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Taarabt and Lopez open QPR accounts in City win - full match report
Taarabt and Lopez open QPR accounts in City win - full match report
Sunday, 22nd Mar 2009 20:07

QPR made it back to back wins for the first time in two months with a 2-1 victory against Bristol City at Loftus Road on Saturday.

There are actually some really nice restaurants in Sheffield now if you know where to look. Places like Ivory and Silversmiths have created a strange breed of food yuppies with South Yorkshire accents who you have to put up with should you wish to go out for something to eat – they think they know a bit about food and they want everybody in the restaurant to know that. “What is a turbo?” asked one pillock glancing down the seafood menu on an adjacent table to me on Thursday night. “I’m not sure love I don’t speak French,” replied the waitress. Well we laughed. Sometimes you can over complicate things, sometimes it really is as simple as it sounds – with fish and with football.

We can talk about formations and systems and tactics all we like, and on LFW we have talked about little else for the past two months, but whoever you pick in whatever formation you cannot put a price on a good simple ball from a wide area. QPR’s winning goal against Bristol City on Saturday held real beauty in its simplicity. A nice pass from Cook, a wonderful near post cross from Damien Delaney and a simple finish from Taarabt.

Delaney turned to the F Block arms aloft as if he has been doing that all his life – he hasn’t of course, I can count on the fingers of one hand the decent crosses he has put into the box since arriving with us fourteen months ago, but perhaps he has been practising and if he has it certainly brought a glorious reward against Gary Johnson’s men. A good ball from a wide area is such a simple thing but it can be undefendable, and City had little chance of avoiding defeat from the moment the ball left Delaney’s boot eight minutes from time. If Tuesday night’s win against Swansea taught the QPR players the value of hard work then this subsequent victory should encourage all our wide players to keep working on their crosses into the box.

We actually came mighty close to that oh so rare of things on Saturday – an unchanged side. Only an injury to Fitz Hall on Tuesday prevented him from taking his place in the side and with Damion Stewart still injured that meant a spot at centre half for Matt Connolly with Damien Delaney coming in for him at left back. Connolly regularly says that he is a full back but most QPR fans would probably say his best position is centre half so this was an interesting chance to compare his performance levels. Kaspars Gorkss and Peter Ramage made up the back four in front of Radek Cerny. In midfield Taarabt and Ephraim teamed up down the left, Leigertwood and Alberti down the right and Lopez did the holding job between the midfield and defensive fours. Up front Sam Di Carmine got the nod. The return of Wayne Routledge, Lee Cook, Heidar Helguson and Rowan Vine from injury gave the bench a strong look.

Bristol City were without captain Louis Carey through suspension but did come with perennial thorn in QPR’s side Dele Adebola in attack alongside record signing Nicky Maynard.

In the opening two minutes both sides tried efforts on goal from long range. First a loose lay off from Sam Di Carmine presented City with possession on halfway and after travelling to within thirty yards of the QPR goal Nicy Maynard, confident after a fine goal against Cardiff last weekend, fired a tame effort a foot or so wide of the post with Cerny in position to cover it. From the goal kick QPR worked the ball left with first Delaney and then Ephraim and finally Taarabt who turned his man thirty yards out and then fired slightly too high and wide of the top corner.

With Jamie McCombe and our old foe Adebola in the side City were always likely to pose us difficulties from set pieces and their first corner of the game, in the eighth minute, reuired a clearance at the far post from Alberti when Cerny attempted to beat Adebola to the near post cross from Johnson and missed it completely.

Their second one, from the other flank, was not nearly as good and QPR were able to launch a swift counter attack through Taarabt. He tricked his way into the penalty area and was then booked by the referee for theatrically falling to the ground to claim a penalty under challenge from Skuse. That decision looked fair enough but then within two minutes Nicky Maynard accelerated into the box at the other end of the field and flung himself to the floor. Maynard’s fall was at least as dramatic as Taarabt’s under just as little contact and the Bristol City player even had the temerity to turn and appeal to the match officials which the QPR man did not – nevertheless Maynard was not booked by referee Grant Hegley despite his appeals being waved away. Te inconsistencies mounted still further late in the half when Adebola was booked for simulation trying to win a penalty – from my seat that one looked more of a foul than any of them.

QPR carved their opponents apart for the first time in the twentieth minute. As on Tuesday against Swansea the sheer weight of numbers QPR had breaking from midfield regularly had City looking stretched and as Taarabt broke from deep and rode teo tackles things started to open up for the Moroccan. He slipped the ball into Di Carmine in the left channel but the Italian made his intentions too obvious to Basso and the keeper saved brilliantly down to his left as the loaned Fiorentina forward attempted to curl the ball around him and into the net from fifteen yards. A good chance spurned.

The victory on Tuesday seemed to have given the QPR players renewed confidence and the football at times in this game was a joy to watch. Twenty five minutes in Taarabt collected a poor City free kick on the edge of his own box and released Ephraim who then fed Alberti in the penalty area but Basso was again equal to the shot as the Italian drove a low shot to the near post.

