Sunderland bring QPR right back to reality – full match report
Monday, 26th Mar 2012 00:26 by Clive Whittingham
The tear in the fabric of reality through which QPR squeezed three goals in 15 memorable minutes against Liverpool on Wednesday was emphatically closed at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light on Saturday.
If you thought that miraculous comeback and valuable three points was to be a turning point in QPR’s season you were wrong. If you wondered whether this team of players would take confidence and momentum from beating one of the league’s leading lights in such a manner then wonder no more – they haven’t. If you hoped that the defeat of Kenny Dalglish’s men would be a springboard to survival then more fool you. Hope is the first step on the road to crushing disappointment and Queens Park Rangers are treading that well worn path again today.
Bizarrely, beating Liverpool in the manner they did actually seems to have made Rangers worse. This was an insipid, pathetic performance against opposition with priorities elsewhere and fixtures mounting up. Despite have an eye on Tuesday night’s FA Cup quarter final replay with Everton Sunderland were well drilled in the basics and, as QPR couldn’t even do those, that was quite enough to secure a comfortable victory in this game.
Rangers were found wanting for shape, leadership, fight, commitment and work rate. They struggled to complete simple passes, execute set piece routines, defend rudimentary opposition attacks, tackle opponents legally or communicate with each other. Sunderland looked like they might score every time they crossed the halfway line, QPR didn’t look like they’d score if they stayed in the north east all weekend and only did manage a consolation goal in the end from a long range free kick out of the blue when the game was already lost. It was far more than they deserved for a truly dreadful performance that was more befitting a team with its mission for the season already accomplished or already out of reach and minds already on summer holidays.
It was a performance that rugby league folk would have termed a ‘coach killer’ and Mark Hughes cut an exasperated figure throughout. He was rewarded on Wednesday for not only dropping Shaun Wright-Phillips from the side, but also hooking captain Joey Barton in the second half as his season crashed down around his ears. Here he left Barton out from the start and the outspoken midfielder spent the game bantering with Sunderland fans keen to discuss his Newcastle history and cracking jokes in the dugout. Having sent exactly the right message to the players that you get picked on form and not name, Hughes could then only stand by and watch his starting 11 play as if they’d never met. The freedom, relaxed football and high tempo that immediately followed Barton’s departure against Liverpool was sadly absent here.
Hughes, never beaten by Sunderland in his managerial career, started the last minute Liverpool hero Jamie Mackie on one side of his midfield with Adel Taarabt on the other. Shaun Derry and Samba Diakite started in midfield with Bobby Zamora up front alongside Djibril Cisse. The Frenchman was one of three former Sunderland players in the QPR line up, along with centre back pairing Nedum Onuoha and Anton Ferdinand, and all three were given a rousing reception from the home crowd prior to kick off. Taye Taiwo and Luke Young were the full backs ahead of Paddy Kenny in goal.
Sunderland had striker Stephane Sessegnon, so impressive in a 3-2 win at Loftus Road earlier this season, back from suspension and John O’Shea passed a late fitness test and took his place in the defence. Midfield enforcer Lee Cattermole served the final match of his four game ban for a post-final-whistle sending off in the North East derby with Newcastle recently.
There was a wistful air to the Stadium of Light as the game got underway, with hazy March sunshine seeping through a faint mist that made the match seem almost dream-like to watch from afar. Sunderland were well drilled but unimaginative, QPR were sloppy and incompetent, and the game started at a pace that suggested neither side was actually that bothered about it. It took eight minutes for a meaningful attack but Rangers were able to deal with two quick fire corners before Paddy Kenny was forced, possibly through boredom, to journey off into the far flung open spaces of the right back slot and clear a loose ball away into touch.
Rangers’ first visit to the far end of the ground came courtesy of some hard running from Jamie Mackie who was terribly unfortunate not to be awarded a free kick on the edge of the Sunderland area for what appeared to be a clear foul. Referee Mike Jones ignored his pleas but was more on the ball three seconds later when Samba Diakite lunged in on Jack Colback.
It annoys me to see players complain about early yellow cards on the basis that it is their first foul of the match because it’s totally irrelevant whether it’s the first or twenty first, similarly referees who fail to show cards for bad early challenges simply because they’re committed after seven minutes and not 77 are a source of irritation. But here I thought Diakite was harshly done to. This was a run-of-the-mill foul; a slightly mistimed tackle early in the game with no malice or harm done. Award the free kick, let Sunderland get on with the game and keep the cards in your pocket.
