QPR secure narrow win as Cardiff see red â€“ full match report Sunday, 9th Nov 2008 21:39
QPR stayed seventh in the Championship table after a narrow and scrappy 1-0 win against Cardiff City at Loftus Road on Saturday – the visitors had two men sent off either side of half time.
They say that a sign of a good side is one that can play badly and still win – if that’s the case then QPR must be a team of world beaters. On Saturday against Cardiff QPR were pretty wretched for most of the match, failing to pass the ball with any pattern or coherence, keep the ball, create chances or threaten the Welsh outfit. This was a performance that surely would have ended in a defeat on any other day.
That it didn’t is down to two main factors – firstly the harsh red cards handed out to two Cardiff players by referee Lee Probert, a man Rangers have had their fair share of run ins over the years, and secondly another super performance from the QPR defence which just goes from strength to strength with each passing week and now has four clean sheets in five games.
Gareth Ainsworth’s team is woefully short in attacking areas, and only looked like scoring a goal in this match once Akos Buzsaky was summoned from the substitutes bench. It is hard enough to understand why the outstanding attacking player at the club is constantly used out of position wide on the right without trying to fathom the decision to leave him out altogether – Buzsaky certainly let his feet do the talking when he came off the bench.
A good quality, twenty goal a season striker means you’re always capable of winning a game even when not playing well. In Fitz Hall, Damion Stewart and Radek Cerny QPR have three form players at the other end of the pitch whose resistance to everything that is thrown at them means that QPR are still picking up victories, and sitting pretty in the league table, despite erratic performance levels. This was QPR’s second consecutive 1-0 home victory and although it was a world away from the admirable and heart stopping success against Birmingham both wins have been based on the same thing - high quality performances from the three men at the heart of the defence.
QPR haven’t kept the same side for two consecutive games this season and that didn’t change on Saturday. Following the 2-0 defeat at Ipswich last week Peter Ramage came back into the side at the expense of Damien Delaney who dropped to the bench. Matt Connolly moved back to left back with the in form defensive trio of Stewart, Hall and Cerny keeping their places. In midfield, with Daniel Parejo bizarrely spotted in the Springbok at quarter to three, Akos Buzsaky dropped out and Emmanuel Ledesma came back into the team wide on the right, Rowlands, Tommasi and Cook kept their places. Up front Sam Di Carmine continued his run of four straight starts, Dexter Blackstock came into the team alongside him.
Cardiff gave a second debut to striker Michael Chopra who rejected a move to QPR last week because of the current managerial uncertainty at Loftus Road. Fulham’s Eddie Johnson also made the first start of his loan move after eight appearances from the bench. This was all due to the absence of their free scoring striking partnership McCormack and Bothroyd who both pulled hamstrings against Wolves last week. The Bluebirds came into the game one place and three points ahead of QPR and knew a win would open up a handy gap in both points and goal difference at the bottom of the play off places.
The game started slowly with Roger Johnson heading well over from Stephen McPhail’s corner inside the first minute and Dexter Blackstock failing to control a cross from Ledesma deep inside the Cardiff penalty area when a better touch may have yielded greater reward. Blackstock went on to have a particularly poor game, his worst for some time.
Tommasi hit a speculative effort high and wide from twenty yards and it wasn’t until the fifteen minute mark that either keeper had a save to make. Cerny was the first to be called into action, diving at full stretch to deny McPhail with his fingertips after a neat passing move with Peter Whittingham and Michael Chopra at its heart. Damion Stewart, 20/1 for the first goal by the way, headed into the empty lower School End two minutes later from the first QPR corner of the afternoon.
The game started to turn against Cardiff in the twenty eighth minute. Damion Stewart played a searching ball out to the left wing looking for Cook and although McNaughton got a head to it the ball did still fall to the feet of the QPR winger and he was able to clip it past the oncoming Darren Purse just before the Cardiff player crunched him. It wasn’t a good tackle, mistimed and slightly high, but it wasn’t malicious and to be honest I was more angry at the time that the referee hadn’t allowed play to go on because Blackstock was away with the ball at his feet. Referee Lee Probert didn’t mess about, he came straight across and showed Purse the thirteenth red card of his professional career.