In the final ten minutes of the half City spurned two gilt edged chances to score. First, after good work wide left by McIndoe resulted in a dangerous ball played back into the QPR area from the byline Iavn Sproule inexplicably fired high over the bar from eight yards out when left unmarked. That was a sitter, as was Maynard’s volley into the Upper Loft from the same position three minutes later after first he and then Adebola had won headers on the edge of the penalty area.

Adebola’s simulation booking took us up to half time when we were once again treated to the dribble and shoot drills from QPR’s ‘Tiger Cubs’ club for children with Downs Syndrome. This is one of the most outstanding elements of our club’s excellent football in the community scheme and it is great to see the children having such a wonderful time out there, and getting a great reaction from the crowd of course. My girlfriend’s brother has Downs and participates in the Ipswich Town version of this scheme, it’s a tremendous thing and means so much to the children and their families. Well done Rangers, and well done to both sets of supporters for giving the kids a rousing reception as they went on a prolonged lap of the pitch. “Who’s winning?” Billy Rice asked one of them on the tannoy mic – “me” he replied. Raised a smile.

QPR made one change at half time, introducing the fit again Routledge for Alberti who had again struggled to make any real impact on the game.

The second half started in scrappy fashion but Dele Adebola got an early sight of goal when a poor back header by Delaney failed to reach Cerny – the City striker flashed an effort across the face of goal and out for a throw in. Adebola is a permanent pain in the arse for us. Every time we play him we just don’t seem to be able to cope. A few years ago when he was not getting in the Coventry team he went out on loan to Bradford City in the lower leagues, scoring on a cold night at MK Dons when I was there with a friend, and I hoped at that stage his career was on the wane. This second wind he has enjoyed in the past few years at first Coventry and now Ashton Gate should be celebrated I suppose but I cannot wait for a season when QPR don’t have to face him.

The first effort of serious note at the Loft End came ten minutes in when Taarabt robbed Orr wide on the QPR left and fed Ephraim in the penalty area. He in turn fed Lopez advancing from deep and the Spaniard curled a shot agonisingly wide of the top corner. Taarabt’s introduction to our side has not only added an extra dimension to our team, it has also brought Hogan Ephraim out of himself – the pair of them were an unmanageable handful at times on Tuesday and continued where they had left off here although occasionally in this game Taarabt tried a flick or a trick that did not work as well as it had against the Swans..

Lopez and Taarabt were back in the thick of the action within seconds – a free kick wide on the right from the former was cleared out to the latter on the edge of the box and he skied a shot over the bar from twenty yards.

QPR were forced into a second change of the match on the hour when Matt Connolly, who did not seem to be struggling prior to the change, made way for Heidar Helguson. From where I was sitting it looked as though Sousa had initially prepared Gavin Mahon to come on but Helguson eventually got the nod – an attacking move that saw Mikele Leigertwood move back to centre half alongside Gorkss. Having previously been very well off for centre backs Rangers have now lost Stewart, Hall and Connolly in the space of seven days so perhaps it’s a good job that we now have an international break.

Helguson was immediately into the action, winning a free kick thirty yards from goal when Jamie McCombe climbed all over his back. Lopez took the set piece, lifting the ball over the wall and towards the bottom corner but Basso read the intention and saved comfortably by the post.

The proved to be merely a sighter for Lopez though as he was presented with an almost identical opportunity two minutes later. Again the foul was by McCombe, comfortable up to now in the game but suddenly looking totally out of his depth with to strikers to play against, this time on Di Carmine. After wrestling the Italian to the ground McCombe heaved the ball away down the field, issued a volley of abuse to the referee and then appeared to stick a knee into Di Carmine’s shoulder as he sat up on the turf. None of this was deemed worthy of a booking by referee Hegley though. No matter, up stepped Lopez again and this time the Spaniard made no mistake – curling an unstoppable shot over the wall and into the top corner past the despairing dive of Basso. No keeper in the world would have saved it, a great way for Lopez to open his QPR account.

It could so easily have been two in the very next attack. A strange headed clearance from Delaney went all the way across the face of the QPR penalty area to Ramage who then knocked an astoundingly good cross field pass into the path of Taarabt on halfway wide left. Taarabt took Orr to the byline and beat him before cutting the ball back to Helguson on the edge of the area and his right footed volley did not miss the top corner by much while always bending away from the goal.

Sousa sent on Lee Cook for Sam Di Carmine with a quarter of an hour to go but sadly his first involvement was in a Bristol City goal as the visitors equalised with a terribly soft goal from a QPR point of view. Heidar Helguson left a lay off to Cook short wide on the City right and that enabled Orr to poke the ball through to Sproule for a clear run down the touchline. Lee Cook could and should have done better against the former Hibs man but put a powder puff attempt at a tackle in that barely halted Sproule’s progress. The winger crossed deep to the far post under little pressure with the referee waving advantage and there arriving late in the penalty area with Ramage tucked too far infield was Michael McIndoe who showed great technique in sending a crisp volley past Cerny and into the back of the net.

QPR went back into the lead with eight minutes left. With the City fans enthusiastically singing “you’re not singing any more” in the background Lee Cook nudged the ball down the line behind Orr for Delaney to run onto and when the Irish full back produced a fine low cross to the near post Taarabt was left with the simple task of thumping his first ever QPR goal past Basso from close range.

