From hero to villain, Cisse’s mad moment costs QPR – full match report
Sunday, 5th Feb 2012 20:40 by Clive Whittingham
Djibril Cisse’s first half red card proved crucial as QPR blew a one goal lead to lose 2-1 against Wolves at Loftus Road on Saturday.
It was John Cleese who said: “What was that, sir? That was your life. Can I get another one? No, sorry.”
Life and football can mirror each other at times. To make a success of either takes days, weeks, months and years of hard work, graft, sweat and tears - and that’s only for the little successes. Failures, big and small, can be achieved with a minimum of effort and a modicum of carelessness. Finding a way to fail in life, and lose football matches, is so much easier the finding a way to succeed and win.
For Queens Park Rangers to be a better team than Wolverhampton Wanderers on paper, for them to be a better team than Wolves on grass, for them to dominate Wolves and take a deserved lead against them, for them to work into a position where a six point gap could be opened up between the teams took months of effort from scores of people and no small amount of money either. For them to toss it all aside and lose a game with them anyway took one half-second of madness from one Frenchman.
In football and life you rarely get what you deserve. Djibril Cisse deserved his red card against Wolves on Saturday but QPR, and Adel Taarabt in particular, didn’t deserve the defeat it caused. In football and in life nobody cares whether you got what you deserved or not. QPR now have a longer list of excuses and mitigating circumstances than they do draws and wins this season. Teams with large collections of complaints come May rarely have a healthy amount of points to go with them.
QPR had hoped that Djibril Cisse would be the man to fire them to Premiership safety and the initial signs have been very positive. After a powerful debut at Aston Villa where he scored a fine first goal for the club he started up front here alongside another debutant Bobby Zamora and the pair were combining well before the Frenchman’s brain explosion. They linked twice in the opening three minutes – first Cisse brought down a ball in the penalty area and hit a weak shot at Wolves keeper Wayne Hennessey, then Zamora collected a pass from his new team mate on the edge of the area and went in search of the far corner with a curling shot that Hennessey did well to turn aside.
But talented players often only end up at QPR because of a flaw in their personality and once Cisse had revealed his, grasping Roger Johnson by the throat and deservedly seeing red as a result, Rangers were completely incapable of seeing this job through with ten men. Despite the best efforts of Adel Taarabt, who returned from the African Nations Cup and immediately went back into the team on the left wing with Shaun Wright-Phillips finally moving to the right instead of Jamie Mackie, the R’s simply couldn’t hold possession adequately and Wolves equalised within a minute of the second half kicking off when Joey Barton, partnered by Shaun Derry in the centre once more, sloppily handed the ball to them.
A run of eight consecutive winnable Premiership games is now down to four, with only one maximum point haul in the bag. Cisse’s inevitable three game ban couldn’t have come at a worse time and ahead of matches with Blackburn, Fulham and Everton Mark Hughes is also likely to be without right full back Luke Young who started here alongside Anton Ferdinand, Nedum Onuoha and Taye Taiwo but left midway through the second half with a worrying hamstring injury. Hughes had his first choice back four together in front of Paddy Kenny for just over a game and a half.
At the start of the day all the pressure had been on his opposite number Mick McCarthy. His Wolves team came into this match with just two wins from their last 21 outings since QPR derailed an impressive start to the season with a 3-0 win at Molineux in September. They hadn’t won at all in their last nine and were without an away win since the opening day of the season when they’d beaten everybody’s favourite bundle of nonsense Blackburn Rovers – their 7-1 setback at Arsenal earlier in the day had lifted spirits around the Bush before this match kicked off.
An insipid midweek display against a Liverpool side that had previously been vulnerable to poor results and performances in games against the league’s lesser lights had drawn chairman Steve Morgan down to the dressing room and McCarthy was apparently a man on borrowed time. He responded with a tremendously negative team selection for a trip to a team with just home league wins to its name and was rewarded with a dreadful opening half hour in which his team was fortunate to only go a goal behind. An injury to one of five midfielders, Arsenal loanee Emmanuel Frimpong, actually improved them in the short term as it necessitated the introduction of a much needed second striker and when Cisse’s sending off allowed Kevin Doyle to join the fray as well alongside Steven Fletcher and Sylvain Ebanks-Blake they never looked book. Ultimately they were good value for all three points.
