QPR finally click at Cardiff's expense - full match report Sunday, 20th Sep 2009 17:03
The impressive performance QPR have threatening for so long finally arrived at Cardiff City on Saturday when Jay Simpson’s first half double gave the R’s a very comfortable 2-0 win.
Click. It finally happened. QPR’s plethora of talented players finally moulded into something resembling a team and gave somebody in the Championship a good going over. It’s been coming, I have said in just about every match report this season that we were not far away from being a really good team, and on our first visit to Cardiff City’s soulless new ground on Saturday that finally happened. QPR looked really good on Saturday, really good indeed.
The concept of perfection is an interesting one. Jim Magilton ventured the suggestion that QPR were perfect in his post match press conference. Can anything be truly perfect? Even the best teams concede goals and lose games, even the best days out to South Wales end with the village idiot sharpening a shovel next to you on the train home, I bet even Roxanne McKee’s farts stink. Perfection only goes so far, but as far as it goes QPR were absolutely perfect on Saturday. The team selection, the tactics, the performance, the pattern of play, the passing – all absolutely bang on. It was the most complete and accomplished QPR performance I have seen since the De Canio led demolitions of Stoke and Bristol City with the new look central midfield pairing of Rowlands and Watson the beating heart of it all. Cardiff were steam rollered and seriously fortunate to get away with a two goal defeat. There wasn’t a bad player on the pitch in hoops.
Jim Magilton was forced into yet more changes to his starting eleven following last weekend’s draw with Peterborough. Adel Taarabt and Matt Connolly were both ruled out through illness and Alejandro Faurlin was dropped to the bench to accommodate the return of Martin Rowlands in the centre of midfield alongside Ben Watson – it was that decision in particular that proved to be a master stroke. Akos Buzsaky replaced Taarabt on the wing, initially wide right with Routledge wide left but they soon swapped over. Jay Simpson led the line with support from Vine. At the back the Stewart and Gorkss combination was finally reunited at centre half in front of Cerny with Borrowdale at left back and Leigertwood at right back ahead of the unfortunate Peter Ramage.
Cardiff were without last season’s top scorer Ross McCormack and Man City loanee Kelvin Etuhu through injury but did have the Championship’s top marksmen so far Michael Chopra up front along with Jay Bothroyd and in form wingers Peter Whittingham and Chris Burke supplying them with ammunition. While Rangers rested during the week following the Palace postponement Cardiff battled to a 1-0 win at Reading with ten men after Stephen McPhail’s red card – despite the FA of Wales overturning Cardiff red cards with such frequency the City programme actually has a special symbol for rescinded sendings off on its stats page McPhail remained suspended for this game. Joe Ledley started at the end of a week when his club and national managers have been spitting venom back and forth over his current form, but he passed a late fitness test to do so and did very little to justify his selection.
The game started at what could best be described as a steady pace. Cardiff tried to build from the back but found a red and black hooped wall waiting for them whenever they tried to cross halfway which in turn forced them to look long for Bothroyd who enjoyed only very occasional success against Gorkss and Stewart. QPR for their part set a stall out nice and early – possession was the key, lots of it. With Watson and Rowlands leading the way a succession of attractive moves were quickly put together with the play moved out to Buzsaky and Routledge at every possible opportunity. The first threat on goal came after seven minutes when Whittingham aimed a free kick in towards Bothryod but Gorkss headed away, then at the other end Buzsaky thrashed one over the bar from the edge of the box.
Jay Simpson looked for a moment to have been given a clear run on goal by Vine around the quarter hour mark but he just overran the ball and it went out for a goal kick.
The match officials incurred the wrath of the Cardiff fans after 19 minutes as QPR took the lead. Working the ball through midfield after a Mikele Leigertwood throw in wide on the right the R’s put together another classy move that ended with Borrowdale laying the ball into Vine’s feet on the edge of the box and he in turn feeding a perfect through ball into Jay Simpson in the area. He looked offside at the time, and on the video afterwards, but the flag stayed down and the loan Arsenal front man was able to calmly slide home his first ever QPR goal past the helpless David Marshall.