By half time there had been five yellow cards in a match where I can scarcely remember a bad foul being committed. Jones is a referee without the confidence in his own man management ability to control a game without the use of a notebook and card. Compare his performance here to the two Howard Webb has treated us to at Loftus Road this season and the difference is stark. Diakite was walking on egg shells from that point on, and wasn’t nearly as effective as he had been on Wednesday night as a result. Mark Hughes took him off him early in the second half as a sending off avoidance technique which on this occasion said more about the official than the player.
Colback, unmissable with his shock of ginger hair and ghostly white skin, showed no ill-effects from the challenge over the next five minutes as he twice went close to opening the scoring. First he arrived late in the penalty area to scuff a presentable shot on goal after good work down the left by Sessegnon. The second chance came from the left flank again with Bendtner this time outjumping Young to head down into the area where Colback arrived and drilled a half volley off the outside of Paddy Kenny’s post and behind. Clearly Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill believed QPR could be got at down Luke Young’s side of the field and the early action backed his judgement.
At the other end Jamie Mackie saw a near post header deflected over but referee Jones gave a goal kick, and then Young was booked for tripping McClean when another referee on another day may have settled for a word on the run.
Within a minute Zamora, lacklustre throughout but suddenly looking sprightly at this point, had found Cisse with a fine through ball but the French forward couldn’t work enough space for a shot and the ball made its way through to Mignolet in the home goal after deflecting off John O’Shea. The incident didn’t do O’Shea much good in the long term though, with the injury he was carrying pre-match flaring up and forcing him off the field to be replaced by Frazier Campbell – a striker for a centre back suggesting that O’Neill had seen quite enough of QPR to suggest they were going to pose little threat to his side.
The amateurish approach of the visitors to this game was then inadvertently highlighted by goalkeeper Paddy Kenny who shanked a goal kick horribly into touch and then collapsed to the ground demanding treatment for his wounded pride; as ever he saw the funny side, bantering with the Sunderland fans and celebrating his next successful attempt at a place kick by punching the air.
Zamora shot over from the edge of the area after Taiwo had initially released Taarabt down the left flank but the former Fulham man was then involved in a rather more unsavoury incident on the half hour. After Taarabt had found only the Sunderland wall with a presentable free kick following a foul on Jamie Mackie Rangers turned to the match officials with another appeal when Zamora theatrically, and to be honest somewhat embarrassingly, collapse to the ground in the penalty area. Referee Jones rightly paid no attention to the appeals and play continued. Well, most of the players continued I should say.
Sotirios Kyrgiakos, the giant centre half who looks fresh off the plane from the 2012 Greek stereotype conference in Athens, took it upon himself to seek vigilante justice over Zamora’s play acting, squaring up to the striker in the penalty area and executing one of those ludicrous half-head butts that the modern day footballer is so fond of. Zamora clutched his face, the play was stopped and both players were yellow carded. Firstly I’d question why, with the ball in play and the game continuing, Kyrgiakos walking across to Zamora and starting a fight with him isn’t a foul and a penalty. Secondly it would be remiss not to point out that Joey Barton did exactly the same as the Greek defender in our home game with Norwich earlier this season and was sent off. That Jones only issued two yellow cards here hints to me that he’d seen little of the incident and in fact didn’t have the first idea what had gone on. A cop out. A guess.
In the final ten minutes before half time Sunderland moved through a couple of gears and took the lead. There was nothing particularly special about them, with only Sessegnon standing out as a master of any kind of craft, but they did the basics very well and played at an increasingly high tempo as the half drew to a close. Basics like crossing a ball beyond the first defender at the near post for example: Bendtner was unfortunate not to be awarded a corner after attacking a near post ball and almost forcing it home, then Taiwo was forced into an excellent piece of defence at the far post by a low ball through the six yard box, and finally the inevitable opening goal arrived.
James McClean, growing in influence and confidence since extracting a yellow card from Luke Young, was given time and space to pick a cross by the QPR right full back and Bendtner was similarly unattended by Taiwo and Anton Ferdinand as he powerfully headed home from ten yards out. Fine cross, well placed header, abject defending all round.
Rangers almost responded immediately through a combination that had worked well for them during the week – Taiwo crossing for Cisse to head towards goal – but Rangers’ tattooed French forward saw his effort blocked behind for a corner. Time still for another yellow card, Wayne Bridge got it for fouling Luke Young, and then they mooched off for the half time oranges.
