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Sousa’s words back to haunt him as German strikes again – full match report
Sousa’s words back to haunt him as German strikes again – full match report
Sunday, 21st Mar 2010 19:59

Substitute Antonio German struck 14 minutes from time as QPR came from behind to snatch a point from high flying Swansea at Loftus Road on Saturday.

Prior to kick off Swansea manager Paulo Sousa had accused Neil Warnock of playing football from a bygone era – relying on physicality and brutality to bully points from teams. By the end of Saturday’s encounter at Loftus Road with Swansea employing time wasting tactics, a giant lump of a centre forward as a target for long balls, and visiting Welsh fans scrapping on the streets outside the ground there was only one side turning back the clock to the bad old days, and they weren’t wearing Hoops.

Sousa, whose side came into the game with the division’s best defence and worst attack, did himself few favours with his complaints before a ball had even been kicked. The Portuguese was popular with all but a few well known ‘supporters’ at Rangers and would have been sure of a warm reception in W12 had he not engaged in what Sky Sports presenters like to call mind games, and mature adults refer to as pathetic, childish nonsense on Friday.

Ultimately there was hardly a bad tackle in the game. Swansea were the better team for the first hour, hitting the post and going close on several other occasions in the first half then stepping it up after the break and taking the lead. Substitutions from Neil Warnock and an adoption of all out defence and time wasting from Sousa (not exactly and exponent of total football himself as it turned out) turned the game back in QPR’s favour for the last half hour and in the end both teams can count themselves unlucky not to have won – particularly as Rangers had two goals disallowed as well as the one they did get through youngster Antonio German.

Neil Warnock was forced to change his team for the first time since arriving at QPR four games ago. That was because Damion Stewart had to serve a one game ban for his harsh sending off at Reading on Tuesday – Matt Connolly moved to centre half with Gorkss to cover for him, Peter Ramage was recalled at right back with Matt Hill on the left and Carl Ikeme in goal. There was a change further forward as well with Jay Simpson injured and replaced in attack by Tamas Priskin – Akos Buzsaky stepped up from the bench to fill Priskin’s previous role behind the striker with Ephraim and Taarabt, ahead of Leigertwood and Faurlin in deeper midfield positions.

Swansea started Spanish striker Guillem Bauzer for the first time in a year – ironically the last time he began a game was in the Swans’ 1-0 defeat on this ground last season. The most impressive Swansea player that night was Darren Pratley and it was a relief to see him on the bench to start with as David Cotterill and Jazz Richards were recalled as part of a reshuffle from former QPR boss Paulo Sousa who had had harsh words for the tactics employed by Neil Warnock in the build up to the game.

There was also a change to the advertised match official with Cambridgeshire’s Kevin Wright replaced by Yorkshire’s Carl Boyeson – a man who infuriated QPR fans with his last display in one of our games at Barnsley a couple of seasons ago.

QPR were the first to threaten in the second minute when Gorkss played a long ball towards Priskin and as it dropped in behind the loaned Ipswich man his fellow countryman Akos Buzsaky arrived with a swift touch and shot that sent the ball flying into the side netting from the thick end of 30 yards. The R’s followed that up with a fine passing move that had Faurlin right at its heart as it moved into the Swansea half but the visitors muscled up and bundled the ball wide at the far post with Taarabt and Priskin showing an interest.

Buzsaky had another effort on goal with the time in single figures when Taarabt tricked his way past three Swansea defenders by the corner flag and then dropped the ball back into his path but a curling shot from the edge of the box didn’t have enough pace or direction to unduly challenge Dorus De Vries in the Swansea goal.

Swansea went agonisingly close to opening the scoring in the eleventh minute when Rangers failed to deal with a routine long ball down the field. Kuqi climbed well above Gorkss to win it initially and then the ball was simply allowed to skip right through the heart of the QPR defence to Dyer who produced a deft flick past Ikeme but the ball hit the inside of the post, rolled across the face of the goal, and stayed out.

Five minutes after that another long ball towards Kuqi caused confusion when it dropped near Dyer in the penalty area and Matt Hill was indebted to keeper Carl Ikeme for producing a fine save to prevent an own goal as the ball bounced off the full back’s shins and set off for the QPR goal at speed. David Cotterill hammered a ludicrous 40 yard effort into the Lower Loft as the visitors dominated.

Sousa was criticised at QPR last season for being too defensive, and his record at Swansea this season certainly suggests he has continued that with his new club – although the Swansea fans seem to be much more supportive of him than some of ours were judging by their constant chants of his name on Saturday. Swansea were negative when QPR were in possession – immediately retreating behind the ball en masse and sitting very deep and narrow. However when going forward they were a good deal more threatening and effective than we ever we under Sousa with Kuqi outstanding in the first half and Dyer chiming in to great effect. Nobody in Hoops could cope with either of them. I couldn’t help but wonder whether we could have had a similar partnership in attack had Sousa been allowed a target man to play with Wayne Routledge instead of being left to polish the considerable turd that was Sam Di Carmine.