The home crowd gave the referee and his assistant plenty of abuse for the next ten minutes or so and that, in my opinion, led to a booking for Damion Stewart who received a yellow for a fine tackle on Chopra a that cleared the ball out for a throw in text book style a couple of minutes after the goal. The crowd bayed for blood and Probert obliged – very harsh card for Stewart that one. The resulting free kick was smashed into the wall from distance by Whittingham but the feeling that the referee was keen to even things up only increased when Ben Watson was crudely chopped down during a promising looking counter attack and did not even receive a free kick when moments earlier Stewart had been penalised and yellow carded for a far more meagre offence.
Twice around the half hour mark QPR had chances to double their lead. First Simpson went close to his second when he held the ball up in the penalty area, turned Hudson, led him a merry dance to the corner of the six yard box and then drifted a low shot just wide of the far post with Marshall well beaten. Then two minutes later Watson fired over from the edge of the box. In between those two chances Chris Burke caught a volley perfectly (there's that word again) on the edge of the box but the ball fizzed straight at Cerny about three feet off the ground and the Czech keeper dealt with it a lot more comfortably than he would have been able to had it been either side of him.
QPR were the better side by some considerable distance though, and they were playing some really excellent football at times. Watson and Rowlands were imperious in the centre of midfield and the R’s were stringing moves of ten, 15 even 20 passes together with regularity and ease. The QPR fans were even cheering the passes at several stages during the game and we really did not have a bad player on the park. Cardiff for their part gave the ball away cheaply and looked nervous under pressure from their own fans who turned on them with a speed rarely seen outside Molineux and hindered their team’s chances of doing anything here.
The richly deserved second goal arrived five minutes before half time. Again Cardiff gave the ball away sloppily with Joe Ledley turning possession over to Wayne Routledge just inside the QPR half. Routledge, predictably booed throughout by the Cardiff fans when they weren’t too busy abusing their own players, carried the ball forward 50 yards to the edge of the City penalty area before laying a perfect ball across to Jay Simpson who confidently drilled it home first time for his second goal of the game.
QPR’s players, fans and management probably expected to face some sort of Cardiff backlash at the start of the second half but with the home crowd remaining silent except to boo and heckle their own players it never materialised and in fact it was the visitors who came out all guns blazing at the start of the second period. The game should have been tied up within five minutes of the restart. More nervous play in Cardiff midfield, this time by Taiwo, enabled Ben Watson to steal possession back and feed Rowan Vine into space down the left channel of the penalty box. The angle was ideal for Vine’s favoured right foot but his shot just did not have the required bend on it and ended up hitting the base of the far post and rebounding away to safety. Bouyed by this Vine set off on a trademark run at the Cardiff defence on the very next attack but his low shot was dealt with by Marshall on this occasion.
The R’s had another chance to score moments later when Ben Watson’s mishit corner flew through the six yard box and was just about scrambled away by Quinn at the back post as Kaspars Gorkss threatened to turn it over the line.
Dave Jones had seen enough and started to make changes to his team – each one more mystifying than the last. Whittingham, City’s outstanding ball player and chief threat from set pieces, was taken off for youngster Josh Magennis while Solomon Taiwo, who had at least shown one or two tidy touches, went off for defensive central midfielder Gavin Rae while Ledley who had been terrible on the day remained on the field. Magennis could have introduced himself to the game with a spectacular goal as he attempted a first time volley on a dropping ball in the penalty box but he took a fresh air shot to the delight of the travelling QPR fans.
Jones then took off Jay Bothryod who, while obviously not very good on the day, was at least a physical focal point to the attack against Stewart and Gorkss and replaced him, bizarrely, with centre-half-cum-defensive-central-midfielder Riccy Scimeca. What on earth he had in mind there I don’t know but it killed Cardiff’s hopes once and for all. Scimeca wasn’t very good ten years ago and is certainly not the player you want on the field when two nil down at home with 25 minutes left to play. Dave Jones is a manger I rate quite highly but he, along with his team, had a bloody nightmare on Saturday.
For his part Jim Magilton sent on first Pellicori and then Agyemang for Simpson, who was given a standing ovation by the travelling fans, and Vine. Pellicori’s first action was to win a free kick on the edge of the box when Quinn crudely chopped him down and received a fully justified yellow card. Buzsaky stepped up to take the free kick, curling the ball over the wall and a fraction wide of the post with Marshall stationary covering the other side of the goal. The Italian striker later picked up a booking of his own for deliberately handling a Cardiff pass as it went past him.