Mr Jones’ propensity for booking players as a first recourse for any slight misdemeanour forced Mark Hughes to replace Diakite with Akos Buzsaky ten minutes into the second half by which time Adel Taarabt had drilled a free kick into the wall and David Vaughan had hammered a long range shot over the bar. Diakite should have been taken off early on his debut against Fulham but was left out there long enough to receive a red card for a one man human wrecking-ball operation and although he was far more reserved here Rangers were working with a much stricter referee so the decision was the correct one. The problem was, while all the focus and concern had been on Diakite’s discipline one of the other mentalists in the visiting team’s line up was preparing to unleash his own brand of rank stupidity on affairs.
Immediately after the Diakite substitution a foul on Frazier Campbell just outside the penalty area gave Craig Gardner the chance to crack a pearler against the underside of Paddy Kenny’s bad, down on the right side of the line and away. It was an astonishing strike that snapped the crowd, and the players, out of their slumber just long enough for Djibril Cisse to stake a claim for the Moron of the Season award. With play suddenly broken and frantic he overran possession and then launched into a ludicrous, air born, two footed attempt to retrieve the situation as Frazier Campbell stole the ball from him. It was a red card all day long, regardless of who the referee was, and Jones rightly had no hesitation.
Just when you think you cannot hate the modern day footballer any more one of them does something like this. Here we have a player far more talented in his position than anybody we’ve had at our club in 15 years; somebody who turns our team from a limp wristed no hoper into a genuine threat at the highest level. And yet by the time we play at West Bromwich Albion next month he will have been suspended for seven of the 12 games Rangers have played since they spent in the region of £4m to bring him here. When he’s played for QPR Cisse has been superb, scoring three times in five starts, but he has now been sent off twice in those five appearances and on both occasions it was pure, rank stupidity that caused it.
Footballers like big money, fast cars, thick women and excuses. Lots and lots and lots of fucking excuses. Against Wolves, when Cisse was dismissed for grasping Roger Johnson by the throat and a 1-0 lead and dominant position swiftly turned into a 2-1 defeat against a near rival, he blamed his own history of bad injuries and fury over Johnson’s tackle for the reaction. Here he must accept something that footballers don’t like – responsibility. Cisse must carry with him the knowledge that one of the few shreds of hope we had left this season probably walked down the tunnel with him after this moment of complete madness. Idiot. Total and utter, 64 carat, idiot.
Mark Hughes was honest enough to admit afterwards that QPR probably would have lost the game anyway, such was their performance level, but despite having the chance to practice playing with ten men on five previous occasions this season they certainly never looked like taking anything other than a heavy beating once Cisse had gone off. Hughes sent on Shaun Wright-Phillips, terminally out of form but a willing runner, instead of Adel Taarabt to little effect.
Three minutes before the hour and four after the Cisse red card Sessegnon turned a nervous and tentative looking Nedum Onuoha and fired over. Five minutes later Luke Young made an absolute pig’s ear of a low cross to the back post and was fortunate McClean gave him the time to recover and block his goal bound shot away for a corner. This was now a game heading in only one direction.
Sure enough, with 20 minutes still to play, the match was ended as a contest (if it could ever have been counted as such in the first place) with a second goal that the QPR back four should be thoroughly ashamed of their part in. First Taiwo gave the ball away in his own half, then Onuoha totally misjudged the bounce of the ball and allowed it to climb over him and into the path of James McClean, and then Paddy Kenny got his positioning completely wrong and dived far too early in the wrong direction which allowed a second, deflected, effort from the Irishman to bobble apologetically over the line.
QPR supporters are not forced to follow their team up and down the country at great expense; it’s a choice they make in the full knowledge that their team is poor and highly likely to lose the game. They are, however, in my opinion entitled to expect better than complete, all encompassing incompetence like this from players on vast salaries who have played at the highest level for years. I’d have shaken my head and looked at my feet if I’d seen defending like this on a park pitch.
But, as General Custer once found, just when you believe things can’t get any worse another load of Indians turn up. Five minutes after the calamitous second goal Rangers conspired to create an equally shambolic third for their hosts. The R’s had struggled to complete a simple pass all afternoon, or even show the inclination that they wanted to attempt one, but suddenly with 15 minutes to go they decided that they wanted to start emulating the Brazilian World Cup team of 1982 in their own bastard penalty area.
