QPR latest to curse Old Trafford refereeing after inevitable defeat – full match report
Tuesday, 10th Apr 2012 00:14 by Clive Whittingham
QPR lost 2-0 to Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, but remain outside the bottom three despite the best efforts of Bolton based referee Lee Mason.
The outcome, and the manner in which it came about, was as inevitable as the Manchester rain but that didn’t make either any easier to bear.
A standing ovation from an excellent travelling support for a brave resistance by ten-man Queens Park Rangers, beaten by a combination of a fine United team playing in second gear and a dreadful set of officials who turned in a laughable performance, was always a likely ending to this first trip to Old Trafford for a league game since 1995.
In fact with the other four teams competing with Rangers for the right to stay in the Premier League posting universally lousy results the previous day there was a suggestion that Mark Hughes may have settled for a 2-0 defeat prior to kick off and certainly his team selection hinted at a focus on two more winnable fixtures still to come this week.
But the whole thing left a bitter taste in the mouth. QPR are extremely well versed in the hold Manchester United seem to have over referees in this country: in 1996 Eric Cantona equalised at Loftus Road during the second reading of the classified football results and the final whistle was then blown immediately after the ball hit the net, the season before at Old Trafford Clive Wilson had been sent off with the time still in single figures and Kevin Gallen had what would have been his first ever goal for the club incorrectly ruled out for offside, the season before that Rangers dared to take the lead on this ground so Cantona was again permitted to equalise despite a blatant foul on Darren Peacock in the build up and so it goes on and on and on and on and on and on for QPR and every other club that plays Alex Ferguson’s team. Last week it was Fulham, conned out of a draw by a disgraceful decision not to award a last minute penalty kick, and this week it’s us.
Lee Mason was our referee on Sunday, miserably failing throughout to uphold the one basic of officiating in any sport – remain fair and impartial. Mason was neither.
Now that’s quite an allegation to make so let me pick out two incidents you may have missed during this encounter to back myself up. Take, for instance, the irrelevant and non consequential throw in awarded to Manchester United in the sixty fifth minute. A block tackle, a loose ball, a 50/50 throw in decision up in the air. The linesman, Ceri Richards, who’d already erred horrendously when United took the lead, stared blankly at a dreadfully positioned referee without a clue between them of what should happen next. There they stood, staring at each other, for five seconds or more. Faced with a situation where they genuinely had no idea what to do they awarded the throw to United. And that was the default setting for the afternoon: if in doubt give it to Manchester United.
This was the second occasion this little guessing game had gone like this. Earlier in the day Adel Taarabt swung over a free kick that deflected away from Clint Hill at the back post and out for a corner on the far side. Except Mason, incorrectly positioned again, hadn’t seen the flick and apparently neither had Richards. So they stood and looked at each other and did nothing again, and then when it was clear neither knew what had happened they awarded a goal kick to Manchester United. If in doubt, award the decision to Manchester United.
Incidentally Lee Mason is from Bolton, lives in Bolton, is chairman of the Bolton Referee’s Association, has a younger brother who used to play for Bolton and has been spotted by Bolton fans going to support Bolton Wanderers when he’s not refereeing. Bolton, you may recall, are one place and one point above Queens Park Rangers with just six games left to play this evening.
I mention this simply because somebody at the FA believes that all these Bolton connections mean that Lee Mason should not referee Bolton matches, just as QPR-supporting Mark Halsey never gets any of our games. Somebody somewhere clearly believes that he would either be incapable of refereeing Bolton Wanderers fairly and impartially, or at the very least appointing him to one of their games would leave him open to such allegations, so they don’t give him their matches. Why, you have to wonder, is it therefore acceptable for him to referee the games of the teams immediately around Bolton at this stage of the season?
Old Trafford is stereotype central; on the way into the ground we passed three dozen vendors selling those naff half-and-half scarves to foreign tourists and two ladies selling the “official United song book with all the lyrics to all the chants”. Once I’d cleared the vomit from around my mouth, the tears of laughter from my eyes and received the news that Mark Hughes had rested Bobby Zamora and Joey Barton, handing rare starts to Jay Bothroyd and Akos Buzsaky in their stead, I settled down for the most predictable quarter of an hour of football I can ever recall being played out. By the end of it the game was over as a contest and the sense of injustice burned strong.
After three minutes Clint Hill, playing centre half with Anton Ferdinand with Nedum Onuoha and Taye Taiwo the full backs, fouled Danny Welbeck on the edge of the area. Wayne Rooney took the free kick but could only find the top of the wall with his shot. The resulting corner quickly led to another wide set piece which Jonny Evans, partnering Rio Ferdinand at the back for United, really should have scored having been left unmarked but Rangers keeper Paddy Kenny sprung from his line and palmed the ball off the Northern Irishman’s forehead.
Three minutes later Mason had the whistle in his mouth again, awarding a free kick to Ashley Young on the edge of the area after midfield enforcer Samba Diakite had left a leg hanging out. Rooney took it again, it was deflected again, and this time Kenny was forced into an excellent full stretch save.