For the second straight game at Loftus Road I find myself talking about a harsh sending off in the first half. I don’t go to football to see people sent off and to be honest the logic of suddenly rushing to red card anybody that slightly mistimes a tackle just because an Arsenal player got his leg broken at Birmingham nine months ago is lost on me. This would not have been a red card before the Eduardo incident and it isn’t a red card now. Cardiff were facing an uphill battle from that point onwards.
If the sending off was not bad enough Dave Jones then decided to withdraw Cardiff’s best midfield player Joe Ledley to get defender Gyepes on – in my opinion it would have made sense to take Johnson off for Gyepes and leave Ledley on but then Jones is a successful football manager and I’m an unsuccessful writer so I’ll bow to his superior knowledge.
Cardiff rarely threatened after the red card, Peter Whittingham’s rasping long ranger that flew a foot over the bar was the best they had to show for their efforts in the remaining quarter of an hour in the first half. In that time Blackstock was denied by a strong challenge from Gyepes and Ledesma chanced his arm with a 20 yard shot that flew straight into the arms of Tom Heaton in the Cardiff goal.
Overall this was poor fair, QPR showed little to suggest they could make their numerical advantage count for anything and at times it was actually difficult to tell who had less men at all. The passing was poor, the service to the strikers non-existent and the two forwards themselves virtual passengers. At half time it looked like the game was destined for nil nil and that impression didn’t subside much after the break.
In fact it was Cardiff that came closest to scoring in the first quarter of an hour of the second half when Johnson wriggled free in the area and forced Cerny into a routine save with a powerful shot. At the other end the poor service into the penalty area and lack of anything up front continued as Gyepes and Johnson faced little challenge from Di Carmine and Blackstock while Ramage fired a cross against the outside of the post. Don’t let the ball’s close proximity to the goal fool you, that was yet another rank cross from the right back who played pretty well in defence but was once again very poor when it came to putting balls into the box.
Sensing QPR were struggling to find a way through Gareth Ainsworth sent on Akos Buzsaky – a much needed substitution but Ledesma can count himself a little unlucky to be taken off with three or four other players obvious candidates to go off before him in my opinion. The most important thing Ainsworth did though was allow, or tell, Buzsaky to play in the middle behind the strikers, rather than out on the right wing where Ledesma had been. Suddenly QPR started to pass the ball, and pose a threat in the attacking third of the field. Seconds after coming on Buzsaky laid a lovely short ball into Di Carmine who fired over from the edge of the penalty box.
Still the lack of a quality forward in the QPR team meant Cardiff looked comfortable and only another mishit cross from Ramage that almost caught Heaton out at the back post threatened a goal. Consequently Ainsworth played another card, sending Agyemang on for Di Carmine. Ainsworth also took off the tiring Tommasi and replaced him with Gavin Mahon. That substitution struck me as a terribly negative thing for a team playing against ten men to be making, especially as Agyemang was yet to be introduced at this point, but in the end it turned out to be a surprise match winner. As I’ve said many times before, what the hell do I know?
Agyemang nearly made an immediate impact when two of Gareth Ainsworth’s substitutes combined thirty seconds after he came on. Akos Buzsaky turned his man thirty yards from goal and unloaded a ripsnorting long range shot that moved all over the place in the air and forced Cardiff keeper Heaton into a flappy save. The ball fell to Agyemang on the edge of the six yard box but after taking time to set himself he drilled it wide off the outside of the post – luckily for the big striker the flag had gone up and the goal wouldn’t have counted had he scored it but it as still a poor miss.
Cardiff sent on Welsh international rebel Paul Parry for Eddie Johnson in the seventy second minute but their forays into the QPR half were few and far between by this stage. Chopra did have a penalty appeal waved away – correctly for me, he hit the deck with alarming ease and the defending from Stewart was worthy of praise. From the resulting corner centre half Roger Johnson met the ball but headed down and wide.
The goal, when it finally came ten minutes from time, owed much to two unlikely sources and the value of having Akos Buzsaky on the pitch. The Hungarian tricked and teased his way to the edge of the penalty area drawing three Cardiff players towards him and that meant that when he slipped the ball wide to Ramage he had the time to produce the first good cross of his QPR career and with only four Cardiff defenders at the back post Gavin Mahon could climb unchallenged and find the far corner of the net with a beautifully angled and guided header over Heaton. The goal was rich reward for Mahon who looked very decent in midfield after Tommasi had gone off.