Rangers bounced back from that near miss and had the ball in the net after 37 minutes. A farcical move on the edge of the box where everybody seemed to lose their footing was ended when Leigertwood, who got the only goal in this fixture last season, tried his luck from distance and won a corner for his deflected shot. Priskin flicked the resulting corner on and then when Gorkss returned it into the danger zone Tarrabt stabbed home from close range but the linesman’s flag had long since been raised and the goal was ruled out.

Gorkss’ struggles with Kuqi continued in the ten minutes before half time. A corner from Mark Gower was headed onto the roof of the net by Kuqi who was leaning back when he met the ball at the near post. Then the Fin was released by a gigantic throw from De Vries that Gorkss completely misjudged and ran underneath. Kuqi stormed down the right flank and cut the ball back into the area but Bouza could only sidefoot it straight to Ikeme when left unmarked eight yards away from the goal.

In the one additional minute at the end of the half Taarabt volleyed over from the edge of the area. The half time interval saw a welcome return to the field from the QPR Tiger Cubs Down’s Syndrome team and their shots on goal and lap of honour were cheered heartily by all four sides of the ground – credit to the Swansea fans for that but not the mindless hooliganism seen on South Africa Road after the match, most of which was perpetrated by men on both sides who really do look like they should be old enough by now to know better.

Swansea came out for the second half apparently reinvigorated and dominated the first quarter of an hour. In the first 60 seconds Gorkss was penalised for a silly foul in a wide area and although the free kick from Gower was cleared the return ball dropped right under the cross bar and needed to be palmed away to safety by Ikeme who then came out and confidently caught the resulting corner. Ikeme, while inconsistent with his kicking and frustrating in his refusal to throw the ball out, commands his area better than any keeper we’ve had at Rangers for some time. I cannot ever remember being so confident in a keeper coming out for crosses into his own six yard box and his handling in some high pressure situations was excellent again on Saturday.

Although Rangers did register a soft effort on goal five minutes after the break when Priskin won a free kick for a high boot and Leigertwood struck a tame shot at De Vries, Swansea were soon back on the attack. Priskin in the Swansea half and then Leigertwood on the edge of the penalty area were both penalised for minor tripping offences and that gave Swansea a chance to set up a strange free kick routine whereby Shefki Kuqi and Guillem Bauza stood miles offside right in front of Ikeme in the six yard box while Cotterill lined up the shot from 20 yards. One can only presume that the two Swansea players are meant to race away from the keeper at the last possible minute thereby not interfering with play and being flagged offside. In the end they came away rather too early, before Cotterill was ready, causing the free kick taker to hesitate to see if they were going to go back in, and then take it anyway dollying the ball straight into the arms of Ikeme to widespread ironic cheers, applause and laughter from the QPR fans. Whatever happened to the old David Bardsley technique of just stepping up and giving it a right good smack eh?

Nevertheless it seemed a Swansea goal was coming and although Neil Warnock had been thinking about introducing Lee Cook and Antonio German for some time, and speaking to the pair at length on the touchline, he didn’t do it in time and the Swans opened the scoring after 56 minutes with a goal of high farce. Ikeme’s kicking is wildly inconsistent and it was from one of these seemingly mishit, spiralling, back spinning drop kicks that the Swans pounced with Bauza (wasn’t that the bad guy in Super Mario World by the way?) collecting the ball on halfway, playing a poor through ball too far in front of Dyer and then watching as it hit the retreating Matt Hill on the back and fell perfectly to Dyer who lobbed into the unguarded net – Ikeme had moved across to claim the initial through ball before it hit Hill – from 20 yards or so. Several Swansea fans were able to run onto the pitch and stay there for prolonged celebrations before returning to the stand un-accosted by our wonderful stewards, who were no doubt too busy rummaging through lady’s handbags and removing potentially lethal plastic tops from bottles of water in the home end to notice several pissed up Welshman on the field of play goading the home fans.

It rather summed up Hill’s day. He’s not had a particularly happy or successful spell with us since joining on loan from Wolves and he became the latest in a growing list of QPR full backs in the recent past to be given a proper going over by Nathan Dyer. As predicted in the match preview he was a target for plenty of abuse from the stands, but he was the outstanding player on the pitch for the first hour or so and the goal, strangely only his second for the club, was just rewards for a fine display. Luckily for Rangers he faded in the final third of the game, as did many of his team mates.