The early chances for Cisse and Zamora set the pace and tone of QPR’s superb start to the game. They’d come in the first three minutes of the game and just two minutes later Taarabt had wandered across to the right wing, collected possession, run across the face of the penalty area and then, after executing a neat one-two with Zamora, curled an imaginative shot wide of the top corner.
Wolves mustered a response in the twelfth minute and although Steven Fletcher’s shot from range gave warning that he would have to be watched closely the fact that he’d won the initial flick on, chased it down and retrieved it himself by the corner flag, and then worked his way back in field with no help from anybody else also laid bare their problem. A 4-5-1 formation set up to contain QPR wasn’t doing that, or providing adequate support for its lone striker. It would have been a brave or foolish man to accept a price on a Wolves win at this stage. Or somebody who’s watched QPR for a while and is familiar with their penchant for self destruction.
On the quarter hour the inevitable QPR goal arrived. Taarabt began the move with a crisp, incisive ball through the heart of the Wolves midfield to Cisse. He in turn fed Shaun Wright-Phillips in the area who teed up Zamora for a powerful volleyed finish that went under Hennessey’s body and into the net. Zamora’s first goal for the club just over 15 minutes into his first QPR appearance, the first time he’s ever scored on a Premiership debut.
Then, the first of two moments that changed the game in Wolves favour. Long term it will be a bitter blow to their hopes of survival if Emmanuel Frimpong is injured for the run in because it will return the far less talented and effective Karl Henry to the heart of their midfield. But in the short term it actually worked well in their favour as McCarthy threw on striker Sylvain Ebanks-Blake to provide much needed support to Fletcher. Within 60 seconds the burly front man got on the end of a decent cross from Matt Jarvis but decided to try and nod it back across goal rather than trying to beat Kenny himself – given Kenny’s current shots to goal ratio he’d definitely have been better served showing some selfishness.
Four minutes later, at the midway point of the half, Anton Ferdinand foolishly pushed Roger Johnson as a Wolves free kick dropped on the edge of the area and Fletcher whipped the resulting set piece over the wall and fractionally wide of the post.
Wolves looked like they were set to lose a second player when Richard Stearman hit the deck under what seemed to be meagre contact from Shaun Derry by the corner flag. His limp and then absolute failure to deal with the pace of Cisse when he ran at him moments later proved he was indeed injured. Cisse pealed him off with something to spare and delivered a low cross which Sebastien Bassong, almost a QPR player back in August but now making a debut for Wolves, fell over on the edge of his own six yard box and was fortunate to see the ball cleared away by Johnson.
And then the prosecuting barrister in the test case to determine whether most footballers are actually thick as pig shit got to his feet. Roger Johnson, probably scared of Cisse’s pace and the influence he was having on the game, launched into a wild tackle on the French striker as he threatened to turn and set off towards the Wolves goal once more. A poor challenge and definite yellow card from a defender who has been sent off at Loftus Road previously in his Cardiff days for a similar challenge in a similar area of the pitch.
Referee Mark Clattenburg was quickly on the scene to meter out the appropriate punishment, but that wasn’t good enough for Cisse who got immediately to his feet, walked over to Johnson and took the Wolves man by the throat. Club captain Joey Barton was nearby and looked horrified - he knew what was coming. Clattenburg had no choice in the matter at all and Cisse, after prolonged and exaggerated protestations, eventually had to walk.
He later took to Twitter to explain that he has previously had his leg badly broken twice which makes him rather more sensitive to attempts to inflict injury on him, and that’s certainly what Johnson was looking to do here – Ron Atkinson may have called his tackle a “reducer”.
