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German announces his arrival as R's finally win - full match report
German announces his arrival as R's finally win - full match report
Sunday, 21st Feb 2010 19:51

Youngster Antonio German was the toast of W12 as he struck his first senior goal for the club in Rangers’ long overdue 2-1 home win against Doncaster.

On a day when there was much talk of new beginnings at Loftus Road following Flavio Briatore’s welcome departure from the club late on Friday, a youngster we have actually developed ourselves stole the show against Doncaster with a performance far beyond his years.

Briatore’s reign was punctuated by ridiculous spin and bullshit via the club’s official news sources but the ‘feel good factor’ that the club liked to regularly insist was engulfing our enbittered fanbase actually felt like it was coming back on Saturday as an admittedly sparse crowd swelled with pride at the performance of Antonio German. Doncaster’s centre halves have more than 200 senior appearances between them – but they were beaten and bullied from one end of the pitch to the other by QPR’s prodigious 18 year old striker whose physicality, awareness and strength was something to behold. All this on his full debut – a first start that was being compared to Kevin Gallen’s goal scoring Loftus Road debut way back in 1994 by the end of the game when he was replaced by Rowan Vine to a standing ovation. Both managers sang German’s praises at the full time whistle – he was unplayable at times.

German’s first start, in attack alongside Jay Simpson, was the solitary change Mick Harford made to his line up following an unfortunate defeat at Coventry last time out. In midfield Buzsaky and Cook started wide with Connolly and Faurlin in the middle. Then at the back Ramage and Hill started at full back, Gorkss and Stewart as the centre halves and Ikeme in goal looking to secure Rangers’ first clean sheet in 21 matches.

Doncaster kept the same side that won 2-0 at Sheffield Wednesday during the week which meant Billy Sharp started in attack who had four goals in his last two appearances against Rangers at the start of play. He was supported by James Hayter who Ian Holloway tried to bring to Rangers from Bournemouth back in the day. At the back Elliott Ward started the second game of his loan spell from Coventry as Rovers looked for their fourth straight clean sheet.

The sides traded half chances in the first ten minutes. Akos Buzsaky carried the ball to the edge of the area and fired over in QPR’s first serious attack, then could only find the first Doncaster man with the first corner of the game after Connolly had a low shot deflected wide.

Doncaster then showed the R’s how to take a set piece from wide with three corners on the bounce that all caused the home defence problems. First a tremendous short corner routine that bamboozled the Rangers defence and ended with Brian Stock dragging a deflected shot just wide from inside the penalty area. QPR cleared the second corner behind and that gave Rovers a chance to play a Man–Utd-to-Paul-Scholes style set piece out to the edge of the box where Hayter was unmarked but could only volley into the Loft.

Doncaster continued to press after the quarter hour when Rangers were reduced to ten men, Midfielder Alejandro Faurlin suffered a nasty cut to his forehead in an innocuous looking incident and left the field for stitches. That left Jay Simpson covering in midfield and the R’s looked to be having all sorts of problems coping with the numerical disadvantage.

Twice the away side could have taken the lead while the Argentinean was below decks having his head sewn. First Hayter cut inside in the penalty area but dragged his shot wide, then after Lee Cook had come too far infield Stock played full back O'Connor in behind him and his cross was volleyed just wide of the goal by the unmarked James Coppinger. Faurlin returned after that, sporting a head bandage that he soon tore off, with QPR were lucky to have survived his absence still level.

Faurlin clearly has a problem with head gear because he came out for the second half wearing what looked to be a giant condom over his head and, again, the second he was away from the physio and medical team he ripped it off and tossed it aside.

Faurlin was then heavily involved in the move for QPR’s opening goal on 18 minutes - first spraying a tremendous cross field pass out to Lee Cook on the left, then moving into position to receive the ball back and lay it through for Akos Buzsaky who sent a terrific cross into the six yard box from the corner of the penalty area. Jay Simpson looked the favourite to score but when Neil Sullivan produced a splendid save to keep his header out it needed German, who had started the whole move with some terrific work tight to the touchline, to swoop in and stab the ball home from close range.

The goal seemed to boost German and the rest of his team mates. The youth team graduate showed admirable strength and target man play for a lad of such inexperience throughout the game, although he did let himself down once or twice with poor touches when the ball was at his feet and he had a chance to run at the defenders. Still, after another strong piece of play and lay off Lee Cook was able to carry the ball to the edge of the area and fire wide two minutes after the deadlock had been broken.

Doncaster were being inhibited in defence by their inability to cope with German, and in attack by Billy Sharp’s apparent complete disregard for the offside laws. Not since Michael Chopra was last in W12 have I seen a striker so blatantly and lazily offside so often – perhaps if he spent less of his time during the week frequenting the drinking establishments of Sheffield city centre with the likes of my brother his game may benefit. Having said that Rangers were lucky to survive ten minutes before half time when two or three great tackles in midfield from matt Connolly got the crowd pumped up, only for the ball to break to Coppinger who played t through to give Sharp a clear run on goal. The flag went up to rescue Rangers, but I was bang in line with it and it looked level at worst to me.