Warnock responded to the set back by introducing Cook and German from the bench to replace Priskin and Buzsaky – the withdrawal of Priskin was met with rapturous applause and cheers from the QPR fans who are fast tiring of the Hungarian’s apparent lack of effort, work rate, touch or ability. Priskin is clearly not very good, not very confident, completely bone idle or a combination of all three because he is bringing next to nothing to our team at the moment. However as I keep saying I’m not sure what the supporters abusing him actually think they’re going to achieve. We wanted a manager to be given total control and we have one now, he is picking Priskin every week so we should trust his judgement. I don’t understand it either, but us slagging him off every time he goes near the ball won’t help him. I couldn’t help but smile when German’s very first touch of the ball saw him attempt to spin in behind Tate in the left channel only to horribly mis-control the ball and send it flying out of play – this was met with applause and encouragement from the stands, as it should have been, but had it happened two minutes earlier and been off the boot of Priskin there would have been a riot.

Lee Cook’s first involvement was rather more productive. A bad foul by Ashley Richards on Ramage wide on the right drew the first yellow card of the game from Carl Boyeson and gave Cook a chance to launch an inswinging free kick into the penalty area where Matt Connolly flicked it on towards goal but the ball flashed a yard or so wide of the far post.

Swansea had been marginally the better side in the first half, and completely in control at the start of the second, but the accusations about Paulo Sousa’s negative tactics are bound to rise again across the QPR message boards in the wake of the last half an hour. Swansea went away from doing everything that got them into the winning position – Dyer stopped receiving the ball and hurting Hill, Kuqi, having been a clear and obvious man of the match for the first hour or so, totally disappeared from the game and the Swans retreated deeper and deeper, and engaged in increasingly blatant time wasting tactics. Williams, on a booking, was lucky to escape a sending off as he blatantly ran the clock down from numerous throw ins. Sousa spent much of his pre-match build up slating the tactics employed by Neil Warnock – it’s really hard to see how he can throw stones around in house as well glazed as his.

Of course Swansea could argue that it was QPR pushing them back, rather than a deliberate ploy. The R’s were certainly a different team after the changes with German offering more effort and commitment (that’s all it needs sometimes) in attack than Priskin and Cook revelling in the opportunity to cut in field from an unorthodox right wing position. De Vries had to be on his guard 20 minutes from time as a devilish inswinging corner from Cook dipped right under his cross bar and required an acrobatic save. It won’t be long before Cook ‘does a Padula’ and scores from one of these set pieces, he’s been denied only by some desperate goalkeeping three times lately.

Rangers got their equaliser with just under a quarter of an hour to go. Tate, commanding in the air all afternoon, misjudged a long ball and allowed it to skim off his head for a corner. Taarabt took that, swinging the ball deep to the far post where De Vries flapped at it and presented Vine with a chance on the corner of the six yard box. Vine, possibly going for goal, sent a low half volley into the crowded goal mouth and, although he needed two attempts to do so, Antonio German stabbed home his second goal for the club from close range. De Vries, attempting to equal a Swansea club record for clean sheets in a season, sat with his head in his hands disconsolate by his goal post.

I think we saw at Middlesbrough that against most sides in this league, and particularly away from home, German is going to find the going very tough. QPR don’t support their strikers well from midfield and ask a hell of a lot from them in terms of producing from poor service, and holding the ball up against physical defenders while waiting for support. However with Priskin bringing next to nothing to the table and German showing enough enthusiasm and guts to cover a lot of the failings with his touch and lack of experience he probably does deserve more game time and the value of him was clearly shown on Saturday. QPR were a far, far better side with him in it in the second half.

Swansea, who had by now brought on Van der Gun and Butler for Cotterill and Dyer in an attempt to wrestle back control of the game, briefly threatened to go back in front ten minutes from time when Kuqi, with virtually his only touch of the ball in the last half hour, headed wide from a corner via a deflection and then Tate hit a shot wide from the next set piece but it was QPR on the front foot by this stage – Rowan Vine came on for Ephraim to try and press home the advantage.

Rangers had the perfect chance to win the game five minutes from time. Vine launched a speculative shot on goal from fully 25 yards which was clearly blocked right on the edge of the area by Ashley Williams with both hands up above his head. You don’t often see them given but Mr Boyeson blew straight away for the free kick and presented Adel Taarabt with a chance to continue his fine recent goal scoring form from the set piece. Swansea packed the penalty area, and QPR added Antonio German to the substantial eight man wall – it was German the ball hit on the feet on the way through, sending it spinning into the sky and onto the head of Matt Connolly who stuck the ball into the empty net only to turn in despair and see the linesman flagging for offside. The official on the Ellerslie Road side of the ground had given some odd decisions in the second half – two offside calls against German had to be seen to be believed – but I think he got that one right.

