Sunday, 5th October 2014
For some odd reason this one was down to kick off at 4.15 rather than the usual 4.00. Lord knows why. As it happened Chelsea and Arsenal had spent so much time kicking lumps out of each other on and off the pitch Sky decided that a five minute delay was warranted.
Team news was that a first start was given to Jenkinson in the absence of Demel whilst attacking intent was signified by the inclusion of both Zarate and Amalfitano: the starting line-up. Team: Adrian, Jenkinson, Cresswell, Tomkins, Reid, Song, Downing, Amalfitano, Zarate, Valencia, Sakho. On the bench, it was notable that youngster Reece Burke had been preferred to Collins – who wasn't listed as being injured.
We got off to a decent start, taking the lead in the fifth minute. Amalfitano's good footwork forced a throw which led to Sakho forcing a corner. With Noble absent Downing took the corner which came off someone and went in at the far post. From my angle it was impossible to tell how the ball had gone in and the original plaudits seemed to be going the way of Sakho, though the downplayed nature of the celebrations screamed “own goal” to the seasoned observer.
And so it proved, the ball having gone in off the thigh of Onuoha, though the lack of announcements to that effect meant that the BBC's mobile website had to help us out on that one. There were muted appeals from Rob Green for a handball but replays showed that, whilst Valencia's had were in the air, there was no contact.
As the game progressed it transpired that the visitors, how can I put this, weren't very good. With Austin isolated up front we were able to do pretty much as we pleased. Amalfitano did so on the right and put in a dangerous looking cross which Green read well.
It was all a bit scrappy though, the one exception being Downing, whose passing was often a joy to behold. Downing found a willing ally in his endeavours in Sakho who proved a perfect match for the rejuvenated midfielder. One sublime pass down the left hand channel saw Sakho play the ball into the box where Valencia recovered from a slight slip to turn a shot wide. In truth the ball was played slightly behind Valencia and Zarate might have been better placed to get the shot away.
We saw the first yellow of the afternoon on 13 minutes. Jenkinson blocked an attempted cross and Amalfitano's clever headed pass out to the wing saw Sakho embark on a run that was brought to a premature end by Sandro's cynical lunge. Taking one for the team is the current vernacular I believe.
One of the scrappier interludes was punctuated by the sight of Zamora warming up for the opposition, an event that was greeted by applause from the STB along with a rendition of the “he's better than Jermain” song. Something the media might want to consider hen Lampard turns up at the Boleyn in a few weeks.
QPR's best – well only really – chance of the match came on 25 minute when Austin's clever first touch nutmegged Tomkins. However, his shot was dealt with comfortably by Adrian. There were others waiting in the middle but such was the lack of support that Austin had hitherto enjoyed I suppose you could hardly blame him from taking on the shot himself.
Downing's passing was continuing to be the bright spot in a relatively low key match. Picking the ball up deep his raking 50-yarder found Cresswell on the left, the full-back's cross taking a nick off a defender for a corner with Zarate lurking dangerously at the far post. Zarate took the corner himself and the rebound came back to him. Zarate's whipped in cross was met by Reid, whose header was wide of the far post where Valencia arrived just a tad too late to convert.
On the half hour Zarate had a run at the defence. There seemed to be a nanosecond of opportunity on his diagonal run to get a shot in but he elected to go wide, his dangerous looking cross getting a nick off a defender to earn a corner which was scrambled away.
Traore can thank his lucky stars that he didn't pick up a yellow on 35 minutes when he went right through Valencia in an ugly late challenge that was equally as worthy of a yellow as Sandro's had been earlier.
Did I mention Downing's passing? Well it just got better and better. Picking the ball up in the deep he pushed forward and his slide rule pass between two defenders deserved better than the Cross that Cresswell, its recipient, delivered. Which prompts the question, do people still use slide rules in this day and age and, if not, what sort of cliché are us writers expected to use to convey the impression of extreme accuracy? Something about Caesium atoms I expect.
A couple of minutes of stoppage added for a late knock picked up by Valencia were added and that was the half done.
A spot of chocolate birthday cake later – happy birthday Dan – and we were ready for the restart. The visitors made their first change during the interval, Zamora coming on for Hoilett. Tellingly Zamora caused us more problems in the first ten minutes of the second half than the combined efforts of his team-mates had managed in the whole of the first 45, his near-post cross reaching Austin who contrived to put the ball wide when a goal seemed the easier option.
Tomkins picked up a yellow for hauling back Zamora, probably fair enough though there was an element of “six-of-one” about the original challenge. Though the visitors started the second half in better state than they had the first (it could hardly have been worse to be honest) it was still hardly panic stations and we doubled the lead just shy of the hour mark.