The game became very stretched in the final five minutes of the half when QPR probably would rather have just closed things out and got through to half time. German almost had a chance for a second goal when a good move was finished with a rare good cross from peter Ramage but German found himself crowded out in the penalty box. Doncaster countered from there and when Rangers missed their tackle on the edge of the box the ball was played in behind down the Doncaster right to John Oster who was able to take the ball to the byline and cut it back but Stock fired over.

Rangers were then very unfortunate not to go two up just before half time. German fed Simpson whose shot was deflected wide for a corner. Lee Cook’s outswinging delivery was met powerfully by Kaspars Gorkss but his header was somehow stopped on the line, possibly by another fine save from Sullivan.

Straight after half time Rangers went close twice in the first two minutes. First more great hard work from German teed you Faurlin for a low shot from 25 yards that flashed just wide of the post with Sullivan struggling to get across and cover. Then German himself really should have made Doncaster pay for some poor marking from another corner. Cook took another outswinger and this time German, left unmarked in the six yard box, headed over when he should have scored. Still, the improvement in QPR’s previously woeful corners since Cook started taking them again was there for all to see.

German looked gutted not to have taken the chance, and one can only imagine his emotions when Doncaster marched straight down to the School End and equalised. Damion Stewart made it far too easy for Billy Sharp to turn on the byline and cross, Peter Ramage was sleeping in the six yard box and James Hayter, a one time Ian Holloway QPR transfer target, stole a march on him and slammed the ball in at the near post. Whoever the new QPR manager is going to be, the first job must be to tighten the defence.

Rangers had finished the first half the stronger of the two teams and missed a couple of good chances to extend their lead – the fear after conceding the equaliser was that the fragile confidence among the QPR players would lead to some sort of collapse. Not so. Within a couple of minutes of conceding Lee Cook had tricked two Doncaster players on his way to the byline and then produced a fine low cross that just eluded German at the near post and then travelled all the way through the ix yard box and out the other side with nobody getting a touch. It’s probably a product of playing up front by himself so often but I really think Jay Simpson needs to get his nose right under the cross bar in situations like that. People like Faurlin and Buzsaky should be the ones backing up between the penalty spot and the edge of the box, Simpson should be right in there sniffing out tap ins like that. German had done well to attack the near post, if Simpson had gambled and gone to the far Rangers would have been back in front – he’s a fine finisher Simpson but he needs to position himself better on the rare occasions we do get to the byline in my opinion.

That lack of thought and nous from what was admittedly a very inexperienced striking line up was on show again just after the hour mark. Doncaster had showed a desire to step up and play offside from all QPR wide set pieces and the linesman could have chosen any one of five QPR men to flag when German headed in Buzsaky’s free kick. Once was forgivable but when QPR then did exactly the same thing, five players standing offside from an inswinging Buzsaky free kick five minutes later, the home crowd voiced its exasperation. Personally I thought after the first episode Cook should have had a go with an outswinger to see if Rovers’ trap worked with the ball heading away from the goalkeeper.

In between those free kicks the R’s were indebted to Kaspars Gorkss for a fine block challenge on Sharp as he broke through QPR’s offside trap and sprinted into the penalty area before shooting. Sharp should really have scored with a free header from the edge of the six yard box just over 20 minutes from time but he had, yet again, been flagged offside as the ball had been crossed and the goal would not have counted.

Just before that let off Doncaster had had one of their own – a corner award that looked very much like it should have been a goal kick gave Matt Connolly the chance to bring Cook’s outswinger down at the back post, flick it over the head of his marker and then drill the ball low towards a crowded six yard box. Ultimately it deflected out, seemingly off Kaspars Gorkss but another corner was awarded and in the ensuing scramble from that one German was flagged offside.

With just under a quarter of an hour left to play QPR got the decisive winning goal their efforts in attack just about deserved. A long kick down the field from Ikeme was once again brilliantly won in the air by German who headed the ball down to Akos Buzsaky. The Hungarian then lobbed an inch perfect pass in behind the Doncaster back four and with the flag actually staying down for once Jay Simpson was able to run in behind, control and fire a crisp finish into the bottom corner.

One thing that impressed me about German on Saturday was not only his strength, power and aerial ability when fielding high balls and crosses – but also his awareness of when to flick it on, when to chest it down, what team mates were around him to head it to. Too many times you see a striker simply trying to stick his head on a ball and hope for the best but German always seemed keen to not only win the ball in the air, but find a team mate with the subsequent header. The second goal was a direct result of that.

