Sunday, 5th October 2014
This match will have enhanced neither reputation. It wasn't a bad game, but neither did it hit any heights. Previous form suggested that it ought to be a comfortable West Ham win, and so it proved, but it was more a Hull performance, than a Liverpool or Man Utd one.
New style was not much in evidence for most of the match. We reverted to type for the large part, playing long balls, playing in straight lines; across and up and down; and not moving well enough off the ball. It was far from awful; indeed, many of the long balls were defence-splitting, or close to that; but, at the same time, something was lacking today.
QPR have been a bit of a surprise so far this season. Despite Mr Green's comments earlier in the week, I don't view them as of a similar stature to us, but rather the next tier down. They're Fulham-sized, not West Ham-sized. Despite the occasional relegation, we're an established Premier League club; they'd like to be.
Nevertheless, I'd regard them as a bigger club than either of the other promoted sides, with more finance available and the cachet of being in London. Having been in the top division for a couple of seasons, bouncing straight back after relegation as well, I expected them to have the best chance of staying up this season.
So far they've looked very poor. They lack guile, penetration, and even spirit. Burnley, our next opponents, may be short on the first two, but they fight like Hell for their manager. The Hoops certainly didn't for 'Arry on Sunday.
An early goal was obviously a setback to whatever game plan they had. There was a hint of handball from Valencia, but since his hands were only in the air because he was being fouled at the time, I think this can be discounted. Besides if he did touch it, which is not certain, it made no difference to the flight of the ball and Onuoha, under pressure from Sakho, couldn't do other than knee it into the back of the net.
We then more or less controlled the rest of the first half, but we didn't, as a result, generate very many good chances. Probably the best of them came on 28 minutes. A gorgeous Downing long ball, one of several that he played, found Cresswell on the left flank. A corner resulted, which quickly returned to Zarate, the taker. His follow-up cross, just as good as the corner, was met by Reid, but neither he nor Valencia could quite get the ball on target.
Five minutes before that, the Hoops created their only genuine chance of the first 45. What looked like an accidental nutmeg by Austin on Tomkins allowed the Rangers man a shot at goal. Adrian made a smart but comfortable save; better yet, he held on to the ball. Had it run loose, it could have been dangerous.
That aside, it was only in the first ten minutes of the second half that QPR really looked like they wanted to play. Zamora played in Austin just a couple minutes after the restart, but his instinctive poke at the ball flew just wide. By the time an hour had passed, the game had been put to bed.
Great work from James Tomkins to challenge for a half-blocked shot and coolly, deliberately, hook it back across goal. Sakho bundled it in for his fifth from five starts, and 4 in 4 in the Premiership. Barely a minute later, Valencia also had the ball in the net, but he needs to read the rulebook. Not only was he not ten yards from the free-kick he cheekily pinched, I believe he shouldn't even have been in the area! It was chalked off, quite rightly so.
There was only one alarm after that. Song was wrongly penalised by the referee, when he clearly played the ball from the side; the only glaring error the official made. Kranjcar's decent free-kick was pushed past the post by Adrian at full stretch. A relatively comfortable save again, if spectacular looking, but again an important stop as a QPR goal surely would have breathed new life into the game.
Nolan, predictably back in the squad the moment he's available, fluffed an excellent chance to bury the ball and the R's five minutes from time. An excellent move, one of our best of the match, started with Song, and resulted in a lovely square ball across the box from Downing. Nolan could only shoot tamely into Green's arms, and that was about that.
A comfortable victory against a poor QPR side, then. Perhaps I have a claret and blue eye, but I thought our three ex's were their best players. Green was decent in goal, snaffling up several good crosses. He could do little about the two we scored. Ferdinand was generally solid at the back, and although the Hoops rarely threatened, they looked far more likely to once Zamora was on the pitch.
Still, I have to revise my pre-season prediction. I still think Burnley will go down, all guns blazing, but on this showing, QPR will be joining them. There is, of course, lots of time to turn things round, but early in the season, Leicester, who we host just before Xmas, look far the best equipped to stay up so far.
I'd guess that most people would nominate Sakho or Downing for Man of the Match again; possibly even Valencia who, though still not quite on fire, got through a tremendous amount of work. Perhaps surprisingly for a game in which our defence was fairly untroubled, I'm going to nominate Tomkins, though.
In the first half, when they were playing with just one up, most of anything that went forwards seemed to hit Jimmy. Apart from that fortuitous Austin nutmeg, Tomkins looked serenely untroubled by any of it. He was fully in control, and distributed fairly well too, though his long passes weren't always accurate.
He did get caught the wrong side of Zamora early in the second half, and picked up a yellow card as a consequence, but that was his only genuine mistake in the game that I can remember, and he played very intelligently to create our second. To put it another way, he was a very good reason WHY our defence was so untroubled, though it must also be noted that Song did some good defensive work in front of the back four.
As always with the stop-start early season, we now hit a stop for another international break. A shame, considering we've just had decent, excellent, good, and OK performances in the four games since the last one.
We probably deserved at least one more point from those, but it's rather nice that the team grabbed the pre-match opportunity to leap from 16th to seventh in the table with a solid enough performance, and a comfortable enough win.
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Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
Had little enough to do, but made a good save from Austin halfway through the first half and held it. Did equally well to palm a free kick around the post at the same point in the second. First clean sheet of the season!
Solid in defence, solid in attack. Difficult to decide who was the more effective of Jenks and Cressie, but I think I'd just give the plaudits to Jenks.
Quiet and untroubled in the first half. Quiet and scarcely troubled in the second...
With no-one really being outstanding today, his calmness and solidity at the back, plus that rather crafty little dink to the back post for our second, wins him my MotM. If not for the cynical yellow, I might have been tempted to make that an 8...
Industrious, and defensively solid for the most part, but keeps giving the ball away too often. Needs to speed his game up a little bit, too. Seems to want to take just a fraction too long on the ball.
Involved in many of our most promising attacks, but not quite as dangerous today as he has been. Much of what he did was "almost, but not quite...", though not necessarily his own fault.
Played some cracking balls in across the box, but too often not really involved for my liking.
The counterpoint to Song, in being industrious mostly at the top end of the pitch. I wonder, has he done enough to convince Sam that Nolan shouldn't walk back into the starting line up when fit enough?
Lively throughout and scored yet again. Rapidly turning himself into a modern Hammers hero!
Tremendous work rate today, and heavily involved in most of our attacks. All it needs is a couple more goals and he'll be bubbling over with confidence... Subs:
(Replaced Zarate) Unsurprised to see him back in the squad the moment he's remotely fit. Unsurprised to see him being used as first sub for the second game running. Unsurprised that his net contribution was... nothing... I expect he'll be starting in a game or three, worst luck!
(Replaced Valencia) Despite having less than 10 minutes, looked lively and caused problems.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Man of the Match: James Tomkins.
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..