Things went from bad to worse for Cardiff as they were reduced to nine men five minutes after falling behind. First midfielder Stephen McPhail was deservedly booked for a bad foul on Ramage as he clipped the ball past him on an overlapping run. Then almost immediately left back Miguel Comminges came through the back of Akos Buzsaky and was also booked. Clearly emotion was running high in the Cardiff camp after the goal against and earlier red card and Comminges followed his card up with a word or two to the linesman on the Ellerslie Road side of the ground. The assistant signalled to the referee that something was amiss and after a long consultation Probert summoned the Cardiff full back and showed his second red card of the match.
I’ve no idea what Comminges said of course, the card may well have been justified, but I say again I don’t come to football to see football players get sent off and in my last two trips to Loftus Road I’ve seen three red cards that could easily have been replaced with yellows or stern warnings.
When the yellow card did come out it was shown to QPR sub Patrick Agyemang for a foul on Kevin McNaughton.
The second red card should have been that as far as the game was concerned but QPR were poor and unconvincing against ten men and that didn’t change against nine – in the final minute of stoppage time a deep free kick from McPhail to the back post was met powerfully by Johnson but Cerny was on hand with a superb save at the near post. Just to further endear the travelling Cardiff faithful to the match officials Probert blew the final whistle before the Welsh side could take the resulting corner kick.
Cardiff have every right to feel aggrieved with the referee and his assistants in my opinion. It was hard to judge them without their two starting strikers and down in numbers for the majority of the game however what I did see was promising and they should be in and around the play off spots come May, although probably not good enough to actually get promoted.
This was about as bad a display as you’re ever likely to see from a winning team. QPR didn’t pass the ball very well, didn’t create chances and didn’t pose an attacking threat. Blackstock and Di Carmine were both pretty poor in attack, Blackstock especially so, but when the chance to provide them with service did come to Cook, Ledesma, Ramage and Connolly crosses were often overhit, underhit or miles off target. Tommasi had his worst game so far in the centre of midfield and if I’m being honest I do not think there is any way QPR would have won this game had Cardiff not had players sent off.
On the positive side the QPR defence was superb once again. Stewart and Hall are two players on top of their game and forming a tremendous partnership and after a shakey start to life at Loftus Road Radek Cerny is now also playing very well. Connolly and Ramage were willing runners on the attack, although in both cases their lack of ability to produce a cross of any quality was highlighted on numerous occasions before Ramage did finally put a good one in for the goal. In defence though it was hard to fault them and Ramage was solid enough going backwards.
With our lack of goals it is important that the defence is nice and tight and I can’t recall a rearguard at QPR that I trust as much as I do our current lot. After a blip at Ipswich last week where they conceded two from set pieces the back five was back on form in this game. They will all need to continue their good form on Tuesday night as we travel, more in hope than expectation, to European Champions Manchester United.
Cardiff: Heaton 6, McNaughton 7, Purse 5, R Johnson 7, Comminges 6, Rae 6, Ledley 6 (Gyepes 29, 7), Whittingham 6, McPhail 6, Eddie Johnson 5 (Parry 72, 5), Chopra 5 Subs Not Used: Enckelman, Blake, Brown Sent Off: Purse (28) (dangerous tackle), Comminges (87) (two bookings) Booked: McPhail (foul), Comminges (foul), Comminges (dissent)
QPR Star Man – Radek Cerny 8 Three really good saves, particularly the first half one from McPhail and the last second block from Johnson. Also showed some excellent distribution with plenty of throws out to full backs and wingers which encourages a better quality of passing football. Stewart and Hall were also excellent, and I was tempted to give the star man award to Buzsaky just for the impact he made from the bench.
Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire) 4 I didn’t think Purse should have been sent off, a yellow card for me there because it was simply mistimed rather than dangerous or malicious. We should not be rushing to send people off. Comminges’ first yellow card was justified, I’ve no idea what he said to get the second but like I say I don’t go to football to see players getting sent off and I wonder whether a stern, final warning could have been administered instead.
Attendance: 13,347 (1600 Cardiff approx) Pretty poor atmosphere in the home stands – a poor QPR performance responsible for that. The Cardiff fans were pretty noisy and obviously frustrated with the officials by the end but whether the red cards were justified or not there can be no excuse for the shocking behaviour of the visiting supporters on South Africa Road and at the tube stations after the match which further cemented their reputation as the most troublesome visitors to Loftus Road all season.