Mick Harford had been preparing to bring on Adel Taarabt prior to the goal to provide Doncaster with something different to think about. I wondered if he was tempted to tell the Moroccan to sit back down again after taking the lead but he pressed ahead with the attack minded change anyway – moving Connolly to right back and replacing Ramage with the loaned Tottenham maverick. Taarabt is either very, very good or bloody awful and rarely anything in between. Sadly on Saturday he was pretty rank, conceding possession and falling over his own feet when QPR really needed the ball to be sticking in the Doncaster half. Both Taarabt, and then in stoppage time Vine who replaced German to give the youngster a deserved standing ovation, failed to work sufficiently hard to close the Doncaster defenders down when in possession for me considering they were meant to be fresh legs for the team – both players, but particularly Taarabt, are obviously carrying weight.

I thought the substitution, which was swiftly followed by another change when Matt Connolly picked up a knock and was replaced by Gary Borrowdale, pulled us terribly out of shape for the final quarter of an hour. Simpson was bumped off out wide, with Taarabt up front and Faurlin and Buzsaky formed a makeshift central midfield partnership that didn’t really have the look of something you’d want protecting your back four when leading. In hindsight maybe Harford would have been better leaving things as they were or making like for like changes. Easy for me to say from here though. The one constant though was German, who remained hard working and hugely effective for the duration of his time on the pitch.

With five minutes of normal time remaining a partially cleared Doncaster corner was volleyed wide by Stock but QPR worked very hard in defence with Faurlin tirelessly closing everything down around the edge of the penalty box and Gorkss winning every tackle and header with a colossal performance in the closing stages.

Injuries, substitutions, two goals and a comical run round the pitch from a semi-naked streaker who showed a better fleet of foot and turn of pace than many of the QPR players have this season all contributed to five minutes of agonising stoppage time. Doncaster spent the majority of that with the ball, floating crosses into the QPR penalty box but it was actually Rangers, and Jay Simpson, who had the best chance to score another goal – racing away into the penalty area before drilling his shot just wide. Simpson seems to score one and miss one of every two good chances he gets and that was the case again on Saturday when he certainly benefitted from playing with a striker that could do the heading and hold up work for him.

The final whistle was greeted with huge cheers from a sparse Loftus Road crowd. The last time we won, on Boxing Day, it was by the same scoreline in pretty similar circumstances with the boys clinging on grimly at the end. The crowd booed the team off that day, or rather booed manager Paul Hart for his negative tactics, but they cheered this result. Mainly that was because our situation was becoming increasingly desperate with such a long run of games without a win plunging us into relegation problems. However I think the way the players went about it, trying to play football and working hard for each other, and the fact that Mick Harford continued to introduce attacking players rather than defenders in a quest to occupy the Rovers defence and push for a third rather than sit back too much pleased the fans and resulted in a better reaction. If this is to be Harford’s last game then I’m pleased he got a win because I like the way he conducts himself and talks about our club, and I like his attacking style of football while not always agreeing with his team selections and tactics.

A win is a win and we needed it badly. The performance wasn’t all that but the work rate was good and there were at least several candidates for the man of the match award for a change – Gorkss grew in stature as the game went on, Faurlin gave a committed and eye catching performance in midfield, Matt Connolly played the holding role very well, Jay Simpson took his goal nicely but all the plaudits, and rightly so, went to Antonio German who was simply outstanding.

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QPR: Ikeme 6, Ramage 5 (Taarabt 77, 5), Stewart 6, Gorkss 7, Hill 6, Buzsaky 7, Faurlin 7, Connolly 7 (Borrowdale 85, -), Cook 7, Simpson 7, German 8 (Vine 90, -)
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Quashie, Balanta, Oastler
Goals: German 25 (assisted Buzsaky), Simpson 76 (assisted Buzsaky)

Doncaster: Sullivan 7, O'Connor 6, Hird 5, Ward 5, Chambers 6, Oster 6, Wilson 5 (Roberts 83, -), Stock 7 (Mutch 86, -), Coppinger 6 (Shiels 83, -),Hayter 7, Sharp 6
Subs Not Used: Smith, Guy, Spicer, Dumbuya
Goals: Hayter 51 (assisted Sharp)

QPR Star Man – Antonio German 8 Admittedly his touch let him down a couple of times when he had the chance to run at the Doncaster defence but otherwise I thought he was our best player by a country mile. For somebody so young, with so little experience, he led the line superbly, showing great strength against the Doncaster centre backs who simply could not deal with him, and great awareness of team mates when flicking, heading and chesting balls played up to him. Good poacher’s goal as well, although he probably should have scored another from a corner.

Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire) 9 Hard to think of a mistake he made all game really. I thought one challenge in the second half, from Stock on Buzsaky, was worthy of a yellow card but otherwise he was almost totally anonymous – staying out of the limelight, allowing the game to flow and keeping his cards in his pocket.

Attendance: 11,178 (500 Doncaster approx) A low crowd and a relatively quiet atmosphere inside Loftus Road, but in the wake of Briatore’s Friday departure there did at least seem to be a willingness to back the team and cheer the players’ efforts rather than look for any old excuse to turn on them and the directors. The Doncaster goal was met with rallying cries rather than angry outbursts and the nasty, oppressive atmosphere of the last few home games was not in evidence thankfully.

Photo: Action Images

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