Zamora was penalised for foot up. Cresswell's free-kick was cleared as far as Zarate whose first time goal-bound effort to a wicked deflection into the air. Tomkins got the better of Ferdinand at the loose ball, hooking the ball over Green to the far post where Sakho and Valencia both waited. Sakho got there first and headed home from a few inches to break whatever record it was that everyone was talking about.
On the hour we had a moment of high farce. Green was slightly fortunate to be awarded one of those “keeper-protection” free-kicks. As everyone trotted back he decided to take it quickly, passing it straight to Valencia who promptly stuck it away. The problem was that all this took place deep inside the penalty area and, with the ball not having left the box the goal was rightly chalked off. Incidentally it was rather frightening to note in the press room post match just how many of our media corps and pundits are ignorant of the laws of the game. I had to correct one veteran former manager over his assertion that the “ball must leave the box” provision of the laws only applied to goal kicks. (I won't name any names but if I mention that he has three police cautions for what is usually referred to as “kerb crawling” you'll get the drift).
Onuoha tried to make amends for his oggie, being allowed a slightly worrying amount of space to run into before depositing the ball into the crowd. Sandro was replaced by Taraabt before Valencia got into a decent position only to screw his shot horribly wide at the near post.
Having got one decision right in QPR's favour ref Taylor decided to go one better and give them a wrong 'un, penalising Song for one of the cleaner tackles you’ll get to see. The wall was made to go back about 12 yards (the fact that the mowed stripes on the grass are six yards apart being the giveaway) Kranjcar's free kick gave Adrian his hardest test of the day, forcing a low save down to the 'keeper's left.
We made our first change with 15 left, Nolan replacing Zarate. Nolan's arrival was greeted by some booing from a small minority. Whilst I appreciate that the money paid for a ticket gives people the right to express disapproval where merited, there should be some caveat contained within that right to stop idiots from making themselves look like idiots. Senseless and stupid.
Cresswell picked up a yellow for hanging out a leg for Taraabt to go over – harsh perhaps when compared to Traore' earlier unpunished kick. With five minutes left a tiring Valencia was replaced by Jarvis and shortly after we should have made it three. The excellent Song came back a good 30 yards to break up a possible Rangers break before turning and pushing forward. Song fed Jarvis who fed Downing whose cross was met by Nolan whose shot lacked enough either in placement or in venom, Green making the required save with relative ease.
That was pretty much it really. It hadn't been the most exhilarating of -performances but there again it didn't really need to be. QPR have the look of a side destined for a swift return whence the came but this is easily the sort of game that we could have drawn or lost in the past – indeed the 1-1 draw in the corresponding match the last time they were up is a prime example.
In the meantime I think I'll kick my shoes off, have a look at the league table and ruminate on how much better that it would look had we got the points out of the Spurs and Man Utd matches the performances merited. Onward and upward!
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Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
He'll have busier days but when required he was not found wanting.
The lack of attacking threat from the opposition enabled him to get forward almost at will.
Like Jenkinson he made good use of the opportunity to get forward.
Did what he had to do with a minimum of fuss
Easy day at the back and did very well for the second goal.
If there's a blade of grass that he didn't cover I must have missed it. Got the sponsors' MOTM but missed out on mine by a whisker...
I've probably said this before but at Villa and Liverpool when he was being given England caps a-plenty I really couldn't see what the fuss was about. However this season he is a new man. Some of the passing today was a joy to behold. MOTM.
A little bit in and out of the game he provided some nice touches.
Again, some good touches but faded as the game wore on.
Apart from the goal he was another who worked his socks off. Five out of five? That'll do nicely.
Got through a prodigious amount of work and the visiting midfield knew they'd been in a game.
(Replaced Zarate) Ok, he ought to have scored but booing him for coming on? Really?
(Replaced Valencia) Had a lively few minutes at the end on his return from injury.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Man of the Match: Stewart Downing.
West Ham United
Adrian San Miguel del Castillo, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Cresswell, Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Alex Song, Stewart Downing, Morgan Amalfitano, Mauro Zarate, Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia.
Goals: Nedum Onuoha (OG) 5 Diafra Sakho 59 .
Booked: James Tomkins 49 Aaron Cresswell 83 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Queens Park Rangers
Robert Green, Nedum Onuoha, Steven Caulker, Rio Ferdinand, Armand Traore, David Hoilett, Raniere Sandro, Leroy Fer, Karl Henry, Niko Kranjcar, Charlie Austin.
Substitutes: Bobby Zamora (David Hoilett 46), Adel Taarabt (Sandro 67), Jordon Mutch (Niko Kranjcar 78).
Subs not used: Alex McCarthy, Eduardo Vargas, Mauricio Isla, Richard Dunne.
Booked: Sandro (14), Karl Henry (89).
Sent Off: None sent off..