Mason wasn’t quite so keen on the whistle and enforcement action in the tenth minute though when Rooney launched into a horrendous, knee high, two footed hack through the back of Diakite on halfway. In fact despite it being a clear red card tackle Mason decided a mere free kick with no further action was sufficient, and there was a sense QPR had been lucky to even get that. Buzsaky then had the temerity to shoot wide from long range before the status quo was restored.
Just before the quarter hour Rooney slipped a through ball into Ashley Young, three yards offside throughout the move, who then dived pathetically in the penalty area under next to no contact at all from Shaun Derry. Any other team at any other ground would have found themselves defending a goalkeeper’s clearance from an offside free kick, or potentially picking up a yellow card for a flagrant bit of cheating. Here at Old Trafford things are different. Penalty, red card for Derry who had captained the side to begin with, Rooney goal, game over, Mason semi-aroused, Bolton Wanderers breathing easier.
The visiting team was now in an impossible situation; down to ten men for the seventh time this season having started with a weakened team, playing away from home against the best side in the league and already a goal down. I’m under no illusions that United set the engines to idle and glided through the rest of this fixture without breaking much of a sweat but I thought the QPR players deserve tremendous credit for the way they performed for the next 75 minutes and stopped a complete annihilation occurring.
They even, amazingly, almost equalised in the twentieth minute when Adel Taarabt’s ambitious long range shot deflected high over the head of United keeper David De Gea who had to scramble back to his line and palm it over the bar.
Sadly the traffic flowed almost exclusively towards the QPR goal thereafter. Young blasted yet another free kick into the wall after Mason had yet again penalised Rangers for a Hill foul on Welbeck on the edge of the box, then the poorly balanced Young headed all the way across the face of goal and behind when left unmarked at the near post under a Rooney cross. Rooney had a shot of his own blocked after Valencia picked him out with a low cross and Welbeck headed over when the former Wigan man again produced good quality service from a wide area ten minutes before half time.
The dismal officiating continued unabated. Rafael was warned for a cynical shirt pull on Diakite but then not booked ten minutes later when he clattered through the back of Taarabt, then Jamie Mackie was fouled as he carried the ball away from the QPR penalty area but as he didn’t fall theatrically to earth no free kick was awarded and United quickly created a chance for Welbeck to shoot but Rangers muscled up and got the ball away. The young United striker even had the nerve to appeal for another penalty for handball in the aftermath of that, and Valencia complained long and hard about a barge into his back from Taye Taiwo too – they really do have no shame in this part of the world.
Rooney almost poached a goal on the stroke of half time by throwing himself at a loose ball that looked like it was comfortably going to bobble through to Kenny before the pug-faced striker’s intervention. Rooney is a hard man to like, but an easy player to admire. Paul Scholes then gave a little hint of what was to come with a 30 yard loosener that flew wide of the top corner.
I really feared for Rangers in the second half. United had the ball in the net within three minutes but Welbeck’s strike was ruled out for offside; mercifully the linesman at the far end, Andy Garratt, felt himself capable of making his own decisions unlike his colleague Ceri Richards who repeatedly embarrassed himself in front of the away end by refusing to give anything until he’d seen what Lee Mason had given first. Some referees ask linesman to partake in this game of “follow my lead”, which of course renders the man with the flag pointless, to avoid a situation where the linesman and referee are awarding different things but it’s a poor way of going about things, usually practised by piss rank officials in my experience.
There had also been signs at the end of the first half that Adel Taarabt was losing heart with the task in hand, cutting a particularly frustrated figure after poor passes to him by Jay Bothroyd and Akos Buzsaky. Thankfully the Moroccan, and his nine team mates, all emerged for the second period with a first class attitude and kept the score to just 2-0.
Welbeck’s composure in front of goal seems somewhat lacking to me and although he found the net in the forty eighth minute he wasn’t nearly as accurate a minute later when slipped in behind the QPR defence at the end of a flowing move. On this occasion he hammered high over the bar with only Kenny to beat.
Seven minutes after the break, when Young executed a dive on the edge of the QPR box so ludicrous even Lee Mason didn’t award a free kick for it (though it should be said he didn’t book him either) Rangers counter attacked and won a free kick after Taarabt and Bothroyd had broken swiftly. Taarabt’s devilish delivery was flicked behind for a corner by Evans but Mason hadn’t positioned himself correctly and Richards was incapable of making a decision of his own so they clicked into default mode and gave Man Utd a goal kick.
Rangers did then finally receive a couple of corners after typically unorthodox, bustling wing play from Jamie Mackie. The first reached Diakite on the edge of the box who drilled wide via a deflection and the second was cleared.
At the other end Kenny stopped a routine long range effort from Rooney before pulling off an implausible one-on-one save onto his own cross bar from Rafael who’d stopped fouling people long enough to roar through from defence and into the clear in the penalty box. A truly outstanding piece of goalkeeping followed by a fine double save to deny Welbeck after he’d snuck into the area in the left channel.