There is no such thing as a perfect performance, but this was just about as close to it as you will ever see. QPR were brilliant from one to eleven, back to front and left to right - far superior to Cardiff in every single department for every single minute of the game. The key to it all was the impressive central midfield partnership of Watson and Rowlands. The passing game of the former guided Rangers round the pitch while the energy and leadership of the captain was the driving force behind the whole performance. Rowlands was everywhere and made such a difference to us – a clear man of the match.
Akos Buzsaky was back to something like his best, Wayne Routledge played very well, Gorkss and Stewart looked unbeatable back together again and both Borrowdale and Leigertwood coped well with Cardiff’s main threat that, contrary to popular belief, comes from Whittingham and Burke in my opinion rather than Michael Chopra. Jay Simpson will get a lot of the headlines for a fine double and he certainly deserves recognition as well – I have been a bit mystified by the “relying on a kid”, “not capable of playing up front by himself”, “why can’t we just get a proven striker in here” criticism that has gone Simpson’s way so far because for me he has done very well in all three games played so far and thankfully on Saturday he converted the chances to complete the good approach play he puts in. Vine alongside him started slowly but seemed to be getting back to form in the second half and was unlucky not to score.
Cardiff for their part started slowly and conceded possession in bad areas. This very quickly drew abuse, booing and heckling from their own supporters and that in turn induced a nervousness in their game. If we are as bad as that at Loftus Road then it’s little wonder our team is currently doing better on the road because for me the home faithful, bearing in mind Cardiff were fourth at the start of play, were very harsh on their own team and really hindered their performance.
Magilton, possibly through a combination of injury and total accident, appears to have stumbled across a couple of combinations and a system that works really well for us. Watson and Rowlands should be the first name on the team sheet from now on as the central midfield pairing. I know Leigertwood can play a holding role, and Mahon as well, and I know Faurlin has cost us a fair bit and passes the ball nicely, but those two had an all round game between them on Saturday that was both solid defensively and inventive when going forward. That is the central midfield pairing from now on no question at all. Likewise at centre half where Gorkss and Stewart were back to their formidable best of last season. Akos Buzsaky and Wayne Routledge should also keep possession of the winger’s jerseys regardless of any return to form or fitness of Ephraim, Taarabt, Cook, Faurlin and others.
As well as the three valuable points and the relief at seeing a talented but so far lacklustre QPR side finally click together this game and result should bring an end to Magilton’s chopping and changing. This starting eleven, selected consistently and playing like this, and this time next year Rodders…
QPR Star Man – Martin Rowlands 9 A complete central midfield display. Between them Rowlands and Watson completely annihilated Ledley and the Cardiff midfield players, tackling viciously and remorselessly, passing the ball inventively and economically, dictating the tempo and pattern of play and guiding QPR around the field. Rowlands brought solidity and leadership to the QPR performance and was absolutely excellent all afternoon.
Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire) 6 Not too bad, plenty of advantage played and no really controversial incidents. His assistant appears to have got the first Simpson goal wrong – I thought so at the time and have seen nothing on the video to change my mind. After that goal I felt Probert was guilty of trying to appease the home crowd with a bit of evening up – Stewart’s booking was very harsh and Watson was chopped down and nothing given.
Attendance: 20,121 (700 QPR approx) Judging by the comments on the message boards from those that were there the attitude of the Cardiff supporters to their own team may have served as a real eye opener for our supporters. The City fans were quiet initially, arms folded in a “go on then entertain me” kind of pose, and then as things started to go wrong they very quickly turned on their own players with boos, heckles and cat calls. The atmosphere in the new stadium absolutely stank as a result, not a patch on the cauldron across the road that really intimidated away teams. Cardiff would actually have been better off playing behind closed doors on Saturday because you could see the confidence and will to work draining out of their players, Bothroyd and Ledley in particular, as the crowd abused them more and more. The QPR fans up in the corner were in decent voice as you can imagine – taunting the home fans with various Swansea related songs and, that stupid Ayatollah head patting dance mixed with “what the fucking hell is this” which made me smile.