But not for the first time this season QPR are full of excuses and naivety when calm heads and street smarts are required. Against Manchester City Jamie Mackie stayed on his feet when anybody else in the league would have crashed to earth and won a penalty kick – we lost 3-2. Against Norwich Joey Barton allowed himself to be corralled into a reaction by Bradley Johnson and was sent off with Rangers leading 1-0 – we lost 2-1. Two points were surrendered to Aston Villa after Armand Traore’s meagre back post pull back on Gabriel Agbonlahor – never a penalty, but Traore gave the Villa man the chance to do that to him and referee Michael Oliver a chance to penalise him for it. Likewise Clint Hill in the FA Cup against Chelsea. Wise. The. Fuck. Up.
But it turns out Wolves aren’t exactly packed with Mastermind contestants either. Mark Clattenburg, who’d refereed faultlessly to this point and actually looked pretty disappointed to have to change the direction of the game in the way he did, was given every opportunity to even the body count in the eight minutes that remained before half time. First Bassong, giving every indication that QPR have dodged a bullet by not signing him, miscontrolled a simple ball and then hacked into Shaun Wright-Phillips trying to retrieve the situation – a yellow card was the least he deserved.
Then Fletcher was booked for fouling the same player and, unbelievably, within a minute Jamie O’Hara had lunged in over the ball on Joey Barton. Clattenburg could have sent him off for that but settled for a lengthy lecture. Mick McCarthy must have been tearing out what’s left of his hair. Here they were in a terrific position against ten men in a relegation six pointer and they were doing everything possible to make it ten a side. Clearly the straight talking Wolves boss had words with his collection of morons at half time because they barely committed another foul in the game.
Three minutes were added to the end of the first half in which Jarvis inspired a wonderfully slick passing move through the left channel which featured two quick-fire one-twos and ended with him shooting over the bar from the corner of the penalty box.
A quick leaf through the manual on how to play for an hour with ten men reveals that it’s important to reach half time with any advantage you hold on the scoreboard still intact. If achieved then the theme of the half time discussion must be ‘ball retention’.
Perhaps Joey Barton was busy with his laptop when Mark Hughes took to his feet. Within 30 seconds of the restart he’d attempted a risky forward pass rather than the ball retaining simple knock to his right and handed Wolves their first possession of the half. Three passes later Matt Jarvis had turned inside Luke Young and sought out the far bottom corner with a low shot. In a rare moment of positivity Mick McCarthy had sent on Kevin Doyle for Richard Stearman and Wolves never really looked back.
There then followed 20 minutes of siege on the QPR penalty box. A superb cross from Jarvis was headed behind by Ferdinand and Fletcher headed off the face of the cross bar when the resulting corner was delivered, cleared and returned by Foley. Then more quality service from Jarvis was flicked into the path of Fletcher at the back post by Ebanks-Blake and Ferdinand was forced into a goal line clearance as the ball bobbled past Paddy Kenny. And Doyle went close twice as well; first turning inside and testing Kenny with a shot that he palmed aside, and then flicking an inswinging Ebanks-Blake cross a yard or so wide of the far post.
Doyle hasn’t been able to get a start in the Wolves team recently despite their troubles, but he must be pushing for one after his second half performance here. He won the game for the visitors with 20 minutes left to play. O’Hara’s cross was flicked into his path by Ebanks-Blake and after twisting and turning some space in front of Taiwo he slipped a low finish into the net that Paddy Kenny perhaps should have done better with.
Mark Hughes sought to turn back the tide by sending on Armand Traore in an unorthodox central midfield position instead of Shaun Derry who looks more out of his depth with each passing game at the higher level. Luke Young’s hamstring injury saw Fitz Hall introduced to the back four with Onuoha moving to right back. Both these changes improved matters – Traore was fresher and more mobile in the middle of the park, and Hall played better at centre half than I’ve seen him manage for some time.
But it was Adel Taarabt who took it upon himself more than anybody else to pick the game up by its ankles and shake it until change started to fall out. He served notice of his intentions with a long range free kick that beat Hennessey but dipped wide of the post after a foul on Wright-Phillips by Bassong on the hour mark.