A lot of Taarabt’s flicks and tricks came to nothing and he gave the ball away more than he did against Swansea. He was nevertheless one of the most impressive players on the pitch and with QPR still struggling to put bodies in the opposition penalty area it was good to see a midfield player advanced enough to score the goal he got.

As with the first goal QPR almost got a second straight away. A free kick from wide on the left was headed out to Routledge on the edge of the box and his first time volley was spectacularly saved and caught by Basso – one for the cameras as they say.

In the final minute of four added on at the end Basso picked up a booking for dissent. Heidar Helguson showed terrific work rate to chase down some loose passes across the City backline but did appear to handle the ball as he blocked it out for a throw in. Basso expected a free kick but when Hegley only signalled a throw the Brazilian keeper lost the plot, slammed the ball into the ground and remonstrated angrily with the match official. It was an obvious booking, but very funny all the same, and his protests carried on after the final whistle the followed seconds later.

City, like Swansea, look like they may well lack sufficient poke on the home straight to make the top six. They were reasonable, but Gary Johnson admitted himself that they looked to play the long ball to Adebola too often and QPR coped reasonably well with anything they had to throw at us. Basso was certainly the busier of the two goalkeepers, although it could have been so different had Maynard and Sproule but the Reds 2-0 up before half time as they should have done. Still, I remain amazed that a team with Jamie McCombe at its heart is doing anything at all at this level – a League One defender at best.

Rangers look like a different side to the limp wristed, low confidence under committed side that laboured to a draw at Southampton just seven days ago. Taarabt’s introduction has made a hell of a difference, but the confidence given to us with a scrappy win against Swansea on Tuesday enabled us to move the performance level up a notch here. As well as Taarabt I was impressed with Jordi Lopez on Saturday. Not only because of his goal but also the way he held the midfield and team together in his holding role. Gavin Mahon used to do this of course, but Lopez is like a Gavin Mahon who can pass the ball which makes all the difference. I’m still not totally convinced by him, he is very one paced, but he was good on Saturday. Mikele Leigertwood also played much better than he did on Tuesday and that was enough for our midfield to be far stronger than the Bristol one.

And the positives just keep coming. This weekend represents the final Saturday of what I like to call the ‘moron season’ in London. For three home matches now, and the first three or four at the start of next season, there will be no Christmas shoppers or kick and clap rugby fans in town. No people who think it is a feasible and well thought through idea to bring five children under the age of ten to London on the train and tube to go shopping, no 4x4s parked across two bays in the station car park at Doncaster, no standing room only trains, no fat middle aged pillocks in green barber jackets and free RBS baseball caps who think that the Piccadilly line ticket barrier at Kings Cross station is the ideal place to stop for a rummage through a man bag or a detailed discussion about whether it really is the “purple line” they need to be on, nobody who refers to Twickenham as “Twickers” – it’s going to be bliss, especially if QPR keep punctuating Saturday’s with wins like this one.

Sadly, with an international break now upon us, we now have to wait two weeks for another fixture after seven in the last twenty eight days. It’s Crystal Palace at Loftus Road next up, usually an annual defeat but we will see. In the meantime I must say I am looking forward to ten days without having to write a match preview.

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QPR: Cerny 7, Ramage 7, Connolly 7 (Helguson 61, 6), Gorkss 7, Delaney 7, Alberti 5 (Routledge 46, 5), Leigertwood 7, Lopez 8, Ephraim 7, Taarabt 8, Di Carmine 6 (Cook 73, 5)

Subs Not Used: Mahon, Vine

Booked: Taarabt (diving)

Goals: Lopez 65 (unassisted), Taarabt 81 (assisted Delaney)

Bristol City: Basso 7, Orr 6, McAllister 6, Fontaine 6, McCombe 4, McIndoe 7, Skuse 6, Sproule 7 (Styvar 86, -), Johnson 6 (Elliott 86, -), Adebola 7, Maynard 6

Subs Not Used: Henderson, James Wilson, John

Booked: Adebola (diving), Basso (dissent)

Goals: McIndoe 77 (assisted Sproule)

QPR Star Man – Jordi Lopez 8 Taarabt was very good as well but quite a few of the things he tried didn’t quite come off. This was Lopez’s best game for the club so far I thought, an impressive passing and defensive game, and a great goal into the bargain. A toss up between the two for the top man I think.

Referee: Grant Hegley (Hertfordshire) 5 Very inconsistent with the diving bookings – Maynard’s was the biggest dive of the lot and didn’t receive any punishment. Also far too lenient with McCombe who was basically give free reign to kick his way through the QPR forward line and abuse the match officials with no comeback.

Attendance: 14,059 (1700 Bristol City approx) Reasonable atmosphere around HQ – the disappearance of our play off chances seems to have relaxed expectations somewhat and there was a lot less moaning and groaning at this game. Bristol City brought a fair few and made a decent noise after their goal but looked a bit daft setting the second QPR goal to a chorus of “you’re not singing any more”. I felt for them a little bit, I hate it when that happens to us.

Photo: Action Images

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