Alex Ferguson subsequently sent on Ryan Giggs for Ashley Young but it was the other half of the United old guard, Paul Scholes, who put the game completely beyond doubt 22 minutes before the end with a trademark drive into the bottom corner from long range. Sadly for Taarabt that goal came as a direct result of him either trying to be too clever or finding himself caught in two minds underneath a dropping ball on the edge of his area. Initially he seemed set to volley it away down field, but at the last minute he changed his mind and tried to control the ball but sadly could only return it immediately to the one man in the United team you really wouldn’t want in that position.
Mark Hughes sent on Shaun Wright-Phillips and Tommy Smith, replacing Taarabt and everybody’s favourite mad Malian Diakite in case he tried to maim somebody in the remaining time. Later DJ Campbell came on in outlandish orange boots instead of Jay Bothroyd who’d been ineffective in an admittedly impossible role. United brought on Tom Cleverley and Phil Jones for Scholes and Rafael, who’d miraculously finally been booked for his seventy sixth foul of the day shortly beforehand. Floodgates open? Don’t you believe it, QPR stuck to their task well.
Smith and Campbell both had shots deflected wide as the clock ran down, as did Danny Welbeck, but that was nothing compared to Michael Carrick’s awesome 30-yard master blaster that almost ripped Paddy Kenny’s right hand post clean out of the turf. Thereafter it rather felt like United were declaring on two as the game slowed to a walking pace which Mason diligently added three irrelevant minutes to.
There was a sense at full time that everybody got what they came for; United are now eight points clear and QPR remain outside the bottom three at the end of the Bank Holiday weekend despite having by far and away the toughest fixture of the teams down there. The ten brave men will be tired ahead of Swansea on Wednesday night, who have had two extra days rest, but Zamora and Barton can return and provide fresh legs.
The next three games are absolutely crucial. Two midtable sides with little to play for and a Tottenham team that appears to be cracking under the pressure of competing at the business end of this country’s two premier competitions. Find two wins from those three matches and QPR have got a hell of a chance of pulling this off.
The problem is Rangers seem to be finding those horrible variables, like refereeing decisions and dreadful pieces of luck, rather more often than the other teams down there with us. Job one for Wednesday will be keeping 11 men on the pitch which has proven a tough task all season and will likely be so again against the Swans when Lee Probert will take charge – a man with eyesight so good he once dismissed Jude the Cat during a Championship fixture with Preston because he kept confusing him with the players. Sometimes there are no words.
Man Utd: De Gea 6, Rafael 6 (Jones 74, 6), Ferdinand 6, Evans 6, Evra 7, Valencia 8, Scholes 7 (Cleverley 74, 6), Carrick 8, Young 7 (Giggs 61, 7), Rooney 7, Welbeck 7
Subs Not Used: Amos, Park, Hernandez, Pogba
Booked: Rafael (repetitive fouling)
Goals: Rooney 15 (penalty, won Young), Scholes 68 (unassisted)
QPR: Kenny 8, Onuoha 6, Ferdinand 7, Hill 8, Taiwo 7, Diakite 7 (Wright-Phillips 71, 6), Derry 6, Mackie 7, Taarabt 6 (Smith 71, 6), Buzsaky 6, Bothroyd 5 (Campbell 81, -)
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Gabbidon, Young, Zamora
Sent Off: Derry 14 (denying goalscoring opportunity)
QPR Star Man – Paddy Kenny 8 Several outstanding saves to keep QPR in the game and the all important goal difference advantage over the teams around them intact. Great to see him back to his very best form.
Referee – Lee Mason (Bolton) N/A The dictionary definition of a referee is “a fair and impartial person who administers the rules of a game or sport.” As he was neither fair nor impartial and failed to administer the rules of association football correctly throughout I don’t really see how I can mark him as a referee. His performance, at various times, ventured into being corrupt.
Attendance: 75, 505 (2,600 QPR approx) An excellent following from QPR in both volume and number considering the time of the kick off, the presence of the Sky cameras, and the horrendous situation on the trains. Sadly their reward for journeying all that way and paying between £43 and £55 to sit through a game that was ruined after a quarter of an hour was to be subjected to the most over-the-top, needless, aggressive stewarding operation I’ve ever encountered. Scores of QPR fans were ejected throughout the game for very little and there was even an incident behind us in the first half where an enormous hulk of a man in a bright orange coat body charged a supporter who’d stood up briefly to see the game because his view was blocked. Understandably the QPR fan was very upset about this and the perpetrator was taken away by his colleagues. Five minutes later four new stewards came up the steps and threw the QPR fan out. Disgraceful scenes throughout the game from the CES employed stewards who are either hell bent on causing trouble rather than preventing it, or are on commission for ejecting fans.
Pictures – Action Images
Photo: Action Images
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