When Zamora was replaced by Hulse with little more than 15 minutes remaining it really was all on Taarabt and the Moroccan responded superbly. After Barton had conceded possession in his own half again allowing Jarvis to test Kenny at his near post Taarabt advanced forward and forced Hennessey into a nervy save. Two minutes later a trademark shot from long range failed to dip as the keep might have expected and looked destined for the top corner before Hennessey got the merest finger tips to the ball and diverted it behind. And with a minute to go he tried to deceive Hennessey from range with a chipped effort on the outside of his right foot but couldn’t bring the ball down another yard to equalise.
Wolves didn’t really know what to do with him, and he showed a previously absent level of fitness and discipline to prove that he is capable of slotting into Mark Hughes’ preferred 4-4-2 formation in a wide role if he puts his mind to it. The visitors became nervous and chances started to open up for others. Traore advanced into space and stung Hennessey’s hands with a powerful low drive, Wright-Phillips forced a similar block after excellent work from Barton to win the ball back in the Wolves danger zone, and Barton went close himself when a cross from Taiwo was cleared out to him on the edge of the area and he lit rip with a low shot that flashed past the post.
Barton Tweeted afterwards that QPR would have won by a cricket score had they kept 11 men on the field and for once I suspect he’s right. Could have, would have, should have – it’s becoming the story of the season. QPR have now lost 15 points from winning positions this term and have the worst second half record of any team in the division.
They may have escaped with a point despite Cisse’s indiscretion had Anton Ferdinand, up for a corner, scored when he should have done in four minutes of time added on at the end of the game after more magical wing play and an intelligent cross into the area from Taarabt. He scuffed his shot wide and the final whistle followed a short time later.
I find Mick McCarthy a hard man to dislike. Post match he wore the expression of a man who knew he’d got away with one, and admitted as much in interview. Had Cisse stayed on Wolves would have lost, McCarthy probably would have lost his job, and QPR would be six points clear of the relegation zone. But then if my aunty had bollocks she’d be my uncle. There are no sub notes to the league table outlining points attained for moral victories, or that would have been attained had circumstances been slightly different.
If we are going to stay up, we’re going to do it the hard way and make things as difficult as we can at every possible step of the way. ‘Twas ever thus.
QPR: Kenny 6, Young 7 (Hall 65, 7), Onuoha 6, Ferdinand 6, Taiwo 6, Taarabt 8, Derry 5 (Traore 64, 6), Barton 6, Wright-Phillips 6, Cisse 6, Zamora 7 (Hulse 74, 5)
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Hill, Mackie, Smith
Sent Off: Cisse 34 (violent conduct)
Goals: Zamora 16 (assisted Wright-Phillips)
Wolves: Hennessey 7, Stearman 5 (Doyle 46, 7), Johnson 6, Bassong 5, Ward 6, Foley 6, Frimpong 6 (Ebanks-Blake 24, 7), Edwards 6, O'Hara 6 (Milijas 87, -), Jarvis 8, Fletcher 7
Subs Not Used: De Vries, Elokobi, Hunt, Berra
Booked: Johnson (foul), Fletcher (foul), Bassong (foul)
Goals: Jarvis 46 (assisted Doyle), Doyle 71 (assisted O’Hara/Ebanks-Blake)
QPR Star Man – Adel Taarabt 8 Unfortunate to end up on the losing side, and he could hardly have done any more to try and prevent it happening. Married the usual array of skills and inventive play with a higher level of fitness and work rate than we’ve seen this season, and a new found positional sense and discipline when not in possession that suggests he may be able to play somewhere other than up front in a 4-4-2 formation.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear) 8 Absolutely no choice with the red card which was entirely Cisse’s fault. I felt he could have sent Jamie O’Hara off on half time for a bad tackle on Barton but he settled for a lecture and other than that refereed the game calmly, competently and without fuss.
Attendance: 17, 351 (1,800 Wolves approx) A lively first half atmosphere gave way to quiet depression in the second half. I suspect most in the capacity crowd supporting QPR felt the same as I did – gutted that we’d blown our own chance of winning and now just waiting for the inevitable Wolves goals to go in. Not sure I understand people applauding Cisse as he went off having cost us the game.
Pictures – Action Images
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