Referee Boyeson added four minutes to the end of the game, and infuriated the home side by pulling them back for a free kick in their own half when a basic advantage would have given Vine a chance to run one on one against Tate, but in fairness it was the only genuine mistake I could recall from the match official all day.

In a strange way I think Neil Warnock won us a point on Saturday but cost us two. The substitutions he made in the second half were positive and changed the game completely – Vine set up German for the goal and Rangers could easily have gone on to win the game after replacing the totally ineffective Priskin with a bit of drive and effort. However the changes should have been made earlier – Rangers were second best to Swansea throughout the first hour, particularly straight after half time, and the Dyer goal had been coming for some time. Warnock had been speaking to German and considering a change for ten minutes before we fell behind and he should have done it in my opinion. It’s all ifs, buts and maybes but maybe if we’d been decisive and changed what clearly wasn’t working at half time we might have won instead of drawing. Still credit to him for making the changes in the end and wrestling control of the game away from a team well versed in seeing out 1-0 scorelines.

Afterwards Warnock told the press that the club would not be relying on six loan players next season and on an afternoon when two of the temporary players, Hill and Priskin, were by far and away the worst players on the pitch that was reassuring to hear. Priskin’s lack of ability to hold the ball up meant Taarabt was out of the game for long periods which was a shame. While we’re on negatives I was disappointed with just how much we struggled against Kuqi – I thought the Swansea striker was excellent for the first hour of the game, bossing Gorkss and Connolly in the air, on the ground and for pace. The suspension of Damion Stewart couldn’t have really come in a worse game for us. Kuqi disappeared totally after the hour – whether he got knackered, we got to grips with him, or Swansea became too negative for him to have an impact I couldn’t really say. Maybe a combination of all three.

There were however plenty of positives as well. Alejandro Faurlin was excellent in midfield once again, it’s really no surprise to hear rumours of clubs sniffing around him. Ephraim worked very hard and Vine, Cook and German all improved us when they came on and I thought Mikele Leigertwood had a better game than many people have given him credit for. The whole team deserves credit for not only fighting back from a goal down against the division’s meanest defence to draw, and go very close to winning. It’s worth remembering Swansea’s league position, number of wins and defensive record when assessing just how good or bad a performance this was from Rangers and whether it’ a decent result or not. If we can back it up with three points against a Derby side vastly inferior to the Swans in every department on Tuesday then I think we can look back on this home double as a job very well done.

Sousa felt Swansea did enough to win, in the end a combination of changes made by Neil Warnock and the Portuguese’s own negativity – the Swans killed off all their attacking intent and attempted to waste time for the whole last half hour after taking the lead – cost him that chance and that certainly brought some memories flooding back.

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QPR: Ikeme 7, Ramage 6, Gorkss 5, Connolly 6, Hill 5, Ephraim 6 (Vine 72, 6),Faurlin 8, Leigertwood 7, Buzsaky 6 (Cook 58, 7), Taarabt 6, Priskin 4 (German 58, 7)
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Balanta, Brown, Oastler
Goals: German 76 (assisted Vine)

Swansea: De Vries 6, Rangel 6, Williams 6, Tate 7, Richards 6, Cotterill 6 (Van der Gun 66, 6), Gower 7 (Beattie 89, -), Britton 6, Bauza 6, Dyer 8 (Butler 84, -), Kuqi 7.
Subs Not Used: Cornell, Pratley, Pintado, Trundle
Booked: Richards (foul)
Goals: Dyer 57 (assisted Bauzer)

QPR Star Man – Alejandro Faurlin 8 Passed the ball well, guided QPR around the park, gave the ball away maybe twice in the entire match from my recollection. A real find.

Referee: Carl Boyeson (E Yorkshire) 7 Hard to think of a decision he got wrong apart from the failure to play a clear advantage in stoppage time. Points come off for failing to clamp down on blatant time wasting from Swansea that actually started before half time with the score still 0-0, and for the performance of the linesman on the Ellerslie Road side who seemed to get the disallowed goal decision right, but gave some really perplexing offsides against both teams apart from that.

Attendance: 15,502 (2500 Swansea approx) Good to see Loftus Road filling up again. Swansea travelled in big numbers and were noisy and passionate throughout, probably the best visiting support we have seen all season for atmosphere created I would say. They deserve credit for giving our Tiger Cubs such a wonderful reception at half time. The atmosphere in the home end continues to improve although I thought we were a bit quieter than we really should have been, certainly there was more noise against West Brom, though things did improve as the team got going in the second half.

Photo: Action Images

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