First Anton Ferdinand nudged in front of Sessegnon as he ran towards goal only to play the ball perfectly into the path of Frazier Campbell in the six yard box and only the total element of surprise gave Kenny a chance to save at the bemused striker’s feet. Then, having spent almost the entire season hopefully punting the ball down the field, the Irish goalkeeper decided that now was the time for a short throw out which gave first Luke Young and then Nedum Onuoha the chance to create chaos in the right back slot which James McClean took advantage of by winning back possession and feeding David Vaughan who crossed low for Sessegnon to finish easily at the back post. I’m trying to verbalise my internal scream for you here but failing. There are no words.
Apparently tired of setting up goals for the opposition Rangers did then surprisingly manage one of their own when Taye Taiwo curled a superb free kick into the top corner of the net after a foul on Bobby Zamora. Later the Nigerian sent a brilliant low cross right through the goal mouth but there was nobody on hand to convert it into a second goal. His attacking play was worthy of some credit, one of the few QPR players to deserve any, but defensively he was found wanting on several occasions.
Hughes sent on Jay Bothroyd for Zamora for want of something better to do while Sunderland withdrew Bendtner and sent on Ahmed Elmohamady. The changes, and the final ten minutes of the game, were irrelevant though and the final score a more than fair reflection on proceedings.
Mark Hughes doesn’t know his best team, or even the formation he’d like to pick it in. He knows Djibril Cisse should be in it but that particular loose cannon won’t be able to roll around the deck for another four matches now in which I’m sure we’ll try four different starting elevens in four different formations with four different mindsets. In defence of Hughes, it’s hard to legislate for the behaviour, levels of performance and work rate of this squad of players which fluctuates dramatically from day to day.
Post Bolton Hughes, with eyes firmly fixed on the match officials that afternoon, said all his side wanted was a fair crack of the whip. Well, they had that here and succeeded only in taking their own eye out with it. Exasperating.
Sunderland: Mignolet 6, O'Shea 6 (Campbell 27, 6), Kyrgiakos 6, Turner 6, Bridge 6 (Meyler 70, 6), Gardner 7, Vaughan 7, Colback 7, McClean 8, Bendtner 7 (Elmohamady 82, -), Sessegnon 8
Subs Not Used: Gordon, Wickham, Kilgallon, Ji
Booked: Kyrgiakos (unsporting conduct), Bridge (foul)
Goals: Bendtner 41 (assisted McClean), McClean 70 (unassisted), Sessegnon 76 (assisted Vaughan)
QPR: Kenny 6, Young 5, Onuoha 4, Ferdinand 5, Taiwo 6, Taarabt 6 (Wright-Phillips 60, 5), Derry 6, Diakite 6 (Buzsaky 52, 5), Mackie 6, Zamora 5 (Bothroyd 82, -), Cisse 5
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Hill, Gabbidon, Barton
Sent Off: Cisse 55 (serious foul play)
Booked: Diakite (foul), Young (foul), Zamora (unsporting conduct)
Goals: Taiwo 79 (free kick, won Zamora)
QPR Star Man – N/A
Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire) 5 Set the tone for his refereeing performance by getting the yellow card out very early for fouls he could easily have punished with just a free kick. He needs to either trust his man management skills, or learn some if he doesn’t have any, rather than trying to clamp down on a game and suffocating it in yellow cards. We finished this match with five yellow cards and a red and really there was only one bad tackle in the game. Credit to him for a no-nonsense, swift and absolutely correct decision on the red card but I’d question the decision he reached and the cards he handed out over the Zamora and Kyrgiakos incident.
Attendance: 37, 128 (1,000 QPR approx) I was really impressed with the home support at this game. Firstly, their reaction to all three former Sunderland players in the QPR team was absolutely first class and in the case of Onuoha and Ferdinand far beyond what their contributions to the Sunderland cause in recent years probably warranted. Secondly, during the game there was constant noise coming from either side of the away end which is really rare from home fans these days, even though almost every one of the songs and chants was completely undecipherable. The QPR fans were fairly quiet, but given the pathetic performance on the field that is totally understandable. Every single person who completed a near 600 mile round trip, with problems all morning on the trains north, deserved, at the very least, a far more committed and wholehearted display on the field than they actually received. Well done to everybody who travelled.
Pictures – Ac tion Images
Photo: Action Images
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“Well, I can tell u my son was stood nearer the back of the Holker Street end and although he couldn't see who was responsible, he was disgusted and was very clear in telling me that the 'N' word was used by someone stood directly behind the goal nearer the front. I'm sick of hearing this, no one but the player being abused heard anything so maybe he was mistaken crap. This shite still exists despite everything that the authorities try to do because unfortunately there are still racists in every, city, town, village and hamlet in this country. [SwearFilter] scum of the earth.”
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