7, Whittingham 7, McPhail 6, Ledley 7, Burke 6 (Etuhu 67, 6),McCormack 6 (Chopra 63, 5), Bothroyd 6
Subs Not Used: Enckelman, Gyepes, Capaldi, Matthews, Wildig
Goals: Ledley 80 (assisted Kennedy)
QPR Star Man – Adel Taarabt 8 For all the rank immaturity he showed at the end there is no denying that he was our best player by some distance. Every attack of any threat in the whole afternoon, apart from the Ephraim chance set up by Faurlin and Simpson, came from him – he hit the post in the first half, set up Cook for our best chance of the second and was a constant menace to Cardiff throughout. The Bluebirds surrounded him with players from the start but still struggled to cope whenever he turned and ran at them. There was no moaning and groaning about his ambitious shots before we went behind, why should that suddenly start just because we conceded a goal that had nothing to do with him? His reaction was lamentable, and he deserves to be absolutely leathered for it behind closed doors, but if QPR want an entertaining, game changing player through the middle of their team after years and years of Palmer/Bean/Bircham/Johnson/Mahon/Leigertwood/Santos acting solely as destroyers then we really are going to have to start accepting that he’s not going to do something miraculous every time he gets the ball and when he tries something and fails, it’s worthy of encouragement rather than criticism.
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland) 7 Pretty good overall. Couldn’t argue with the bookings, although I would suggest he was a little quick with his whistle sometimes. Several times free kicks were awarded, and on a couple of occasions subsequently brought back for a moving ball or because they were taken from the wrong place, when the players seemed quite happy to play on with an advantage in the first place. He also stopped the game with QPR on the attack in the penalty area in the first half for a head injury that turned out to be nothing at all, in fact the Cardiff player was angry that he had to go off for treatment – although I felt there was plenty of kidology from McPhail on that occasion. Very promising performance from a young referee though, look forward to seeing him again.
Attendance: 12,832 (1613 Cardiff approx) The atmosphere inside Loftus Road was very good in the second half with all three sides of the ground signing and a few rousing choruses of ‘Come on you R’s’ in response to some hard work and effort on the pitch. Such a shame therefore that the Taarabt incident happened through a combination of frustration on our part and immaturity on his. The Cardiff fans travelled in good numbers, but were only really in decent voice (very decent voice it must be said) after they scored. The usual school yard posturing from thick oiks old enough but sadly not intelligent enough to know better occurred before and after the match on South Africa Road – massively policed at our club’s expense.
Photo: Action Images
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